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UNITED STATES

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

 

(Mark One)

ANNUAL REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2023

OR

TRANSITION REPORT PURSUANT TO SECTION 13 OR 15(d) OF THE SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934 FOR THE TRANSITION PERIOD FROM TO

Commission File Number 001-39941

 

Sana Biotechnology, Inc.

(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its Charter)

 

 

Delaware

83-1381173

(State or other jurisdiction of

incorporation or organization)

(I.R.S. Employer

Identification No.)

188 East Blaine Street, Suite 400

Seattle, Washington

98102

(Address of principal executive offices)

(Zip Code)

 

Registrant’s telephone number, including area code: (206) 701-7914

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

 

Title of each class

 

Trading

Symbol(s)

 

Name of each exchange on which registered

Common Stock, $0.0001 par value per share

 

SANA

 

The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act. Yes No

Indicate by check mark if the Registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Act. Yes No

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant: (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes No

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the Registrant was required to submit such files). Yes No

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.

 

Large accelerated filer

Accelerated filer

Non-accelerated filer

Smaller reporting company

Emerging growth company

 

If an emerging growth company, indicate by check mark if the Registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has filed a report on and attestation to its management’s assessment of the effectiveness of its internal control over financial reporting under Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (15 U.S.C. 7262(b)) by the registered public accounting firm that prepared or issued its audit report.

If securities are registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act, indicate by check mark whether the financial statements of the Registrant included in the filing reflect the correction of an error to previously issued financial statements.

Indicate by check mark whether any of those error corrections are restatements that required a recovery analysis of incentive-based compensation received by any of the Registrant’s executive officers during the relevant recovery period pursuant to §240.10D-1(b).

Indicate by check mark whether the Registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act). Yes No

The aggregate market value of the voting and non-voting common equity held by non-affiliates of the Registrant was approximately $0.6 billion, based on the closing price of the Registrant’s common stock on the Nasdaq Global Select Market on June 30, 2023, the last business day of the Registrant’s most recently completed second fiscal quarter. Shares of the Registrant’s common stock held by each officer and director and stockholders that the Registrant has concluded are affiliates of the Registrant have been excluded in that such persons may be deemed affiliates of the Registrant. This determination of affiliate status is not a determination for other purposes.

As of February 22, 2024, the Registrant had 220,447,557 shares of common stock, $0.0001 par value per share, outstanding.

DOCUMENTS INCORPORATED BY REFERENCE

Portions of the Registrant’s definitive Proxy Statement relating to its 2024 Annual Meeting of Stockholders (Proxy Statement) are incorporated by reference into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K (Annual Report) where indicated. The Proxy Statement will be filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days after the end of the fiscal year to which this Annual Report relates.

 

 

 


 

Table of Contents

Page

PART I

 

Item 1.

Business

5

Item 1A.

Risk Factors

72

Item 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

144

Item 1C.

Cybersecurity

144

Item 2.

Properties

145

Item 3.

Legal Proceedings

145

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

145

 

PART II

 

Item 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

146

Item 6.

[Reserved]

147

Item 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

148

Item 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

162

Item 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data

164

Item 9.

Changes in and Disagreements With Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

188

Item 9A.

Controls and Procedures

188

Item 9B.

Other Information

188

Item 9C.

Disclosure Regarding Foreign Jurisdictions that Prevent Inspections

189

 

PART III

 

Item 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

190

Item 11.

Executive Compensation

190

Item 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

190

Item 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

190

Item 14.

Principal Accounting Fees and Services

190

 

PART IV

 

Item 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

191

Item 16

Form 10-K Summary

194

 

 

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SPECIAL NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This Annual Report on Form 10-K (Annual Report) contains forward-looking statements that involve substantial risks and uncertainties. All statements other than statements of historical facts contained in this Annual Report could be deemed forward-looking statements, including those statements highlighted below. In some cases, you can identify these statements by forward-looking words such as “aim,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “continue,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “may,” “might,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “should,” “would,” or “will,” the negative of these terms, and other comparable terminology. These forward-looking statements, which are subject to risks, include, but are not limited to, statements about:

our expectations regarding the potential market size and size of the potential patient populations for our product candidates and any future product candidates, if approved for commercial use;
our clinical and regulatory development plans;
our expectations with regard to our preclinical studies, clinical trials, and research and development programs, including the impact, timing, and availability of data from such studies and trials;
the timing of commencement and advancement of future preclinical studies, clinical trials, and research and development programs;
our ability to acquire, discover, and develop product candidates and timely advance them into and through clinical data readouts and successful completion of clinical trials;
our expectations regarding the potential safety, efficacy, or clinical utility of our product candidates;
our intentions with respect to and our ability to establish collaborations or partnerships;
the timing or likelihood of regulatory filings and approvals for our product candidates;
our commercialization, marketing, and manufacturing expectations, including with respect to the buildout of our manufacturing facility and capabilities and the timing thereof;
impact of future regulatory, judicial, and legislative changes or developments in the United States and foreign countries;
our intentions with respect to the commercialization of our product candidates;
the pricing and reimbursement of our product candidates, if approved;
the potential effects of public health crises on our preclinical and clinical programs and business;
our expectations regarding the impact of global events and macroeconomic conditions on our business;
the implementation of our business model and strategic plans for our business and product candidates, including additional indications that we may pursue;
our ability to effectively manage our growth, including our ability to retain and recruit personnel, and maintain our culture;
the scope of protection we are able to establish and maintain for intellectual property rights covering our product candidates, including the projected terms of patent protection;
estimates of our expenses, future revenue, capital requirements, needs for additional financing, and ability to obtain additional capital;
our expected use of proceeds from our initial public offering and our existing cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities;
the performance of our third-party suppliers and manufacturers;
our future financial performance;
our expectations regarding the duration for which we will be an emerging growth company under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 (JOBS Act); and
developments and projections relating to our competitors and our industry, including competing products.

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We have based these forward-looking statements largely on our current expectations, estimates, forecasts, and projections about future events, our business, the industry in which we operate, and financial trends that we believe may affect our financial condition, results of operations, business strategy, and financial needs. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not rely upon forward-looking statements as predictions of future events. Although we believe that we have a reasonable basis for each forward-looking statement contained in this Annual Report, we cannot guarantee that the future results, levels of activity, performance, or events and circumstances reflected in the forward-looking statements will be achieved or occur in a timely manner or at all. You should refer to the sections titled “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” 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. Other sections of this Annual Report may include additional factors that could harm our business and financial performance. New risk factors may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for our management to predict all risk factors, nor can we assess the impact of all factors on our business or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in, or implied by, any forward-looking statements. Except as required by law, we undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

In addition, statements that “we believe” and similar statements reflect our beliefs and opinions on the relevant subject. These statements are based upon information available to us as of the date of this Annual Report, and while we believe such information forms a reasonable basis for such statements, such information may be limited or incomplete, and our statements should not be read to indicate that we have conducted an exhaustive inquiry into, or review of, all potentially available relevant information. These statements are inherently uncertain and you should not unduly rely upon these statements.

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RISK FACTOR SUMMARY

Investing in our securities involves a high degree of risk. Below is a summary of material factors that make an investment in our securities speculative or risky. Importantly, this summary does not address all of the risks that we face. Additional discussion of the risks summarized in this Risk Factor Summary, as well as other risks that we face, can be found under the heading “Risk Factors” in Part I of this Annual Report.

Our business is subject to a number of risks of which you should be aware before making a decision to invest in our common stock. These risks include, among others, the following:

Our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms are based on novel technologies that are unproven and may not result in approvable or marketable products. This uncertainty exposes us to unforeseen risks, makes it difficult for us to predict the time and cost that will be required for the development and potential regulatory approval of our product candidates, and increases the risk that we may ultimately not be successful in our efforts to use and expand our technology platforms to build a pipeline of product candidates.
If we are unable to successfully identify, develop, and commercialize any product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business, financial condition, and results of operations will be materially adversely affected.
We will require additional funding to finance our operations. If we are unable to raise capital when needed, or on acceptable terms, we could be forced to delay, reduce, or eliminate our product development programs or commercialization efforts.
We may not realize the benefits of technologies that we have acquired or in-licensed or will acquire or in-license in the future. We may also fail to enter into new strategic relationships or may not realize the benefits of any strategic relationships that we have entered into. The occurrence of any of the foregoing could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, commercialization prospects, and results of operations.
Our ability to develop our cell engineering platforms and product candidates and our future growth depend on retaining our key personnel and recruiting additional qualified personnel.
We may encounter difficulties in managing our growth if and as we expand our operations, including our development and regulatory capabilities, which could disrupt our operations and otherwise harm our business.
The use of human stem cells exposes us to a number of risks in the development of our human stem cell-derived products, including inability to obtain suitable donor material from eligible and qualified human donors, restrictions on the use of human stem cells, as well as ethical, legal, and social implications of research on the use of stem cells, any of which could prevent us from completing the development of or commercializing and gaining acceptance for our products derived from human stem cells.
We must successfully progress our product candidates through extensive preclinical studies and clinical trials in order to obtain regulatory approval to market and sell such product candidates. Even if we obtain positive results in preclinical studies of a product candidate, these results may not be predictive of the results of future preclinical studies or clinical trials.
Preclinical testing of our product candidates may be delayed or otherwise unsuccessful, which would harm our ability to commence and successfully complete clinical trials of, and ultimately commercialize, such product candidates.
Clinical drug development is a lengthy and expensive process with uncertain timelines and outcomes. If clinical trials of any of our product candidates are prolonged or delayed, or need to be terminated, we may be unable to obtain required regulatory approvals and commercialize such product candidates on a timely basis or at all.
Clinical trials may fail to demonstrate that our product candidates, including any future product candidates, or technologies used in or used to develop such product candidates, meet the FDA's or a comparable foreign regulatory authority's requirements with respect to safety, purity, and potency, or efficacy, which would prevent, delay, or limit the scope of regulatory approval and commercialization of such product candidates.
Our product candidates may cause serious adverse, undesirable, or unacceptable side effects or have other properties that may delay or prevent marketing approval. If a product candidate receives regulatory approval, and such side effects are identified following such approval, the commercial profile of any approved label may be limited, or we may be subject to other significant negative consequences following such approval.
The manufacture of our product candidates is complex. We or our contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) may encounter difficulties in production, which could delay or entirely halt our or their ability to supply our product candidates for clinical trials or, if approved, for commercial sale.

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We are exposed to a number of risks related to the supply chain for the materials required to manufacture our product candidates.
We rely, and expect to continue to rely, on third parties to perform certain activities, including research and preclinical studies, manufacture of our product candidates and materials used in the manufacturing of our product candidates, and the conduct of various aspects of our clinical trials. Any failure of such third parties to perform their obligations to us, including in accordance with our timelines or applicable regulatory requirements, could materially harm our business.
Our success depends on our ability to protect our intellectual property rights and proprietary technologies, and we may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
We depend on intellectual property licensed from third parties. If we breach our obligations under the applicable license agreements or if any of these agreements is terminated, we may be required to pay damages, lose our rights to such intellectual property and technology, or both, which would harm our business.
Our internal computer systems, or those used by third parties involved in our operations, such as research institution collaborators, clinical research organizations (CROs), CDMOs, and other service providers, contractors, or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches or incidents.
The development and commercialization of biopharmaceutical products is subject to extensive regulation, and the regulatory approval processes of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and comparable foreign regulatory authorities are lengthy, time-consuming, and inherently unpredictable. If we are unable to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates on a timely basis, or at all, our business will be substantially harmed.
We have incurred significant losses since our inception, and we expect to incur losses for the foreseeable future. We have no products approved for commercial sale and may never achieve or maintain profitability.
Our success payment and contingent consideration obligations in our license and acquisition agreements may result in dilution to our stockholders, drain our cash resources, or require us to incur debt to satisfy the payment obligations.
We operate in highly competitive and rapidly changing industries, which may result in others discovering, developing, or commercializing competing products before or more successfully than we do.
Our limited operating history may make it difficult to evaluate our prospects and likelihood of success.
We or the third parties upon whom we depend may be adversely affected by natural disasters, public health epidemics, telecommunications or electrical failures, geo-political actions, including war and terrorism, political and economic instability, and other events beyond our control, and our business continuity and disaster recovery plans may not adequately protect us from a serious disaster.
Market and economic conditions may negatively impact our business, financial condition, and share price.

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PART I

Item 1. Business.

Overview

We were founded on the belief that engineered cells will be one of the most important transformations in medicine over the next several decades. The burden of diseases that can be addressed at their root cause through engineered cells is significant. We view engineered cells as having the potential to be as therapeutically disruptive as biologic drugs to clinical practice. Key to making this vision a reality will be finding consistent and scalable means of manufacturing cell-based medicines, and we have invested significantly in our hypoimmune (HIP) platform technology, which we refer to as our HIP platform, with the twin goals of using allogeneic cells that evade immune detection in patients and that we can manufacture at scale. We are developing cell engineering programs to revolutionize treatment across a broad array of therapeutic areas with unmet treatment needs, including oncology, diabetes, B-cell-mediated autoimmune, and central nervous system (CNS) disorders, among others.

We currently have four clinical trials that are ongoing, or that we expect to commence in the near-term, evaluating our product candidates, or product candidates developed using our technologies, across seven diseases in multiple therapeutic areas, including B-cell malignancies, B-cell-mediated autoimmune disease, and type 1 diabetes (T1D), as described below.

ARDENT is an ongoing Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating SC291, our hypoimmune-modified CD19 targeted allogeneic chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T program, in B-cell malignancies, including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) and chronic lymphoblastic leukemia (CLL);
GLEAM is a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating SC291 in patients with lupus nephritis (LN), extrarenal lupus (ERL), and antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis;
VIVID is a Phase 1 clinical trial evaluating SC262, our hypoimmune-modified CD22 CAR T program, in patients with relapsed and/or refractory B-cell malignancies who have received prior CD19 CAR T therapy; and
Investigator-sponsored first-in-human study (IST) evaluating UP421, an allogeneic, primary islet cell therapy engineered with our HIP technology, in patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus.

In January 2024, we disclosed initial interim clinical data from the ARDENT trial. As of January 5, 2024, the cut-off date for our early interim analysis, six patients had been dosed with SC291 and four patients were evaluable (defined as patients dosed with SC291 who had at least one disease assessment), of whom three were dosed with 60M CAR T cells (Dose Level 1) and the other was dosed with 120M CAR T cells (Dose Level 2). With respect to the four evaluable patients at these two dose levels, we observed no dose limiting toxicities, no SC291-related serious adverse events, and no incidences of graft versus host disease (GvHD). We also observed no cytokine release syndrome (CRS) or immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome (ICANS) of any grade or any infections of Grade 3 or higher. Additionally, we observed at least a partial response in three of the patients, including ongoing complete responses in one patient from Dose Level 1 after three months and the patient from Dose Level 2 after two months.

The SC291 drug product contains CAR T cells that are fully edited hypoimmune cells, which we describe as HIP-edited CAR-T cells, along with partially edited cells, which we describe as non-HIP CAR T cells. In vitro testing showed evidence that blood and immune cells from each of the four evaluable patients had mounted an immune response to the non-HIP CAR T cells but not to the HIP-edited CAR T cells. Specifically, HIP-edited CAR T cells from the drug product were not rejected by the innate immune response mediated by the patient’s natural killer (NK) cells, nor did the patients have T cell or antibody responses that recognized these cells. In contrast, we observed immune responses against the non-HIP CAR T cells in the drug product.

Importantly, this evidence suggests that the patients had an intact immune system capable of recognizing allogeneic cells and that the HIP CAR T cells were able to evade these responses. These results were consistent across all four evaluable patients and provide early support for the idea that the immune evasion profile of our HIP gene edits in multiple pre-clinical models may translate into human subjects. We believe this observation supports further dose escalation and dose expansion in the ARDENT trial and broader application of our HIP technology in allogeneic cell therapies in other indications. We are continuing to enroll and dose patients in the ARDENT trial and expect to share additional data in 2024.

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We seek to overcome several existing limitations of gene and cell therapy through our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms, both of which may facilitate the development of therapies that can transform the lives of patients by repairing cells in the body when possible and replacing them when needed. For ex vivo therapies, when diseased cells are damaged or missing entirely and an effective therapy needs to replace the entire cell, a successful therapeutic requires large-scale manufacturing of cells that engraft, function, and persist in the body. Of these, we view cell persistence as the greatest current limitation to dramatically expanding the impact of this class of therapeutics, and in particular, overcoming the barrier of immune rejection of transplanted allogeneic cells. We believe that product candidates developed with our ex vivo cell engineering platform, which uses hypoimmune-modified allogeneic cells that can “hide” from the patient’s immune system, can address this fundamental limitation and unlock a wave of disruptive therapeutics. For in vivo therapies that aim to repair and control genes in the body, a successful product candidate requires both gene modification and in vivo delivery of the therapeutic payload. Of these, we view effective in vivo delivery as the greatest current limitation to dramatically expanding the impact of this class of therapeutics. To this end, our initial focus is on cell-specific delivery of genetic payloads.

Based upon early clinical as well as extensive preclinical data from our HIP platform, we announced in October 2023 our decision to increase our focus on our ex vivo cell therapy product candidates. We expect to focus a meaningful portion of our research and development resources and activities for at least the next several years on advancing HIP-modified ex vivo manufactured cells as therapeutics.

Our people are the most important strength of the company. We have assembled a diverse group of experienced company builders, scientists, manufacturing scientists, engineers, and operators to execute our business plan.

Experienced Company Builders. We have numerous individuals with vast experience in building disruptive biotech companies. Our Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Steve Harr, was previously CFO of Juno Therapeutics, helping to build the company and its CAR T cell therapy platform until its acquisition. He is a physician-scientist with experience in basic research, clinical medicine, finance, company building, and operations. Our Chairman of the Board and co-founder, Mr. Hans Bishop, is an experienced company builder and operator with success across a number of companies.
Leading Scientists. We believe that in order to successfully develop engineered cells as medicines, significant investments in infrastructure and cross-functional capabilities need to be coupled with deep scientific expertise in the cell types of interest within each program. Our leadership team includes multiple world-class scientists, including researchers who have made seminal discoveries in gene delivery, immunology, CAR T cells, stem cell biology, and gene editing. We expect to continue to bring in senior world-class scientists to lead our efforts in each therapeutic area we intend to pursue. Additionally, our research teams have significant experience in various areas of biology. We have surrounded this team of discovery scientists with drug developers experienced in advancing product candidates through the development process with expertise in areas such as pharmacology, toxicology, regulatory, clinical development, and clinical operations.
Experienced Manufacturing Scientists, Engineers, and Operators. Since our founding, we have proactively assembled manufacturing sciences and operations expertise on our board, on our executive team, and across the company.
Board and Investors with Shared Long-Term Vision. Our board of directors is composed of renowned company builders, scientists, drug developers, and investors who share our long-term vision of advancing engineered cells as medicines to change the lives of patients. Our board of directors is a resource that has enabled our strategy of consolidating technologies, assets, and people to expand the potential impact of our long-term vision.

Our capabilities enable us to take a comprehensive approach to the most important and difficult aspects of engineering cells. We are primarily pursuing ex vivo cell engineering and can leverage the synergistic proficiencies required to succeed in both approaches. We believe we can capitalize on the shared expertise and infrastructure between the platforms to maximize the potential success and the reach of each of our potentially transformative therapies. We have built deep internal capabilities across a wide range of areas focused on solving the most critical limitations in engineering cells including:

Stem Cell and Disease Biology. Developing our platforms into therapies for patients requires a deep understanding of both cell and disease biology. Furthermore, we are investing significantly in our people and the technologies that enable the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (PSC) into mature cells that can be used as therapeutics.
Immunology. The immune system can be harnessed to treat multiple diseases, and it can also limit the therapeutic effect of many cell- and gene-based therapies. Understanding and harnessing the immune system can have a broad impact across our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering portfolio. We are investing in our people and technologies to harness the immune system, particularly T cells, for the treatment of cancer and other diseases. Additionally, our hypoimmune technology has the potential to “hide” cells from the immune system, unlocking the potential of allogeneic ex vivo therapies for the treatment of numerous diseases.

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Genome Modification. The ability to knock-out, knock-in, modify, disrupt, and control expression of genes is fundamental to the success of our platforms. We believe our capabilities across multiple modalities will allow us to use the appropriate system for the biologic problem of interest.
Gene Delivery. We believe our delivery technologies have broad potential, with both near-term and long-term applications across a number of indications. We are investing in technologies that allow payload delivery to specific cell types and increase the diversity of payloads.

Our Cell Engineering Platforms

The advent of recombinant DNA technology in the 1970s ushered in a new era of therapeutics, enabling the synthetic manufacture of human protein therapies at scale for the first time. A critical inflection point occurred when key technological advancements eventually enabled the broad development of protein drugs, including monoclonal antibodies with suitable therapeutic properties. These advancements, combined with progress in understanding disease biology, allowed biologics to become the second largest therapeutic class. We believe engineered cells are at a similar inflection point, with key recent technological advancements providing the potential for the broad applicability of this therapeutic class.

Engineering cells ex vivo requires the ability to engineer and manufacture cells at scale and then deliver them to the patient so that they engraft, function appropriately, and have the necessary persistence in the body. Our goal for ex vivo cell engineering is to replace or add any cell in the body such that those cells engraft, function, and persist over time, and to manufacture those cells cost-effectively at scale. Our ex vivo cell engineering platform uses our hypoimmune technology to create cells that can “hide” from the patient’s immune system to enable persistence of allogeneic cells. We are primarily focused on making therapies using PSCs with our hypoimmune genetic modifications as the starting material, which we then differentiate into a specific cell type, such as a pancreatic islet cell, before treating the patient. Additionally, there are cell types for which effective differentiation protocols from a stem cell have not yet been developed, such as T cells. For such cell types, instead of starting from a PSC, we can use a fully differentiated allogeneic cell, sourced from a donor, as the starting material to which we then apply our hypoimmune genetic modifications. Our goal is to manufacture genetically modified cells that are capable of both replacing the missing cell and evading the patient’s immune system. We are now applying our ex vivo cell engineering technologies to make cell products for the treatment of multiple diseases. We anticipate sharing data in 2024 from multiple clinical trials exploring these therapeutics in various diseases.

Our Portfolio Strategy

We believe the potential applications of our platforms are vast. To prioritize programs for our ex vivo and in vivo engineering pipeline, we have used the following strategies:

minimize biology risk where there is platform risk, or in other words, prioritize opportunities where success with our platform should lead to success in addressing the underlying disease;
prioritize program investments in diseases where the strengths of our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms can address the key limitations of existing therapeutic approaches;
focus on conditions of high unmet need, including the most grievous diseases; and
prioritize efforts where success in one area begets success in others.

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Our Pipeline

We are developing a broad pipeline of clinical product candidates focused on creating transformative ex vivo therapies across a range of therapeutic areas. We are in the early stages of development across a broad pipeline of product candidates, which are summarized below:

https://cdn.kscope.io/f1b040a17982e50c0a0399201d887847-img111782282_0.jpg 

 

Each of our initial programs provides the potential for meaningful standalone value while also supporting our potential ability to further exploit our platforms in a manner that leads to the development of broadly applicable medicines.

Allogeneic T Cell Platform

 

SC291

 

We are first applying our hypoimmune technology to donor derived T cells to be used as allogeneic cell therapies for hematologic malignancies.

 

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These programs are designed to address a major limitation of existing allogeneic CAR T cell therapies: the need to evade host versus graft responses (HvGR) that occur when a patient’s immune system kills the transplanted T cells, limiting the potential benefit of the therapy. The rapid killing of the transplanted cell may be a major contributor to the short-lived responses seen in patients treated with allogeneic CAR Ts. One approach to avoid HvGR has been to effectively eliminate a patient’s immune system for a short period using chemotherapy, which puts the patient at risk for severe infections. Further, the patient’s suppressed immune system inevitably recovers and eliminates the CAR T cells, limiting the effectiveness of the therapy. Our hypoimmune technology is designed to enable cells to “hide” from the patient’s immune system, giving our allogeneic CAR T cell program the potential to create medicines that persist longer in patients and avoid the risks associated with higher doses of chemotherapy.

 

ARDENT

 

Our most advanced hypoimmune product candidate is SC291, a CD19 allogeneic CAR T program that we are evaluating as a potential treatment for NHL and CLL in the ARDENT trial. Results of our early interim analysis of clinical safety and other clinical responses as well as immune responses to SC291 are discussed above under “Overview” and below under “Allogeneic T Cell Platform — SC291.”

 

GLEAM

 

In November 2023, the FDA cleared our Investigational New Drug application (IND) to evaluate SC291 in patients with LN, ERL, and ANCA-associated vasculitis, which we refer to as our GLEAM trial. B-cell depleting therapies, such as anti CD20 antibodies (e.g., rituximab), have shown clinical benefit in the treatment of multiple autoimmune disorders that involve production of autoimmune antibodies, including LN, ERL, ANCA-associated vasculitis and many others. The rituximab trials in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) afforded the key insight that the depth of B-cell depletion was associated with improved patient responses. While these antibodies are adept at depleting B-cells in circulation for many patients, they are unable to penetrate deeply into the germinal centers of the lymph node and tissues, where the pathogenic B-cells continue to survive and drive disease. CD19 CAR T cells are known to cause deep B-cell depletion in CAR T recipients. Georg Schett and his research group in Erlangen, Germany tested the treatment of refractory SLE patients with autologous CD19 CAR T cells and were successful in inducing long-lasting drug-free remissions for these patients in the study. In our ongoing ARDENT trial, we have observed the pharmacodynamic effect of peripheral blood B-cell depletion, which refers to diminishing B-cell counts in the peripheral blood, associated with SC291 treatment in patients. While pharmacodynamic effects seen in oncology patients may not translate to patients with autoimmune disease, we believe these data increase the probability that SC291 treatment confers similar B-cell depletion, the putative mechanism of benefit, to patients with B-cell-mediated autoimmune disorder.

 

SC291 also provides the benefit of being available “off the shelf,” avoiding the complex management of patients around the apheresis procedure for cell harvest and between cell harvest and infusion required for treatment with autologous CAR T products while also providing the potential for increased manufacturing scalability. We expect to share data from the GLEAM trial in 2024.

 

Initial clinical success with SC291 would support the expansion of our allogeneic CAR T efforts with additional product candidates targeting other patient populations. Our allogeneic T cell platform is designed to enable the substitution of CAR constructs in a modular fashion. For the near-term, we are prioritizing clinically-validated targets as well as CAR constructs, such as our CD19 CAR, that have shown promising safety and efficacy profiles in hematologic malignancies in the autologous context.

 

SC262

 

We are developing SC262, our hypoimmune-modified CD22-directed allogeneic CAR T program, initially as a potential treatment for patients with relapsed and/or refractory B-cell malignancies who have received prior CD19-directed CAR T therapy in NHL, CLL, and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). In January 2024, the FDA cleared our IND to evaluate SC262 in this patient population. We refer to the Phase I clinical study as our VIVID trial. The CD22 CAR construct that we use in SC262, which we licensed from the National Institutes of Health, has already been evaluated in multiple academic clinical trials of autologous CAR T cell therapies, data from which have shown complete responses (CR) in a substantial number of patients that have relapsed following treatment with a CD19-directed CAR T therapy. Data from a Phase 1 trial (n=38) of NHL patients conducted at Stanford University, where 97% of patients were either refractory and/or relapsed after prior CD19 CAR T therapy, demonstrate a CR rate of 53% and an overall response rate (ORR) of 68%. Seventy-five percent of the CRs lasted 12 months or longer.

 

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Modular Pipeline for Allogeneic CAR T Therapy

 

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Allogeneic CAR T development candidates are manufactured from T cells purified from donor PBMCs. T cells undergo genome modification to disrupt MHC class I and class II expression (which inactivates adaptive immune responses), disrupt TCR expression (which minimizes graft vs. host disease) and overexpress CD47 (which enables cells to evade the innate immune system, including macrophages and NK cells). Development candidates principally differ in the CAR expressed by the cells. Expansion during manufacturing allows production of hundreds of patient doses per donor (based on current scale and accounting for hold back necessary for testing and dose variability).

 

 

SC255

 

We are developing SC255, a B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-directed allogeneic CAR T, for the treatment of multiple myeloma (MM). The BCMA CAR construct that we use in SC255, which we licensed from IASO Biotherapeutics and Innovent Biologics is part of equecabtagene autoleucel (Fucaso; CT103A). China’s National Medical Products Administration has approved the new drug application for this drug in adult patients with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma who previously received 3 or more lines of therapy, including a proteasome inhibitor (PI) and an immunomodulatory drug (IMiD). Data from such trials presented at the American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting in December 2023 showed an overall response rate of 96%, a minimal residual disease (MRD) negativity rate of 94%, and a complete response/stringent complete response (CR/sCR) rate of 78% in 103 patients. At one year, 81% of patients continue to be MRD negative. The SC255 program has completed a battery of pre-clinical tests and is currently gated based on resource availability.

 

In the future, additional candidates may be nominated to address hematological malignancies, solid tumors, and autoimmune disease.

SC379

We are developing SC379, our PSC-derived glial progenitor cell (GPC) product candidate, as a therapy to deliver to patients with certain central nervous system disorders healthy allogeneic GPCs, which are the precursors to both astroglia and myelin-producing oligodendrocytes. SC379 has the potential to treat patients with myelin- and glial-based disorders, which represent a broad group of debilitating neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and a number of neurodegenerative disorders, none of which have effective treatment alternatives. We intend to develop SC379 for the treatment of secondary progressive MS, Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease (PMD), other myelin-based disorders, Huntington’s disease, and other astrocytic diseases. Our goal is to begin clinical testing for SC379 as early as 2025.

 

 

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PSC-derived Pancreatic Islet Cells

 

SC451

 

SC451 is our PSC-derived hypoimmune pancreatic islet product candidate for the treatment of diabetes, with an initial focus on type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). Greater than 8 million patients worldwide have T1DM. T1DM is a disease in which a patient’s immune system attacks and kills pancreatic beta cells, leading to complete loss of insulin production in affected individuals. Patients typically need to take multiple insulin injections every day for life. Although the introduction of insulin has had a profoundly positive impact on patients, people with T1DM have approximately 15 years shorter life expectancies than people without diabetes and are consistently at risk for complications such as coma, stroke, myocardial infarction, kidney failure, and blindness from poorly controlled blood glucose. We and our collaborators have shown that we can develop high quality stem cell-derived islet cells that, when transplanted in animal models, normalize blood glucose and cure diabetes. We have also shown that our hypoimmune cells induce no systemic immune response, even in non-human primates (NHPs) with a pre-existing immune response to non-hypoimmune cells, and that our allogeneic NHP hypoimmune islet cells survive for the duration of our NHP studies, the longest of which is about forty weeks. To demonstrate applicability in the context of T1DM, we have developed a proprietary mouse model in-house, with humanized immune cells from a T1DM patient, and showed that hypoimmune modifications enabled T1DM patient-derived stem cell islet cells to evade both the autoimmune and allogeneic response. As a result, we believe our stem cell-derived hypoimmune pancreatic islet cells have the potential to create a disruptive treatment for T1DM, offering patients life-long normal blood glucose without immunosuppression. We are working on process development and IND-enabling studies.

 

UP421

 

In November 2023, the Swedish Medical Products Agency authorized Uppsala University Hospital’s clinical trial application (CTA) for an investigator-sponsored, first-in-human study evaluating UP421, an allogeneic, primary islet cell therapy engineered with our hypoimmune technology, in patients with T1DM (the IST). Human pancreatic islet transplantation from allogeneic donors into T1DM patients has been shown to reduce or even eliminate long-term exogenous insulin dependence, albeit when administered with immunosuppression which leads to toxicity. Under the IST, a group of experienced pancreatic islet transplantation experts will transplant allogeneic primary islet cells that have been genetically modified with the hypoimmune modifications into T1DM patients without immunosuppression. We believe that a stem cell-derived islet product candidate such as SC451 would likely maximize the benefit to patients, with superior manufacturing scalability and consistency when compared to primary islet cells. However, we are optimistic that immunology insights gained from the IST, particularly whether the hypoimmune modifications lead to long-term survival and evasion of either allogeneic or autoimmune killing of the cells, may provide direct insights and learnings applicable to SC451, potentially accelerating development of this product candidate. We expect data from the IST to be shared in 2024.

 

Our ex vivo Cell Engineering Platform

Overview

Ex vivo cell engineering aims to treat human disease by engrafting new cells to replace damaged, diseased, or missing cells in patients. Historically there have been four key challenges to ex vivo cell engineering:

engraftment of the right cell in the right environment;
appropriate function of the cells, necessitating an understanding of and ability to produce the desired cell phenotype;
persistence of the cells in the host, particularly by overcoming immune rejection; and
manufacturing the desired cell in the quantities required.

Our ex vivo cell engineering platform seeks to address these four challenges and is focused on engineering hypoimmune cells that engraft, function, and persist in patients by evading immune rejection. These cells are derived from sources that are scalable, and we believe that continued progress with this platform has the potential to create broad access for patients.

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Our Approach to Building our ex vivo Cell Engineering Platform

We have approached the development of our ex vivo cell engineering platform by investing in solutions to address the key challenges outlined above:

Stem cell and disease biology. We believe that it is critical to have expertise in the developmental biology of stem cell differentiation and a deep understanding of the desired cell biology of stem cell differentiation in order to generate cells that function appropriately, as well as a deep understanding of the desired cell phenotype. The latter requires expertise in normal and disease biology. Furthermore, clinical understanding of disease pathology and transplant medicine is required to determine how to engraft the right cell in the right environment. Each of our programs is led by a prominent clinician-scientist with deep expertise in both cell therapy and disease biology.
Immunology and genome modification. We believe that a deep understanding of the immunological response to engineered cells is essential to unlocking the potential of ex vivo therapies. We have licensed technologies from Harvard University, the University of California San Francisco, Washington University, and others to enable this effort. In addition, in order to create successful hypoimmune cells, we are investing in building out our gene editing, genome modification, and gene insertion capabilities.
Manufacturing. We are investing proactively in process development, including process optimization and scale up, analytical development, CMC regulatory, supply chain, quality, and other manufacturing sciences in order to develop processes that can enable scalable manufacturing of cell therapies and broad patient access. We have entered into agreements with contract development and manufacturing organizations (CDMOs) and other partners for access to facilities and reagents in our supply chain necessary to manufacture our product candidates. We have built a pilot manufacturing plant in South San Francisco, California and entered into a long-term lease agreement for a manufacturing facility in Bothell, Washington, where we intend to build our own clinical trial and commercial current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) manufacturing capabilities. We entered into a lease agreement under which we have obtained access to manufacturing capabilities within University of Rochester Medical Center’s cell-based manufacturing facility to support manufacturing for early-stage clinical trials. We are also investing to obtain and ensure access to high quality donor-derived T cells and GMP-grade PSC lines for our programs. We will continue to invest in our manufacturing capabilities to ensure our pipeline needs are met.

Our Approach to Building our ex vivo Cell Engineering Portfolio

We have prioritized cell types for our programs when:

high unmet need can be addressed by cell replacement;
existing proof of concept in humans and/or animal models demonstrates that cell transplantation should have a clinical benefit;
evidence exists that the cell type can be successfully differentiated from PSC and that such stem cell-derived cells can function appropriately in vivo;
there has been the ability to hire or partner with world experts in the field to ensure our programs are rooted in a deep understanding of the underlying cell and disease biology; and
evading immune system rejection via the hypoimmune technology is either not required initially (such as for glial progenitor cells (GPCs)) or is the critical missing element to developing a cell therapy (such as islet cells).

Based on this prioritization, we are focused on three cell types: T cells, islet cells, and GPCs.

Historical context of ex vivo therapy

Blood transfusions have been a standard treatment for many patients for over 100 years. The first successful kidney transplant occurred in 1954, followed by the first successful heart transplant in 1967, demonstrating the transformative clinical potential of replacing damaged or missing cells in the body. Surgical enhancements have improved the success of engraftment, but lack of organ access, complex surgical procedures, and immune rejection of the donated organs have limited the impact of these procedures.

Progress in immunosuppressive regimens, such as the development of cyclosporine, has improved organ survival rates. However, substantial side effects and the fact that many patients are ineligible or non-compliant have reduced their impact.

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Ultimately, the field has looked for a scalable source of therapeutic cells that can be accessed broadly at a manageable cost, as well as cells that can evade immune rejection without immunosuppression. The advent of stem cell technology and subsequent improvements in methods to generate functional differentiated cells at scale have the potential to address the shortage of donor tissues and organs. In addition, over the past decade, a deeper understanding of the immunology of HvGR, coupled with novel techniques to manipulate the immunological profile of cells via gene editing, have raised the prospect that ex vivo engineered cells can benefit patients without the requirement for significant immunosuppression.

Sources of allogeneic cells

There are three main potential sources of allogeneic cells, or cells that do not originate from the patient, and therefore have the potential to be manufactured and supplied at scale. These are embryonic stem cells (ESCs), induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), and donor-derived cells. Our portfolio currently reflects a mix of sources, with the ambition of transitioning primarily to iPSCs over time.

Embryonic Stem Cells

The recognition that every cell in the body originates from a zygote, or fertilized egg, led to the research and ultimate discovery of human ESCs, with the derivation of the first human ESC line in 1998. ESCs are PSCs which have the potential to differentiate into any cell type and are derived from the inner cell mass of a blastocyst or pre-implantation stage embryo. They are typically cultured in vitro and grown through cycles of cell division, known as passages, until a line of cells is established that can proliferate without differentiating, and retain their pluripotency while remaining well characterized, including being free of potentially deleterious genetic mutations. Because PSCs can divide indefinitely without exhaustion, an ESC line can be used to generate cell banks, consisting of large numbers of well-characterized vials of cells, that can be frozen and stored for future use.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

The discovery that mature, differentiated cells can be reprogrammed to be the equivalent of an ESC and capable of generating any cell type in the body has led to the research and ultimate development of human iPSCs, providing an alternative option as a source 3of stem cells for use in ex vivo engineered cells. A key breakthrough in 2006 demonstrated that mature cells could be reprogrammed via the expression of a small number of genes to result in pluripotent cells. These iPSCs have similar potential to ESCs to be used as an indefinitely renewable cell bank for manufacturing of cell-based therapies.

Donor-Derived Allogeneic Cells

Another source of cells, which we use in our T cell programs, comes from mature donor-derived allogeneic cells. Although these T cells are neither pluripotent nor from an infinitely renewable source, they can be obtained as mature cells from human donors at scale. The use of donor-derived cells for our T cell programs should allow us to rapidly advance the programs towards the clinic with the implementation of our hypoimmune technology.

Approach to Sources of Allogeneic Cells

The use of iPSCs as the starting material for our programs offers regulatory and cultural advantages over ESCs, and scale and product consistency advantages over donor-derived allogeneic cells. Our portfolio currently reflects a mix of sources, which is primarily driven by historical factors as well as current better characterization of genomic stability through differentiation. Our ambition is to transition primarily to iPSCs over time.

Crucial aspects of developing allogeneic cells from any source include a thorough characterization of the cells, a comprehensive understanding of the global regulatory environment, and an ability to maintain cells under the required conditions, such as cGMP, at various stages of the manufacturing processes. We believe our early investment in building capabilities in the science and manufacturing of these cells will increase our likelihood of success. This investment is anticipated to yield sources of cells suitable for the global clinical development and commercialization of ex vivo engineered cells for a broad patient population, in line with our vision to democratize access.

Background on Immunological Barriers to ex vivo Therapies and Current Limitations

Starting with studies in renal transplantation in the early 1900s, it became clear that there were immunological factors preventing successful transplantation. Initially, transplant rejection was suspected to be mediated by an antibody response, but in the 1950s, it was discovered that cell-mediated immune pathways also play a critical role.

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Further studies established that T cells play a key role in the host immune response to transplant. T cells belong to the “adaptive” immune system, recognizing and eliminating “non-self” cells via recognition of differences in cell-surface proteins encoded by the major histocompatibility (MHC) locus. There are two types of MHC molecules: MHC class I, expressed on the surface of almost all nucleated cells, and MHC class II, expressed constitutively on professional antigen presenting cells (APC), including macrophages and dendritic cells. Expression of MHC class II is also induced in many additional cells in the context of inflammation. MHC class I molecules typically display peptides from degraded intracellular proteins on the cell surface. Cells display peptides from normal “self” proteins on MHC class I, which typically will not activate an immune response due to a process called tolerance, where the body recognizes these peptides as “self.” However, if a cell displays a peptide from a foreign or mutated protein on MHC class I, for example, as a result of a protein mutation, it may result in the activation of a cytotoxic T cell response specific to the peptide-MHC complex via the T cell receptor (TCR) on the T cell surface. The activated T cell then eliminates the cell. MHC class II molecules typically display peptides derived from phagocytosis of extracellular proteins on the surface of APCs. These peptide-MHC complexes interact with TCRs on helper T cells, such as CD4+ T cells, resulting in a downstream cellular and humoral immune response. The humoral immune response leads to antibody production against foreign proteins. In allogeneic transplants, the cellular and humoral processes can recognize proteins from the donor as “foreign,” resulting in an immune response to the transplant, including potential elimination of the transplanted cells. In the allogeneic setting, MHC proteins can be highly immunogenic due to their inherent polymorphism, increasing the risk of the recognition of transplants as “foreign.” This immunogenicity underlies the basis for MHC typing and matching to assess and reduce the risk of organ transplant rejection.

Many groups have attempted to engineer cells that can evade the adaptive immune system, typically by downregulating or eliminating expression of MHC molecules on the surface of cells. Although this approach can reduce the adaptive immune response to donor cells, the human immune system has evolved so that parts of the innate immune system will recognize cells missing MHC molecules and eliminate them. For example, NK cells express receptors known as inhibitory killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors (inhibitory KIRs). KIRs recognize self MHC class I molecules on the surface of cells and provide inhibitory signals to the NK cells to prevent their activation. Cells missing MHC class I molecules are correspondingly eliminated by NK cells because of the lack of inhibitory KIR signaling and a resulting cytolytic activation. Known as the “missing self-hypothesis,” this important redundancy in immunology enables the elimination of virally infected or transformed cells that have downregulated MHC class I, but it has complicated the development of allogeneic cells as broadly applicable therapeutics. Our hypoimmune technology seeks to engineer cells to avoid immune rejection by addressing both the adaptive and innate immune response.

There are three key strategies that have been used to date to overcome immune rejection, with limited success:

Immune Suppression. Cyclosporine and other molecules that suppress T cell responses are commonly used, and many patients have been helped by these approaches in areas such as an organ transplantation. However, immune suppression often leads to significant systemic side effects, including a decreased ability to resist infections, increased susceptibility to cancer, and a wide variety of organ toxicities. Furthermore, organ transplant recipients typically require immunosuppression on a lifelong basis, and any disruption in this immunosuppression can rapidly trigger transplant rejection.
Matching HLA Type. A second approach to overcoming immune rejection is to find a donor with a matched human leukocyte antigen (HLA) type. In humans, HLA is a synonym for MHC. This approach addresses the root of the mechanism that the immune system uses to identify “non-self” cells and has achieved some success. Finding a matched donor, however, can be difficult and is usually limited to close relatives who are willing and able to donate. Although some have advocated for creating large banks of cells that match a wide variety of HLA types, even with fully matched HLA class I and class II donors and recipients, there is a need for at least some immune suppression due to the presence of numerous minor antigen mismatches.
Autologous Approaches. More recently, researchers have pursued autologous approaches, where a patient’s own cells are modified and introduced back into the patient as a graft. These cells may avoid immune rejection as they would be recognized as “self.” Autologous approaches have demonstrated effectiveness in certain diseases, such as autologous CAR T cells for hematological malignancies, but these approaches are limited in their adoption due to manufacturing cost and complexity. Furthermore, autologous approaches are generally limited to cells that exist in the patient in suspension, such as blood cells.

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Our Solution – Hypoimmune Technology

To address the challenge of immune rejection with allogeneic cell transplantation, we are developing our hypoimmune technology, which uses genome modification to introduce permanent changes to the cells. We are applying the hypoimmune technology to PSCs, which can then be differentiated into multiple cell types, and to donor-derived allogeneic T cells, with the goal of making potent CAR T cells at scale and transplanting allogeneic cells into patients without the need for systemic and prolonged immune suppression. We believe that enabling this capability has the potential to enable ex vivo engineered cells to become an important therapeutic modality alongside small molecules, protein biologics, and in vivo engineered cells.

Some of our scientific founders and their collaborators have worked on creating hypoimmune cells for well over a decade. A key insight that informed their work is the phenomenon of fetomaternal tolerance during pregnancy. The fetus, despite having half its genetic material from the father, is not rejected by the mother’s immune system. However, after birth, few if any children would qualify as a matched donor for a cell or organ transplant for their mother. These scientists categorized the differences of the maternal-fetal border and systematically tested them to understand which, if any, of these were most important to immune evasion. They have tested these changes both in vitro and in vivo in animal models.

Designing Hypoimmune Cells

Our goal is to create a universal cell capable of evading immune detection, regardless of cell type or transplant location. Our current clinical hypoimmune technology, which is being used in our SC291, SC262, and SC255 product candidates, combines three genome modifications to “hide” these cells from the host immune system:

disruption of MHC class I expression;
disruption of MHC class II expression; and
overexpression of CD47, a protein that enables cells to evade the innate immune system, including macrophages and NK cells.

Once these modifications have been applied to a cell, we refer to that cell as a hypoimmune cell.

Preclinical Development of Hypoimmune Cells

We and our licensors have carried out a series of experiments in various model systems of increasing immunological complexity. These included (i) transplanting undifferentiated mouse hypoimmune iPSCs into MHC mismatched allogeneic mice, (ii) transplanting mouse hypoimmune iPSC-derived differentiated cells, such as endothelial cells, into MHC mismatched allogeneic mice, (iii) transplanting human hypoimmune iPSCs into MHC mismatched humanized allogeneic mice, (iv) transplanting NHP hypoimmune iPSCs into MHC mismatched allogeneic NHPs, (v) transplanting NHP hypoimmune iPSC-derived differentiated cells, such as cardiomyocytes, into MHC mismatched allogeneic NHPs, and (vi) transplanting NHP hypoimmune primary cells, such as islets, into MHC mismatched diabetic and non-diabetic NHPs.

Each mouse experiment evaluated:

whether hypoimmune cells can be successfully transplanted into the recipient without the need for immunosuppression and without eliciting an immune response; and
whether differentiated cells derived from our hypoimmune cells were successfully engrafted in the recipient without needing immunosuppression and without eliciting an immune response.

We have also investigated the NHP immune response to human iPSCs, NHP iPSCs, NHP iPSC-derived differentiated cells, and NHP primary islets. Importantly, we have shown that hypoimmune primary islets can mediate insulin independence in a fully immunocompetent diabetic NHP without immunosuppression. This confirms that hypoimmune modifications confer immune evasion without compromising islet function in this setting. We are encouraged by the data from these investigations, given the similarity of the NHP immune system to the human immune system and that NHP models represent the strictest test outside of evaluating these cells in humans. We are evaluating both iPSCs as well as differentiated cells transplanted into the microenvironments we intend to target in humans. Based on the results of these NHP studies, we expect to test these hypoimmune cells in humans as a next step.

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Mouse iPSC-derived hypoimmune cells transplanted into MHC mismatched allogeneic mouse

Mouse hypoimmune iPSCs transplanted into an MHC mismatched allogeneic mouse were protected from the mouse immune system, and no evidence was seen of either adaptive or innate immune system activation. The control arm transplanted unmodified mouse iPSCs into MHC mismatched allogeneic mice, and, as expected, these unmodified mouse iPSCs were rapidly rejected by the recipient mouse immune system with a robust adaptive immune response. In another experiment, the genes that code for MHC class I and MHC class II expression were disrupted. These modifications protected the cells from the recipient mouse’s adaptive immune system, but NK cells rapidly killed the transplanted cells. These data highlight the importance of all three genome modifications (MHC class I, MHC class II, and CD47 overexpression) in protecting cells from the immune system following an allogeneic transplant.

Next, to ensure that hypoimmune genome modifications protected differentiated cells and that these modifications did not impact the ability of iPSCs to differentiate into various cell types, commonly referred to as pluripotency, the scientists tested whether the hypoimmune iPSCs cells could be differentiated into three different cell types, function in vivo, and evade the host immune system. The three cell types were cardiomyocytes, endothelial cells, and smooth muscle cells. The hypoimmune iPSCs successfully differentiated into all three cell types, the cells functioned in the mouse, and the transplanted cells survived for the full standard observation period with no evidence of immune system activation despite having received no immune suppression. Differentiated cells derived from unmodified iPSC cells led to immune activation in the host mice, which did not survive. These data provide initial proof of concept that iPSCs can be genetically modified and differentiated into target cells that can engraft, function, and evade the recipient’s immune system following transplantation.

Human iPSC-derived hypoimmune cells transplanted into MHC mismatched allogeneic humanized mouse

Having demonstrated the ability of mouse iPSC-derived hypoimmune cells to satisfy each of three testing criteria, the experiments were advanced to evaluate human hypoimmune cells by using a “humanized” mouse system, generated by grafting a functioning human immune system in place of the mouse immune system. We also evaluated the ability to successfully engineer human hypoimmune cells from human iPSCs and whether differentiated cells derived from human hypoimmune cells retain biological function.

Creating Hypoimmune Therapeutic Cells from Human iPSCs

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Our current clinical hypoimmune technology combines the following three gene modifications to “hide” cells from the host immune system: disruption of MHC class I and class II expression (which inactivates adaptive immune responses), and overexpression of CD47 (which “hides” cells from the innate immune system, including macrophages and NK) cells. PSCs from healthy donors are used as the starting material and are then genetically modified with the hypoimmune modifications. These edited cells are then differentiated into cell types of therapeutic interest, which could potentially be administered to the patient as “off the shelf” therapies.

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First, the three genome modifications described above were replicated in human iPSCs to engineer a human hypoimmune cell line with properties comparable to the mouse hypoimmune cells in vitro. Next, unmodified human iPSCs were transplanted into MHC mismatched humanized mice. It was observed that these unmodified human iPSCs were rapidly rejected. Human hypoimmune cells were then transplanted into MHC mismatched humanized mice. It was observed that the human hypoimmune cells survived the full length of the experiment and failed to elicit any type of immune response. From this data we concluded that in humanized mice, human hypoimmune cells can evade the immune system. Pluripotency of human hypoimmune cells was confirmed by differentiation into two different cell types, endothelial cells and cardiomyocytes, which exhibited the characteristics of normal endothelial cells and cardiomyocytes. Finally, to test whether the differentiated cell types derived from human hypoimmune cells could continue to evade the immune system, the differentiated cells were transplanted into humanized mice, and the transplanted cells survived for the full standard observation period. In contrast, differentiated cells derived from unmodified human iPSC cells did not survive after being transplanted, as anticipated. It was also observed that the hypoimmune endothelial cells formed primitive vasculature with active blood flow, and the hypoimmune cardiomyocyte cells matured into functional-looking heart cells.

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Absence of T and B-Cell Activation Following Transplantation of Hypoimmune Human iPSCs into Mismatched Humanized Mice

 

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Left panels: T cell activation was measured by EliSpot counts for interferon-gamma production. Immune cells from mice that received wild type (wt) iPSC grafts show a brisk interferon response when tested against allogeneic wt iPSC grafts. By contrast, immune cells from mice that received hypoimmune cells (MHC class I/II disruption, CD47 tg) cells show only minimal interferon production when exposed to allogeneic hypoimmune cells, comparable to background frequency in non-immunized mice. Right panels: B-cell activation was measured by antibody binding to each cell type, shown as mean fluorescence intensity (MFI). Wild type cells exhibit significant antibody binding when incubated with serum from mice that received wt cells. By contrast, hypoimmune cells show only background levels of binding when treated with serum from mice that received hypoimmune cells. Adapted from Deuse et al, Nature Biotechnology 2019.

CD47 is Required to Protect Hypoimmune Cells from Killing by Human NK Cells

 

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Human iPSCs were differentiated into endothelial cells (hiECs) and plated as a monolayer in a multielectrode system. After exposure to NK cells, monolayer viability was measured by electrical impedance, indicated here as normalized cell index. As expected, wt cells were not killed by NK cells. By contrast, cells lacking MHC class I and II (MHC class I/II disruption), but not expressing CD47, were rapidly killed. Addition of CD47 tg prevented killing by NK cells. A blocking antibody to CD47 abolished protection from NK cells, affirming the importance of CD47 overexpression in protection from innate immune cell killing. From Deuse et al, Nature Biotechnology 2019.

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Survival of Hypoimmune Human iPSC Grafts in MHC-Mismatched Humanized Mice

 

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Wild type (wt) and hypoimmune (MHC class I/II disruption and CD47 tg) iPSCs were engineered to express firefly luciferase before transplantation. Emission of light was used as an index of graft cell viability. Sequential light emission scans from the same representative animal receiving wt cells show progressive loss of graft viability, indicating graft rejection, confirmed quantitatively in the line tracings below. By contrast, mice receiving hypoimmune cells show graft expansion over the course of the experiment, indicating immune evasion. From Deuse et al, Nature Biotechnology 2019.

NHP hypoimmune cells transplanted into NHPs

To evaluate immune evasion properties of the hypoimmune cells, we have tested the immune response to and survival of hypoimmune iPSCs from NHPs by transplantation into an allogeneic NHP recipient without immunosuppression.

Design for Allogeneic Study Involving Wild Type (Unmodified) and Hypoimmune NHP iPSC Delivery to NHPs

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The study involved a randomized group of eight NHPs distributed into two cohorts of four NHPs each. The first cohort received an initial intramuscular injection of unmodified NHP iPSCs in one leg and a second injection of NHP hypoimmune cells at six weeks in the other leg (i.e., a crossover design). The second cohort received an initial injection of NHP hypoimmune cells in one leg, which allowed assessment of immune evasion in a naïve recipient. In order to model certain aspects of autoimmune disease, this cohort also received a second injection of unmodified NHP iPSCs in the other leg, which enabled assessment of the impact of injecting hypoimmune cells into an NHP with a pre-existing immune response to unmodified cells. No immunosuppression was administered to any of the NHPs in the study.

 

Allogeneic Hypoimmune iPSCs Survive in vivo in NHPs with an Intact Immune System

 

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Upper panel: Unmodified wild type (wt) NHP iPSCs (Group 1, top row) or hypoimmune NHP iPSCs (Group 2, bottom row) were introduced via intramuscular injection into allogeneic NHPs. Unmodified NHP iPSCs are undetectable in recipient NHPs by week 3 while hypoimmune NHP iPSCs introduced into naïve NHPs were viable and detectable for 16 weeks post injection. At 6 weeks following the initial injection, NHPs were injected with the crossover cell type (Group 1 with hypoimmune NHP iPSCs and Group 2 with wt unmodified iPSCs). In these crossover experiments, hypoimmune NHP iPSCs survived even when the NHP had been exposed to unmodified iPSCs. Unmodified iPSCs injected into NHPs previously injected with hypoimmune iPSCs were rapidly killed with no observable impact on the hypoimmune NHP iPSCs that continued to remain viable. Data shown from single NHP belonging to each group; images are representative for four NHPs receiving hypoimmune iPSCs and four NHPs receiving wt iPSCs.

Lower panel: iPSC survival in vivo is followed over time using bioluminescence imaging (BLI).

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Absence of T Cell, B-Cell, or NK Cell Responses Following the First Delivery and Crossover of Hypoimmune NHP iPSCs into NHPs

 

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Upper panel: Immune cells from NHPs receiving hypoimmune iPSCs showed no response when exposed to hypoimmune iPSCs in vitro (Row 1) in contrast to wt iPSCs (Row 2). Lower panel: Neither unmodified nor hypoimmune iPSCs were susceptible to killing by NK cells, indicating protection from the “missing self” signal. Data above are collected from four NHPs in each experimental arm.

NHP hypoimmune iPSCs grafted into NHPs elicited no detectable systemic immune responses, including no T cell activation and no antibody formation. Innate immune responses mediated by macrophages and NK cells were also undetectable. The transplanted hypoimmune cells were alive and detectable in the four allogeneic recipients for the duration of the study, which was 16 weeks for two of the NHPs and 8 weeks for the other two NHPs. To our knowledge, this is the first instance of prolonged graft survival in an allogeneic transplant setting without immunosuppression in NHPs. By contrast, systemic immune responses from T cells as well as IgM and IgG antibodies were generated to iPSCs without the hypoimmune edits, and the iPSCs were rapidly rejected within two to three weeks.

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In the crossover portion of this experiment, injection of NHP hypoimmune iPSCs into NHPs that had previously received unmodified iPSCs again elicited no systemic responses as tested in assays for T cell or antibody responses. Similarly, macrophage and NK responses could not be detected. Correspondingly, these iPSCs survived for the full eight weeks that they were monitored, suggesting that pre-existing immunity to unmodified human iPSCs had no impact on hypoimmune iPSC survival. By contrast, in the NHPs that had previously been injected with hypoimmune iPSCs, the unmodified NHP iPSCs elicited both T cell and antibody responses. Notably, these unmodified iPSCs were rapidly rejected by the NHP within one to two weeks, while the previously injected hypoimmune iPSCs continued to be viable in the other leg of the NHP. These results confirm that the survival of the hypoimmune allo-graft was not an artifact of an impaired immune system or immune response in the recipient NHP. They also suggest that these hypoimmune iPSCs have the potential for immune evasion even the context of a new immune response toward iPSCs without these edits.

In addition, we recently conducted experiments in which we observed immune evasion and cell survival of hypoimmune NHP iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes and retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPEs). In separate experiments, these cardiomyocytes and RPEs were injected into the hearts and eyes (subretinal space), respectively, of healthy allogeneic NHP recipients without immunosuppression. Both the hypoimmune cardiomyocytes and RPEs were found to evade systemic adaptive and innate immune responses and survived for the duration of the applicable experiment. Separately, we have shown that hypoimmune NHP islet cells transplanted into a non-matched allogeneic NHP survive for the duration of the study, which at this point is 40 weeks.

We conducted an experiment to better understand whether hypoimmune modifications impair the function of islet cells and to confirm that these modifications enable the islet cells to evade immune responses. For these experiments, we made hypoimmune genetic modifications to NHP primary islets and then transplanted these islets intramuscularly, without immunosuppression, into a different NHP. We found that the hypoimmune islets were viable for the full duration of the study (approximately 10 months) and did not elicit either an adaptive or innate immune response. By contrast, unmodified NHP primary islets injected into a separate NHP were rejected within one week. These results suggest that hypoimmune modifications enable allogeneic immune evasion by NHP primary islet cells and increase our confidence in the clinical translatability of this approach.

Primary Allogeneic Hypoimmune NHP Pancreatic Islet Cells Survive in NHPs for 10 Months Without Immunosuppression

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Hypoimmune NHP primary islets (top row) or unmodified wild type (wt) NHP primary islets (bottom row) were introduced via intramuscular injection into allogeneic NHPs. Unmodified NHP primary islets are undetectable in recipient NHPs by week 1 while hypoimmune NHP primary islets introduced into naïve NHPs were viable and detectable until the experiment was terminated at 40 weeks following injection. Primary islet cell survival in vivo is followed over time using bioluminescence imaging (BLI).

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In January 2024, we presented data from a study transplanting allogeneic HIP-modified pancreatic islet cells into a fully immunocompetent, diabetic NHP. Subsequent to diabetes being induced in the NHP with streptozotocin, daily insulin injections were performed to re-establish glucose control. After 78 days, the NHP underwent transplantation of HIP primary islets by intramuscular injection, resulting in insulin independence without the use of any immunosuppression. As early as one week after the transplantation, the NHP’s serum c-peptide level had normalized, and it remained stable throughout the follow-up period of six months. The NHP showed tightly controlled blood glucose levels for six months, was completely insulin-independent, and was continuously healthy throughout this period with no use of any immunosuppression. Up to six months following HIP primary islet transplantation, peripheral blood mononuclear cells and serum were obtained from the NHP for immune analyses. HIP primary islets showed no T cell recognition, no graft-specific antibodies, and were protected from NK cell and macrophage killing. To demonstrate that the NHP’s insulin-independence was fully dependent on the HIP primary islets and that there was no regeneration of the animal’s endogenous islet cell population, we triggered the destruction of the HIP primary islets using a CD47-targeting antibody. This resulted in a loss of glycemic control and return to exogenous insulin dependence. We believe these data demonstrate potential evidence for immune evasion of HIP primary islets, graft-mediated insulin-independence of the diabetic NHP, and a potential safety strategy.

 

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Hypoimmune Islet Cells Achieve Insulin Independence after Allogeneic Transplantation in a Fully Immunocompetent NHP

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Fasting glucose monitoring in an NHP for about 10 months encompassing pre STZ, post STZ, post HIP islet cell transplant, and post anti-CD47 phases of the study: Diabetes mellitus was induced in a male NHP with STZ and daily insulin injections were started. Blood glucose was monitored twice daily and showed major instability over approximately two weeks until a well-controlled steady state was reached. After 78 days, the NHP was underwent intramuscular transplantation with allogeneic HIP islet cells. Insulin support was gradually withdrawn over approximately 12 days. The NHP did not receive immunosuppression before, during or after HIP islet cell transplantation. The NHP showed tightly controlled blood glucose levels and was completely insulin independent for six months. Following anti-CD47 mediated ablation of the graft, blood glucose levels increased steadily. Insulin injections were resumed eight days after the start of anti-CD47 antibody at the previously established maintenance dose. Despite insulin supplementation, widely fluctuating blood glucose levels were observed and no steady state was re-established for the remainder of the study.

Hypoimmune Islet Cells Normalize C-peptide Levels after Allogeneic Transplantation in a Fully Immunocompetent NHP

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NHP serum C-peptide declines after induction of diabetes post STZ. As early as one week after the transplantation, NHP serum c-peptide level normalized (indicated by c-peptide levels of >2ng/ml) and remained stable throughout the follow-up period of six months. Destruction of HIP islet cells by anti-CD47 antibody coincides with the decline in C-peptide levels in the serum, confirming that HIP islet cells were required for continued production of C-peptide in the NHP.

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Based on our preclinical data to date, we believe our hypoimmune technology has the potential to address the most fundamental limitation of ex vivo therapies, persistence, and thereby unlock waves of potentially disruptive therapies across a variety of cell types.

Safety Switch for Hypoimmune Cells

We are actively investigating approaches to control hypoimmune cells after administration into the patient. If necessary, the aim of these “safety switches” would be to provide a mechanism to eliminate hypoimmune cells within the body in a targeted fashion when the cells are not in a location where physical removal is feasible. Such a safety switch would mitigate the potential risk of adverse outcomes if a hypoimmune cell, which can, by its nature, evade the immune system, becomes infected with a virus or undergoes oncogenic transformation.

One approach we are exploring as a safety switch is re-sensitization of the hypoimmune cells to innate cell killing via administration of a blocking anti-CD47 antibody. We have tested the effectiveness of this approach in iPSCs and teratomas (a particular tumor formed by pluripotent cells with histological features from all three germ layers), both bearing the hypoimmune modifications. Using hypoimmune NHP iPSCs, we observed in vitro that the addition of an anti-CD47 antibody binds to and blocks CD47 expressed in the hypoimmune cells and restores their sensitivity to the missing-self killing response mediated by NK cells. We also assessed this strategy in mice that were transplanted with human iPSCs that formed small teratomas. Finally, we have conducted in vitro and in vivo experiments with this strategy using a number of human cancer lines, showing that an anti-CD47 antibody resensitizes cancer cells to killing by NK cells and macrophages. Treatment with an anti-CD47 antibody resulted in the loss of immune evasion and the rapid killing of these transplanted cells. As described above, use of an anti-CD47 antibody in a fully immunocompetent NHP was sufficient to trigger destruction of transplanted allogeneic HIP islet cells following initial survival of such cells for six months. We believe these data support use of anti-CD47 antibodies as a potential safety strategy. We have identified several additional safety switches with in vivo activity and intend to continue to explore them and potentially include multiple safety switches in our therapeutic programs moving forward.

Anti-CD47 Administration Results in the Rapid Clearance of Hypoimmune NHP iPSCs In Vitro

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Left panel: Hypoimmune NHP iPSCs do not induce killing by NK cells in an in vitro killing assay. Right panel: By contrast, anti-CD47 antibody treated hypoimmune NHP iPSCs are no longer able to evade missing-self responses mediated by NK cells and are killed rapidly.

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Anti-CD47 Administration Results in the Rapid Clearance of Human iPSC-derived Teratomas in a Humanized Mouse Model

 

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Left panel: Human iPSCs proliferate (as visualized by luminescence of live cells) and form teratomas in NSG mice (n=3) with adoptive transferred human NK cells. Administration of isotype control has no impact on hypoimmune iPSC survival. Right panel: Blocking of CD47 in vivo results in killing of hypoimmune iPSCs (as visualized by luminescence of live cells) in NSG mice (n=5) with adoptive transferred human NK cells.

 

CD47 overexpression is differentiated in inhibiting “missing self” response relative to other approaches

 

As part of our ongoing efforts to further refine our hypoimmune technology, we evaluated the effectiveness of the overexpression of CD47 in comparison to other molecules that have at least some ability to inhibit innate immune responses. We carried out these head-to-head comparisons in K562 cells, a cell line that is naturally deficient in MHC class I and class II, and in which the lack of the MHC class I molecule should result in rapid cell killing by stimulated innate immune cells such as NK cells due to the activation of the “missing self” response. We compared three molecules, HLA-E, HLA-G, and PDL-1, each of which has previously been thought to play a role in inhibiting innate immune responses, against CD47. In this assay, overexpression of these three molecules conferred limited protection from NK cell killing as compared to CD47 overexpression. This difference in activity may be the result of the more ubiquitous presence of the receptor for CD47 on innate immune cells relative to the presence of receptors for these other immunomodulators. Although these results do not rule out a role for these other molecules in inhibiting NK cell responses, they suggest that CD47 may be sufficient to nullify the NK cell-mediated missing-self response.

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CD47 Overexpression is Differentiated in Inhibiting “Missing Self” Response Relative to Other Approaches

 

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Panels above show in vitro killing assays mediated by NK cells. Cells missing MHC molecules are killed by NK cells, as measured by rapid decline in cell index. Overexpression of immunomodulatory molecules such as HLA-E, HLA-G, or PDL-1 in cells missing MHC molecules did not block NK cell killing. By contrast, overexpression of CD47 blocked NK cell mediated missing-self response.

 

Our ex vivo Cell Engineering Pipeline

Allogeneic T Cell Programs (SC291, SC262, SC255)

Our allogeneic T cell programs utilize T cells from healthy donors to generate CAR T therapies for various targets, including CD19, a protein expressed on the cell surface of B-cell malignancies, for the potential treatment of patients with relapsed and/or refractory B-cell- malignancies and autoimmune diseases. We believe that applying our hypoimmune technology to allogeneic T cells will enable us to create differentiated allogeneic CAR T therapies.

We believe our allogeneic T cell programs are potentially disruptive programs that could address the limitations of adoptive T cell therapy for cancer. Specifically, as part of our allogeneic T cell programs, we have the opportunity to perform multiple gene edits in a T cell, which may allow us to make intentional modifications to control T cell function or deliver more complex chimeric receptors and signal integration machinery to enable the T cell to distinguish tumor cells based on surface antigen combinations and improve the specificity of targeting. These approaches may prove especially valuable in targeting solid tumors, which have remained largely refractory to CAR T approaches to date. We also have developed a scaled manufacturing process that we believe we can rapidly leverage to manufacture allogeneic CAR T cells across multiple targets.

Our most advanced product candidate is SC291, a CD19-directed allogeneic CAR T program. We are currently enrolling and dosing patients in the ARDENT trial evaluating SC291 in patients with NHL and CLL. In addition, in November 2023, we received IND clearance for the clinical study of SC291 in B-cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, including LN, ERL and ANCA-associated vasculitis, which we refer to as the GLEAM trial. The clinical trial startup activities for the GLEAM trial are currently underway, and we expect to share clinical data in 2024. In January 2024, we received IND clearance to evaluate SC262, a CD22-directed allogeneic CAR T, for the treatment of patients with relapsed and/or refractory B-cell malignancies who have received prior CD19-directed CAR T therapy, which we refer to as the VIVID trial. Clinical trial startup activities for the VIVID trial are also currently ongoing. We expect to share data from the VIVID trial in 2024. SC255, is our B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA)-directed allogeneic CAR T, for the treatment for multiple myeloma (MM). The SC255 program has completed a battery of pre-clinical tests and is currently gated based on resource availability.

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Background on B-Cell Malignancies

B-cell malignancies represent a spectrum of cancers including NHL, CLL, ALL, and MM and result in over 100,000 deaths per year in the United States and Europe.

NHL is the most common cancer of the lymphatic system. NHL is not a single disease, but rather a group of several closely related cancers. Over 77,000 cases of NHL are diagnosed annually in the United States, and the most common subtype of NHL overall is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). DLBCL, if left untreated, may have survival measured in weeks or months. Other common subtypes of NHL include mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), follicular lymphoma (FL), and marginal zone B-cell lymphoma (MZL).

CLL is the most common type of leukemia and occurs most frequently in older individuals, with diagnoses in people under 30 years of age occurring only rarely. Each year, approximately 20,000 patients are diagnosed with CLL in the United States. Approximately 20 to 25% of CLL patients initially present with high-risk disease. Median progression-free survival in these high-risk individuals is often less than 12 to 18 months after front-line therapy and less than 12 months in relapsed or refractory (R/R) disease.

ALL is a type of leukemia that results from an uncontrolled proliferation of lymphoblasts, which are immature white blood cells. Lymphoblasts, which are produced in the bone marrow, cause damage and death by inhibiting the production of normal cells. Approximately 6,000 patients are diagnosed with ALL in the United States each year, and the vast majority of the approximately 1,500 ALL deaths per year occur in adults. Approximately 80% of cases of ALL in the United States and Europe are B-cell ALL, which almost always involves cancer cells that express the CD19 protein. The five-year overall survival rate in ALL adults over the age of 60 is approximately 20%, and the median disease-free survival in patients with R/R ALL after two or more lines of therapy is less than six months. B-cell ALL is the most common cancer in children. Although children with ALL fare better than adults, children with R/R disease have poor outcomes. Because of the frequency of this disease, ALL remains a leading cause of death due to cancer in children.

 

MM is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are B-cells that have matured to specialize in the production of antibodies, and which typically express the BCMA protein. MM is a condition in which plasma cells become malignant and grow at an uncontrolled pace. These cells secrete large quantities of the same antibody, resulting in patient symptoms that result from the myeloma cells crowding out other plasma and bone marrow cells, including increased risk of infection, risk of bone destruction, and kidney disease. MM is the second most common hematologic malignancy, comprising approximately 2% of all cancers and accounting for over 34,000 new cases per year, with 12,600 deaths estimated to have occurred in 2022 in the United States.

 

High Mortality in Lymphoma, Leukemia and Multiple Myeloma in United States and EU5

 

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Hematologic malignancies result in a large number of annual death across the United States and Europe. Only a small fraction of patients have durable remissions following CAR T therapy.

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Current Treatment Landscape and Unmet Need

First-line therapy for NHL typically consists of multi-agent cytotoxic drugs in combination with the monoclonal antibody rituximab. In younger patients with NHL who have good organ function, high dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplantation is often used. Patients often relapse, however, and since 2017, several therapeutics have been approved in the United States for the treatment of patients with R/R NHL who have received prior therapies. These approved therapies include CD19 CAR T therapies tisagenlecleucel, axicabtagene ciloleucel, and lisocabtagene maraleucel, CD19 antibody drug conjugate therapy polatuzumab vedotin, and CD19 antibody tafasitamab. Recently, two autologous CD19 CAR T products have been approved in second-line patients with R/R NHL after proving to be superior to standard of care in pivotal trials, raising the possibility that CD19 CAR T cell therapies may have the potential to have a broader impact for patients with NHL.

Newly diagnosed CLL patients are often treated with targeted therapies such as BTK inhibitors, PIK3 inhibitors, BCL-2 inhibitors, or monoclonal antibodies targeting CD20 or CD52 in combination with chemotherapy. However, most patients treated with these regimens become refractory. Numerous drug candidates, including next-generation kinase inhibitors, are in clinical development for refractory patients. Autologous CD19 CAR T cell therapies are also beginning to progress through clinical trials, with a recent Phase 1/2 study in R/R CLL reporting that it had met its primary endpoint of complete response.

Cure rates for ALL patients have continued to increase over the last four decades, with pediatric ALL cure rates reaching greater than 80% in developed countries. This progress has been enabled by advances in combination chemotherapy, monitoring of minimal residual disease, expanded use of kinase inhibitors for Philadelphia chromosome-positive ALL, and the recent approval of Kymriah® for R/R pediatric ALL. Adult patients fare much worse, however, with 5-year overall survival rates of approximately 20%, and there are still significant challenges managing R/R disease across all age groups. Multiple therapeutic candidates are in development for R/R patients, including proteasome inhibitors, antimetabolites, JAK inhibitors, and monoclonal antibodies, as well as autologous and allogeneic CAR T candidates.

There are no curative treatment options for MM patients. First-line therapy for MM consists of induction therapy and high-dose chemotherapy followed by a potential stem cell transplant, and the standard of care for R/R MM includes immunomodulatory agents, proteasome inhibitors, monoclonal antibodies, cytotoxic agents, and hematopoietic stem cell transplant. Despite the recent advancement in available therapies for MM disease management, the five-year overall survival rate remains at approximately 50%. Given this significant unmet need, several groups are investigating autologous and allogeneic CAR T cell therapies for R/R MM. BCMA is among the most promising antigens used to target MM, with two BCMA CAR T therapies (idecabtagene vicleucel and ciltacabtagene autoleucel) having received marketing approval in late-line R/R MM. Recently, both drugs have been used to dose patients in pivotal clinical studies for patients with R/R MM in earlier lines of therapy, where they outperformed standard of care. Novel treatments with other mechanisms of action are also undergoing development, including bispecific T cell engagers, next-generation antibodies, and antibody drug conjugates.

As highlighted above, recent therapeutic advances across R/R B-cell malignancies have led to a variety of treatment options and better patient outcomes. In particular, autologous surface protein-directed CAR T therapies have been highly effective in certain subsets of patients with R/R disease. However, not all patients have access to these novel therapies, and even if they able to obtain such access, many patients ultimately relapse following treatment and succumb to their cancer, resulting in 100,000 deaths per year in the United States and Europe across these indications.

There are two primary outstanding challenges that have limited utilization of these CAR T therapies and their impact on broader groups of patients: relapse and manufacturing challenges.

Lack of Response / Relapse. Only about 50% of patients treated with an approved CD19-directed CAR T therapy will have a complete response and approximately one-third of patients with a complete response will relapse relatively quickly. The emerging post-approval data from approved CAR T therapies tisagenlecleucel, axicabtagene ciloleucel and lisocabtagene maraleucel indicate that relapse can result from one of two primary factors.

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1)
The first involves loss of CD19 expression on malignant cells, resulting in tumor escape. This finding was initially established for ALL and is the cause of relapse after CAR T treatment for roughly half of treated patients. More recent data indicate that low CD19 expression contributes to the lack of response in a meaningful number of patients with NHL. CD19 CAR T treatments have recently been tested in pivotal trials in earlier lines of therapy for NHL, which raises the possibility that more patients will be treated with CD19 CAR T therapy and subsequently relapse due to CD19 loss. Patients with CD19 therapy failure have an extremely poor prognosis, with overall survival measurable in months and virtually no treatment options. Therefore, the development of CAR T therapies targeting an alternate antigen other than CD19 may provide an opportunity to address this growing unmet need. Data from several studies have shown that CD22 CAR T treatment has led to complete responses in NHL and ALL patients that failed to reach a complete response or relapsed after CD19 CAR T treatment.
2)
The second pattern of relapse relates to suboptimal CAR T cell functionality, such as poor expansion, poor persistence, or T cell exhaustion, resulting in relapse and continued growth of cancer cells that retain the targeted antigen. Re-infusion with the same CAR T therapy has had limited benefit in these patients, although treatment with a different CAR T therapy has demonstrated some promise in ongoing clinical trials.

Manufacturing. Because autologous CAR T therapies are patient-specific products, their manufacturing process is complex and requires a significant amount of resources, including time and labor. Given this, infrastructure and cost considerations and limitations have resulted in limited patient access to these therapies. Even for patients who are fortunate enough to have access to approved CAR T therapies, delays, commonly of at least one month, resulting from scheduling difficulties and issues that arise during manufacturing may prevent use of and the utility of these therapies in patients with rapidly progressing malignancies. Certain groups are seeking to overcome access limitations by using healthy donor-derived, or allogeneic, CAR T cells instead of patient T cells to yield “off-the-shelf” therapeutics that can be manufactured consistently. However, efficacy and durability concerns remain, largely due to the inability to effectively control the HvGR response and the risk of eventual immune rejection of these products by the recipient. We are developing our ex vivo allogeneic T cell programs to address this HvGR and prevent immune rejection.

Background on B-Cell-Mediated Autoimmune Disease

Autoimmune diseases arise from immune system dysfunction whereby the body’s immune cells mistakenly attack healthy cells and tissues in the body. These diseases are typically characterized by defects in the adaptive immune response involving B-cells and/or T cells. These diseases can manifest across multiple organ systems and lead to a decreased quality of life or even severe disability in patients. B-cell depletion has been shown to provide clinical benefit in autoimmune disorders mediated by dysfunctional B-cells, including SLE, systemic sclerosis, myositis, MS, ANCA-associated vasculitis, and others. Collectively, these diseases afflict more than 5 million patients in the United States alone.

SLE is a chronic autoimmune disease that predominantly affects women of childbearing age. Immunologic abnormalities, especially the production of antinuclear antibodies (ANA), are a prominent feature of the disease. The exact cause of SLE remains unclear, but it is thought to result from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental triggers. SLE presents with a wide range of clinical signs and symptoms, as well as serologic findings, and can affect multiple organ systems. SLE has a prevalence of approximately 400,000 across the United States, EU5, and Japan. About 60% of SLE patients are diagnosed with LN after clinical indication of kidney involvement. The remainder are classified as having extrarenal lupus. The renal complications are detected through an abnormal urinalysis arising during the disease course. LN is one of the most severe complications of SLE, in which autoantibodies cause damage to the glomerular structures in the kidney, which can result in end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Patients with ESRD have a 5-year survival rate of 50%.

ANCA-associated vasculitis is a group of diseases characterized by loss of immunological tolerance to neutrophil protein, which causes inflammation of small blood vessels. The primary clinical manifestations of the disease occur in the upper respiratory tract, in the kidneys, or as asthma. The cause of ANCA-associated vasculitis is not fully understood and believed to be in part due to genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers. There are about 60,000 ANCA-associated vasculitis patients in the United States. Left untreated, ANCA-associated vasculitis is associated with significant morbidity, but with proper treatment, the 5-year survival rate ranges from 80% to 90%.

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Current Treatment Landscape and Unmet Need

Currently, there is no standard of care treatment for achieving drug-free remission in LN patients; therefore, patients often require life-long therapy. While a combination approach using antimalarials (hydroxychloroquine), systemic steroids, and conventional immunosuppressant medicines (such as azathioprine (AZA), Mycophenolate mofetil (MMF), and cyclophosphamide) are first-line options, a significant proportion of patients continue to have high disease activity and recurrent relapses despite therapy. Rituximab, initially approved by the FDA in 1997 for the treatment of R/R NHL, is a monoclonal antibody (mAb) that selectively targets the B-cell specific surface molecule CD20. The LUNAR trial of rituximab failed to meet the primary endpoint of complete renal response after treatment with rituximab, although the trial demonstrated partial responses in selected patients. Complete peripheral depletion of B-cells with rituximab was not observed in all participants, and even in participants where complete peripheral depletion of B-cells was observed, less than 50% achieved complete response. A retrospective analysis of these data demonstrated that deeper B-cell depletion was associated with improved complete renal responses, and that poor tissue B-cell depletion was associated with non-response. The continued persistence of autoreactive B-cells in protected microenvironments, such as the lymphoid germinal center structures, correlated with the partial success of this approach in LN. Treatments for ERL include low intensity therapies such as low-dose corticosteroids, antimalarials, and NSAIDS. Based on worsening disease manifestations, additional immunosuppression medications can include high dose prednisone, methotrexate (MTX), AZA, and MMF, which are known to have side effects and increase the risk of significant infection. The pivotal trial of the anti-BAFF mAb belimumab in these patients demonstrated a clinically meaningful improvement in patient outcomes in a large trial that enabled the first FDA drug approval for the treatment adult patients with SLE. Although this large trial demonstrated a reduction of disease activity compared to placebo control, approximately 20% in all groups still experienced a severe disease flare. Anifrolumab, a mAb targeting the interferon alfa signature known to be elevated in SLE patients, was approved by the FDA in 2021 for the treatment of adult patients with SLE. Only 15% of the patients met the criteria for remission at 52 weeks, highlighting the unmet need in patients. Since the 1970s, cyclophosphamide has been the standard of care therapy for ANCA-associated vasculitis, demonstrating a survival benefit compared to corticosteroids alone. However, the dose-limiting toxicity of cyclophosphamide results in treatment failure and risk of chronic relapse. Rituximab was approved for this indication based on a clinical trial in which it was shown to be non-inferior to cyclophosphamide for remission (at six months), supporting the role of B-cell depletion in the treatment of these patients. A complement C5a receptor, avacopan, was recently approved in this indication. Despite this recent success and FDA and European Medicines Agency approval, 35-45% of patients do not achieve remission of disease at one year with these new therapies. There is strong evidence to suggest that B-cell depletion with CD19-directed CAR T cell therapy is feasible and highly effective in patients with SLE. In a study published in 2022 from Germany, five SLE patients between 18 and 24 years of age were treated with autologous CD19-directed CAR T cell therapy. These SLE patients had multiorgan involvement and were refractory to a variety of immunosuppressive drug treatments. After lymphodepleting chemotherapy with fludarabine and cyclophosphamide, autologous CD19-directed CAR T cells were administered as a single intravenous infusion. Full depletion of B-cells was observed from peripheral blood in all patients from Day 2 following CAR T cell infusion, resulting in an improvement in clinical symptoms and evidence of decline of ANAs. These data suggest that CD19-directed CAR T cell therapy induces deep B-cell depletion in tissues such as lymph nodes and highlights a key advantage in the use of CD19-directed CAR T cell therapy compared to antibody-mediated B-cell depletion. All patients achieved remission status by three months, with drug-free remission maintained over a median of eight months. B-cells did reappear in these patients after approximately 110 days; however, these B-cells were naïve and showed non-class-switched B-cell receptors, suggesting elimination of B-cell subsets generating autoantibodies and a reset of the B-cell repertoire. Despite the reconstitution of B-cells, patients did not experience flares of SLE or need additional immunosuppressive medication, indicating the achievement of drug-free remission. As of December 2023, the drug-free clinical remission in the first patient continues almost three years following CAR T treatment. Previous studies using CD19-directed CAR T cell therapy in lymphoma and leukemia have reported CRS and ICANS occurring frequently after treatment. However, the five SLE patients receiving CAR T cell therapy had either no reported CRS or only Grade 1 CRS. None of these five patients developed ICANS, indicating low therapy-related toxicity with CAR T cell treatment in these patients. As of ASH 2023, this group had treated a total of fifteen patients across three B-cell mediated autoimmune diseases, namely SLE, Idiopathic Inflammatory Myositis and Systemic Sclerosis. Clinical remission was reported across all patients and CAR T treatment was well tolerated without the need for further immunosuppression. The first patient (treated for SLE) continued to be in remission beyond 800 days.

 

In the ongoing ARDENT trial, we have observed the pharmacodynamic effect of peripheral blood B-cell depletion, which refers to diminishing B-cell counts in the peripheral blood, associated with SC291 treatment in patients. While pharmacodynamic effects seen in oncology patients may not translate to patients with autoimmune disease, we believe these data increase the probability that SC291 treatment confers similar B-cell depletion, the putative mechanism of benefit, to patients with B-cell-mediated autoimmune disorder.

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Limitations of Allogeneic CAR T Therapies

We believe our hypoimmune cells have the potential to create a differentiated platform for developing allogeneic T cells, and to address two major hurdles associated with use of allogeneic T cells. The first is the risk of GvHD, in which the allogeneic donor T cells target and kill recipient tissues. Multiple CAR T cell product candidates in clinical development have prevented this reaction through gene edits targeting components of the T cell receptor, such as TCR-alpha gene. The more significant challenge has been HvGR, in which the patient’s immune system kills the transplanted T cells. One strategy to address this challenge has been to essentially eliminate the patient’s immune system, neutering its ability to find and destroy the transplanted allogeneic CAR T cells. However, this strategy has two limitations. First, the patient is at risk for developing severe infections during this period of substantial immune suppression. Second, as the immune system returns following immune suppression, it will inevitably reject the allogeneic CAR T cells, limiting their persistence, or the duration that these therapeutic cells are in the body. In multiple independent clinical trials, regardless of the disease setting, allogeneic CAR T cells have been shown to be cleared from the patient immune system in less than a month despite high dose immunosuppression. The therapy recipients often experience short lived clinical responses with the lack of durability correlating with the poor persistence of the allogeneic cells. Conversely, the clinical experience with autologous CAR T cells has demonstrated that longer persistence of the CAR T correlates with durable cancer remission. Thus, the ability to effectively prevent long-term rejection of an allogeneic CAR T therapy without significant immune suppression would provide a significant advantage over existing allogeneic approaches. We are aware of other efforts to develop allogeneic CAR T cell products that focus on overcoming the adaptive immune system, consisting of T and B-cells. However, our hypoimmune technology addresses rejection mediated by both the adaptive and innate immune systems, which we believe will enable us to create a differentiated allogeneic CAR T solution.

Our Allogeneic T Cell Approach

Our hypoimmune technology is designed to “hide” the cell from the patient’s immune system, and we are applying this technology for the clinical development of hypoimmune allogeneic CAR T cells for a variety of therapeutic applications. Our allogeneic T cell platform is designed to enable the substitution of CAR constructs in a modular fashion. Initial clinical success with SC291 would support the expansion of our allogeneic CAR T efforts and enable additional product candidates to be brought forward and developed. We are prioritizing clinically-validated cancer antigens as well as CAR constructs that have shown robust safety and efficacy profiles in hematologic malignancies in the autologous context.

Our manufacturing process begins with T cells from healthy donors, into which we introduce the CAR gene, make the gene modifications necessary to avoid GvHD, and incorporate our hypoimmune modifications to prevent host versus graft disease. We then expand these cells ex vivo, which enables us to both make many batches from a single T cell donor as well as create comparable CAR T cells derived from different donors. Our vision is to freeze these allogeneic CAR T therapies, store them, and deliver them to cancer patients as an “off the shelf” product without requiring severe immunosuppression.

Preclinical Data

For our preclinical studies, human donor T cells were genetically modified ex vivo to generate T cells with hypoimmune modifications (disruption of MHC class I/class II; overexpression of CD47), TCR-alpha disruption (to mitigate GvHD), and the expression of a CD19 CAR. These cells, as well as unmodified CD19 CAR T cells, were then tested in vivo for their tumor-killing activity in a human xenograft mouse model for leukemia (Nalm-6). These preclinical data suggest that the hypoimmune modifications do not interfere with CAR T killing activity. We observed initial clearance of the leukemic cells by both the hypoimmune CD19 CAR T cells and the unmodified CD19 CAR T cells, which are similar to CAR T cells currently in clinical use. However, the unmodified CD19 CAR T cells were eventually rejected by the host immune system, and tumor regrowth began after about two months. By contrast, in hypoimmune CD19 CAR T injected mice, tumor control was maintained throughout the study, including following a rechallenge at day 83 with Nalm-6 leukemia cells, without further administration of hypoimmune CD19 CAR T cells. Analysis of immune cells from the bone marrow and spleen at the study endpoint confirmed persistence of the hypoimmune CD19 CAR T cells.

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Hypoimmune Donor-Derived CD19 CAR T Cells Demonstrate Persistence and Sustained Tumor Clearance in a Human Xenograft Mouse Model

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Activity of hypoimmune donor-derived CD19 CAR T in a mouse leukemia xenograft model (Nalm-6). When compared to untreated controls, infusion of unmodified CD19 CAR T or hypoimmune CD19 CAR T results in eradication of leukemia cells. Tumor regrowth was visible in animals treated with unmodified CD19 CAR T cells by Day 57; by contrast, hypoimmune CD19 CAR T-treated animals remained tumor free. Leukemia tumor cells were reinjected into both sets of animals at Day 83 and markedly greater tumor clearance was seen in the hypoimmune CD19 CAR T-treated animals. Note: Animals were not retreated with CAR T cells after initial dosing.

Furthermore, the absence of adaptive or innate immune system activation by hypoimmune CD19 CAR T cells in the humanized mice was confirmed in vitro.

Clinical Data

In January 2024, we disclosed initial interim clinical data from the ongoing ARDENT trial. Results of our early interim analysis of clinical safety and other clinical responses are discussed above under “Overview.”

Analysis of Patient Immune Responses to SC291

The SC291 drug product contains CAR T cells that are fully edited hypoimmune cells, which we describe as HIP-edited CAR-T cells, along with partially edited cells, which we describe as non-HIP CAR T cells. In vitro testing showed evidence that blood and immune cells from each of the four evaluable patients had mounted an immune response to the non-HIP CAR T cells but not to the HIP-edited CAR T cells. Specifically, HIP-edited CAR T cells from the drug product were not rejected by the innate immune response mediated by the patient’s NK cells, nor did the patients have T cell or antibody responses that recognized these cells. In contrast, we observed immune responses against the non-HIP CAR T cells in the drug product.

 

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Importantly, this evidence suggests that the patients had an intact immune system capable of recognizing allogeneic cells and that the HIP CAR T cells were able to evade these responses. These results were consistent across all four evaluable patients and provide early support for the idea that the immune evasion profile of our HIP gene edits in multiple pre-clinical models may translate into human subjects. We believe this observation supports further dose escalation and dose expansion in the ARDENT trial and broader application of our HIP technology in allogeneic cell therapies in other indications.

 

 

Initial Clinical Safety and Efficacy of SC291 in ARDENT Clinical Trial

 

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SC291 is a Mixture of T cell Subpopulations Including HIP and Non-HIP CAR T Cells

 

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Patient T cells Kill WT CAR T Cells But Do Not Kill DKO T cells or HIP CAR T Cells

 

https://cdn.kscope.io/f1b040a17982e50c0a0399201d887847-img111782282_20.jpg 

Upper panel: T cells from a patient receiving SC291 showed no activation when exposed to HIP CAR T (CD47-CD19 CAR; HLAI/II deficient) cells from SC291 drug product in vitro. Patient T cells were collected 5 days prior to SC291 infusion (D-5) and at Day 13 (D13) and Day 28 (D28) after SC291 infusion. Robust patient T cell activation was detected versus WT CAR T cells (CD47-CD19 CAR) from SC291 drug product in vitro. In contrast, no T cell activation was seen versus dKO T cells (HLA I/II deficient cells) and HIP CAR T cells from SC291 drug product in vitro.

Lower panel: T cells from a patient receiving SC291 showed no killing of HIP CAR T cells in SC291 drug product in vitro. Patient T cells were collected 5 days prior to SC291 infusion (D-5) and Day 28 (D28) after SC291 infusion. Robust patient T cell-mediated killing was detected versus WT CAR T cells and dKO T cells from SC291 drug product in vitro. In contrast, no patient T cell-mediated killing was seen versus HIP CAR T cells in SC291 drug product in vitro.

 

 

 

 

 

Patient Generates Antibodies Against WT CAR T Cells But Not DKO T Cells or HIP CAR T Cells

 

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Patient receiving SC291 generated an antibody response to WT CAR T cells, but not to dKO T cells or HIP CAR T cells. Antibody response was assessed from patient sample collected 5 days prior to SC291 infusion (D-5) and at Day 28 (D28) after SC291 infusion. Antibody production was measured by quantifying the binding of IgG to WT CAR T cells, dKO T cells, and HIP CAR T cells purified from the SC291 drug product.

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Only HIP CAR T Cells Evade Patient NK Cell Killing

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NK cells from a patient receiving SC291 kill dKO T cells but not HIP CAR T cells. Patient NK cells were isolated at Day 13 after SC291 infusion. An in vitro NK-cell mediated cell killing assay was performed over a four-hour period with fluorescent labelled dKO T cells or HIP CAR T cells. Patient NK cells rapidly killed the dKO T cells as evidenced by the extinction of the GFP signal. In contrast, patient NK cells did not kill HIP CAR T cells.

 

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Development Plan and Key Next Steps

 

We believe the initial ARDENT safety and clinical data described above support continued dose escalation and expansion within the trial to treat additional patients and monitor outcomes over longer periods of time. We expect to share additional data from the ARDENT trial in 2024. We also expect to report progress on the GLEAM trial, in which we are evaluating SC291 in LN, ERL, and ANCA-associated vasculitis. The potential for B-cell depletion with SC291, as seen in ARDENT, may provide clinical benefit to patients with B-cell-mediated autoimmune disease. We also plan to share data from our VIVID trial, in which we are evaluating SC262 (hypoimmune-modified CD22 CAR T) in patients with relapsed and/or refractory B-cell malignancies who have received prior CD19-directed CAR T therapy. We are also advancing our SC255 allogeneic T cell program targeting BCMA for MM. The SC255 program has completed a battery of pre-clinical tests and is currently gated based on resource availability.

Pancreatic Islet Cell Program

Our pancreatic islet cell product candidate, SC451, is a hypoimmune PSC-derived pancreatic islet cell product candidate that aims to restore glucose control in T1DM patients by transplantation into these patients without the need for immunosuppression. Current therapies for T1DM require continual management, and we believe that effectively restoring islet cell functionality will meaningfully improve outcomes for T1DM patients, which is supported by data from T1DM patients who have successfully received primary islet transplants with immunosuppression. We are currently engaged in preclinical activities for SC451.

 

In November 2023, the Swedish Medical Products Agency authorized Uppsala University Hospital’s a CTA for the IST, a first-in-human study evaluating UP421, an allogeneic, primary islet cell therapy engineered with our HIP technology, in patients with T1DM. Patients in this study will receive no immunosuppression. We believe that immunology insights gained from the IST, particularly with respect to whether HIP modifications lead to long-term survival and evasion of either allogeneic or autoimmune killing of the transplanted cells, may provide direct insights applicable to our SC451 program. We expect data from the IST to be shared in 2024.

Background on Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus

 

T1DM is an autoimmune disease in which the patient’s immune system destroys its own pancreatic islet cells. The destruction of these cells leads to complete loss of insulin production and a metabolic disease wherein patients are unable to control their blood glucose levels. Often called “juvenile diabetes,” T1DM disease onset commonly occurs in adolescence. Beta cells reside in specialized hormone-producing clusters within the pancreas called the islets of Langerhans. In T1DM, activated T lymphocytes infiltrate the islets and selectively kill the beta cells, progressively reducing the body’s capacity to produce insulin. Once the reserve capacity of beta cells is exhausted, blood glucose rises, and the patient will have a lifelong battle to control blood glucose levels. Without insulin therapy, T1DM is rapidly fatal. T1DM current affects more than eight million patients worldwide.

Current Treatment Landscape and Unmet Need

Insulin injection is the main treatment option for T1DM. Despite significant advances in types of insulins, glucose monitoring, and insulin pumps, life expectancy for T1DM is still approximately 15 years shorter than for people without diabetes. Patients are at risk of acute complications of hyperglycemia, including diabetic ketoacidosis, coma, and death, as well as hypoglycemic episodes, particularly at night, which can lead to the “dead in bed” syndrome, thought to result from cardiac arrhythmias induced by low glucose. Long term elevations in blood glucose levels can have particularly devastating effects on arteries and capillaries, resulting in premature myocardial infarction, stroke, limb ischemia, gangrene, kidney failure, and blindness due to diabetic retinopathy. “Insulin pumps,” which feature a computerized system for sensing blood glucose and delivering appropriate doses of insulin, have improved glycemic control, though data from the FDA indicate that issues with insulin pumps are among the most frequently reported problems in their database. All current therapies require patients to carefully monitor their dietary intake, which, although inconvenient in adults, is a frequent point of failure in adolescents.

Pancreas transplantation for uncontrollable diabetes was first performed in the 1960s and established the principle that replacing the beta cells (here, in the context of the entire pancreas) could restore physiological glucose control. Pancreas transplants are complicated surgical interventions, require lifelong immunosuppression, and are limited due to organ availability. Nevertheless, some 30,000 pancreas transplants have been performed worldwide to date.

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Because of these challenges, the biomedical community began exploring pancreatic islet transplantation in the 1970s. This process requires enzymatic digestion of a donor pancreas and isolation of the islets of Langerhans, followed by delivery of these cells to an appropriate site in the body where the islets can engraft and become well-vascularized. The major lessons from islet transplantation have been that glucose homeostasis can be restored, insulin independence can be achieved, levels of hemoglobin A1C (a marker of long-term glucose levels) can be normalized, severe episodes of hypoglycemia can be reduced, and the pathology associated with long-term hyperglycemia can halt or even reverse. As with an organ transplant, patients must undergo chronic immune suppression to prevent immune rejection of the transplanted cells. Most patients lose glucose control over a period of months to years and eventually become insulin-dependent again, primarily due to immune rejection of the allogeneic islets resulting from an inability to tolerate the significant immune suppression necessary to protect the cell transplant.

Our Pancreatic Islet Cell Program Approach

The goal of our SC451 program is to restore glucose control in T1DM patients by transplanting hypoimmune PSC-derived islet cells, including beta cells, without the need for immunosuppression, giving patients physiologically appropriate glucose sensing and insulin secretion. We believe this therapy could reduce, or even eliminate, hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia in T1DM patients, potentially enabling less onerous and costly treatment, fewer complications, a meaningfully improved quality of life, and longer life expectancy.

We focus our efforts around three goals: (i) deriving highly functional islet cells from PSCs, (ii) using our hypoimmune technology to genetically modify these cells to evade allogeneic immune responses, and (iii) using our hypoimmune technology to genetically modify these cells to evade autoimmune destruction of islet cells. This strategy requires building on lessons from pancreatic islet transplantation, recent advances in understanding pancreatic islet developmental biology, and our hypoimmune technology.

Deriving islet cells from PSCs has the potential to solve limitations associated with use of a donor pancreas and improve the overall product quality and product consistency. PSCs have the potential to create a virtually limitless supply of these cells. Our program uses proprietary differentiation protocols to generate mature islet cells with glucose control comparable to primary human islets, as evidenced by our animal studies. Finally, we are applying our hypoimmune technology to modify the genomes of the PSCs. If successful, the hypoimmune genome modifications will protect these PSC-derived islet cells from both autoimmune and allogeneic rejection by the patient’s immune system and potentially remove the need for toxic immunosuppression in transplant recipients. Hypoimmunity also eliminates the need for physical separation of the islet cells from the rest of the body by a device or encapsulation technology, which may allow for tighter glucose control by eliminating the lag time between glucose sensing and insulin secretion as well as avoiding the fibrotic reaction inherent in encapsulation technologies to date.

Preclinical Data

We are developing a proprietary protocol to differentiate hypoimmune PSCs into mature, glucose-sensitive, insulin-secreting islet cells. We are exploring ways to optimize the differentiation of islet cells at a greater purity and with superior function compared to published stem cell-based protocols. The principal function of beta islet cells, the insulin-secreting cells within an islet, is to maintain steady levels of glucose in circulation. The beta islet cells sense when glucose levels rise in the bloodstream and release insulin in response. In vitro, we have observed that our PSC-derived islet populations can respond to glucose and secrete insulin.

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Human PSC-Derived Islet Cells Exhibit Glucose-Induced Insulin Release

 

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Human islets from cadaveric pancreases exhibit robust insulin secretion in response to an increase in glucose levels. Human PSC-derived islet cells using technology licensed from Washington University demonstrate similar levels of insulin secretion as the cadaveric islets.

These PSC-derived islet cells were tested in a mouse model of T1DM induced by the beta cell toxin, STZ. When transplanted into the kidney of the T1DM mice, these islet cells normalize glucose levels in an equivalent fashion to primary human islets. The diabetic glucose levels return when the grafts are surgically excised via nephrectomy. Similar to the human phenotype, T1DM mice cannot normalize circulating glucose levels following a glucose injection. Following transplantation of our islet cells, these mice rapidly normalized blood glucose in an equivalent fashion to both non-T1DM mice and T1DM mice that received human primary islet transplants.

 

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In vivo Performance of iPSC-Derived Islet Cells in a Mouse Model of T1DM

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Top panel: Normalization of blood glucose levels after transplantation of cadaveric human islet cells or PSC-derived islet cells obtained by planar or suspension differentiation (based on Washington University technology). Note the rapid normalization of blood glucose with cadaveric and PSC-derived islets with the planar protocol, with slower normalization using the suspension protocol. In all groups, removal of the graft by nephrectomy re-induced diabetes, indicating the correction resulted from the transplant. STZ is a toxin for beta islet cells that induces diabetes in animal models. Bottom panel: Normalization of blood glucose after glucose injection by transplantation of cadaveric islet cells or PSC-derived islet cells. Note the more complete normalization using the planar protocol. Groups are defined by the same symbols shown in the top panel. From Hogrebe et al, Nature Biotechnology 2020.

We next tested whether hypoimmune modifications to iPSC-derived islet cells can enable evasion of autoimmune rejection. We approached this question in two ways.

First, we carried out transplantation experiments in the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse model, which develops spontaneous T1DM due to induction of autoantibodies and autoreactive T cells that kill the islet cells. We isolated islets from pre-diabetic NOD mice and applied hypoimmune technology to these islets to generate hypoimmune NOD islet cells, which we transplanted into diabetic NOD mice. When transplanted into NOD mice, unmodified NOD islet cells were rejected within approximately two weeks and had no impact on the diabetes. By contrast, the hypoimmune NOD islet cells survived and achieved durable glycemic control within two weeks.

In a second set of experiments, we tested whether we would observe similar findings in a human T1DM model. Because a T1DM patient has no functioning islets, we used iPSC technology to generate islet cells with the same genetic makeup as the patient. To accomplish this, we reprogrammed immune cells from a T1DM patient donor into iPSCs. We then split the iPSCs into two groups – one group to which we applied hypoimmune modifications and one that remained unmodified – before differentiating these cells into islet cells using our differentiation protocol. The end result was two different cell products for testing – (i) hypoimmune iPSC-derived islet cells and (ii) unmodified iPSC-derived islet cells. To simulate the immune environment of a T1DM patient, we developed a proprietary humanized mouse model (T1D mice) which is populated with immune cells from the same T1DM patient donor and subsequently in which diabetes is induced via STZ. Unmodified iPSC-derived islet cells injected intramuscularly into T1D mice were rejected within nine days without any impact on the T1D mice’s diabetes. By contrast, hypoimmune iPSC-derived islet cells survived in T1D mice and resulted in glucose control within two weeks. To confirm that the autoimmune rejection remained intact in these mice, we tested the impact of a subsequent injection of iPSC-derived islet cells in these mice that had already been injected with hypoimmune iPSC-derived islet cells. We found that, although the iPSC-derived islet cells were rapidly rejected, the hypoimmune iPSC-derived islet cells and the glucose control were preserved. Together, these data support the belief that our hypoimmune modifications can enable evasion of autoimmune rejection.

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Autologous Pancreatic Islet Experiment

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A, Experimental schema for generating a humanized T1D mouse and autologous iPSCs from T1D patient PBMCs. T1D patient PBMCs were used to generate iPSCs, which were used to generate unmodified and hypoimmune autologous islet cell. B, Unmodified iPSC-derived autologous islets are cleared by the immune system of the humanized T1D mouse by Day 7 and did not restore glycemic control C, Hypoimmune iPSC-derived autologous islets (injected on left side of mouse) survive for duration of experiment (until Day 29) while unmodified iPSC-derived autologous islets (injected on right side of mouse at Day 15 post hypoimmune iPSC-derived autologous islet injection) are cleared within a week of injection.

Development Plan and Key Next Steps

In November 2023, the Swedish Medical Products Agency authorized Uppsala University Hospital’s clinical trial application for the IST, a first-in-human study evaluating UP421, an allogeneic, primary islet cell therapy engineered with our HIP technology, in patients with T1DM. Allogeneic primary islet cell transplantation into T1DM patients has been shown to reduce long-term exogenous insulin dependence when administered with immunosuppression. Subjects in this study will receive no immunosuppression. We expect that data from the IST, particularly with respect to whether HIP modifications lead to long-term survival and evasion of either allogeneic or autoimmune killing of the transplanted cells, will provide insight into the impact of HIP modifications that we plan to apply to our SC451 program in enabling evasion of allogeneic and autoimmune rejection.

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We believe that a stem cell-derived islet product candidate such as SC451 would likely maximize the benefit to patients, with potentially greater manufacturing scalability as compared to primary islet cells. Further, if the IST demonstrates persistence of allogeneic hypoimmune primary islet cells, it may accelerate our development of SC451.

Our work on the SC451 program is currently focused on manufacturing GMP-grade, genome-edited, PSC banks; scaling manufacturing; and characterizing the product.

GPC Program

Our GPC program, SC379, aims to deliver to patients healthy allogeneic GPCs, which are the precursors to both astroglia and myelin-producing oligodendrocytes. This program has the potential to treat myelin- and glial-based disorders, which represent a broad group of debilitating neurological disorders, such as MS and a number of neurodegenerative disorders, none of which have effective treatment alternatives. We intend to develop our stem cell-derived GPC therapy for secondary progressive MS, PMD other disorders of myelin, Huntington’s disease, and other astrocytic diseases.

Background on Myelin- and Glial -Based Disorders

Glial cells are the support cells of the human CNS. The two major types of CNS-derived glial cells are oligodendrocytes, which are the cells that produce myelin, the insulating substance of the brain’s white matter that enables neural conduction, and astrocytes, which are the support cells of neurons and their synapses. These two kinds of glial cells that arise from human GPCs (hGPCs) are responsible for remyelination in the injured and demyelinated adult brain and spinal cord.

Diseases of glial cells are among the most prevalent and disabling conditions in neurology. These disorders include the disorders of oligodendrocyte loss and myelin failure and the disorders of astrocytes, which include a number of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders. What all these disorders have in common is a significant glial contribution to their pathogenesis and a lack of disease-modifying treatment options.

Congenital Leukodystrophies. A number of hereditary disorders of oligodendrocyte loss or dysfunction are characterized by a failure in myelin synthesis or structural stability. Tens of thousands of children in the United States suffer from diseases of myelin loss. The most prototypic example of this class of diseases is PMD, an X-linked leukodystrophy most often manifesting in male infants and young boys caused by mutations in the oligodendrocytic PLP1 gene, which results in widespread hypomyelination. There is no treatment for PMD, which is typically fatal in childhood. We intend to evaluate the delivery of intracerebral transplants of stem cell-derived GPCs to the brains of PMD patients, with the goal of replacing PLP1 mutant oligodendrocytes with healthy cells capable of producing normally compact myelin. Prevalence of PMD in the general population is estimated to be approximately 1 in 100,000 in the United States. Although we are initially targeting PMD as our proof of concept, we believe our stem-cell derived GPCs may have broader applicability to other congenital leukodystrophies as well, which as a group affect a more significant population of about 1 in 7,600 births.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS). MS is a debilitating disease characterized by both inflammatory myelinolysis and degenerative axonal loss. There are two major forms: the initial relapsing remitting form, known as RRMS, and its later progressive neurodegenerative phase designated secondary progressive MS (SPMS). RRMS is characterized by clearly defined attacks with new or increasing neurologic symptoms. By contrast, SPMS is characterized by progressive neurodegeneration with a loss of neurons, including those that were previously demyelinated during the RRMS phase of the disease. The demyelination occurs in a diffuse fashion throughout the adult brain and appears to reflect a loss of axonal support by local oligodendrocytes. The delivery of GPCs into such a chronically demyelinated brain may offer tangible benefits through the oligodendrocytic engagement of axons as well as by myelin repair. MS is highly prevalent, with estimates of up to 1.0 million patients in the United States, 600,000 patients in Europe, and 2.8 million patients globally. Approximately 85% of MS patients receive an initial diagnosis of RRMS, while approximately 15% of patients receive an initial diagnosis of PPMS. Up to a third of RRMS patients transition to SPMS within a decade if untreated, and most RRMS patients will progress to SPMS within 20 to 25 years of their initial diagnosis. Success with a stem cell-derived GPC product in SPMS, and especially with a hypoimmune product, could enable further expansion into the RRMS patient population.

Huntington’s Disease (HD). HD is a neurodegenerative disorder in which glial pathology appears to make a significant causal contribution. HD is an autosomal dominant disorder characterized by abnormally long CAG repeat expansions in the first exon of the huntingtin gene. The encoded polyglutamine expansions of mutant huntingtin protein disrupts its normal functions and protein-protein interactions, ultimately yielding widespread neuropathology, most rapidly evident in the neostriatum. We have found that glial pathology is a major contributor to the functional deficits of HD, and repairing the glial pathology has been shown to have significant and positive effects in animal models. In the United States, there are approximately 41,000 symptomatic HD patients and more than 200,000 at risk of inheriting HD. In Europe, there are approximately 50,000 patients with HD.

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Current Treatment Landscape and Unmet Need

Congenital Leukodystrophies. There are no viable treatment options for these conditions. Patients’ only options are supportive and palliative therapies for symptoms as they present.

MS. Current treatments for MS are largely limited to treatments for RRMS. There are few approved treatments for SPMS, and none are restorative, having, at best, marginal efficacy in delaying disease progression. Currently approved treatments for RRMS may be divided into three broad categories of disease -modifying therapies: (i) first-line injectables (such as beta-interferons and Copaxone®), (ii) newer oral agents (such as Tecfidera®, Gilenya®, Mayzent®, and Zeposia®), and (iii) high-efficacy agents (such as Tysabri®, Lemtrada®, and Ocrevus®). Despite many recently successful drug launches in the RRMS space, these drugs still only slow the progression of disease and aid in the recovery from attacks, and there remains no treatment that confers functional restoration or effective cure for RRMS.

HD. There are currently no treatments that stop or reverse HD. Treatment is limited to several medications that can help minimize symptoms, including tetrabenazine, antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, and tranquilizers.

Our GPC Program Approach

Our approach to treat myelin and neurodegenerative disorders is via the delivery of healthy allogeneic stem cell-derived GPCs to the recipient. We have developed methods for producing and isolating GPCs from PSCs and delivering them in the purity and quantities necessary for their replacement of endogenous diseased cells. We believe that our ex vivo GPC therapy has compelling potential for use in both myelin disorders and glial-based neurodegenerative conditions.

Preclinical Data

Congenital Leukodystrophies. The capacity of stem cell-derived hGPCs for remyelination has been conducted in animal models of congenital hypomyelination. Our collaborators used newborn shiverer mice that have a genetic defect in myelin basic protein (MBP), resulting in their neurons being hypomyelinated and the mice having a shortened lifespan. When iPSC-derived hGPCs were transplanted into these mice, the hGPCs spread widely throughout the brain and developed as astrocytes and oligodendrocytes. These oligodendrocytes generated mature myelin that effectively restored neuronal conductance and prolonged survival in the transplanted mice. We believe that these data, as depicted in the figures below, suggest the feasibility of iPSC-derived hGPC implantation in treating childhood disorders of myelin formation and maintenance.

 

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hGPCs Greatly Extend the Survival of Hypomyelinated Mice

 

https://cdn.kscope.io/f1b040a17982e50c0a0399201d887847-img111782282_26.jpg 

A, Dot map indicating distribution of human iPSC-derived GPCs at 7 months of age, following neonatal engraftment in a shiverer mouse brain. Widespread colonization and chimerization of the host brains by iPSC-derived hGPCs is evident (human nuclear antigen, red). B, iPSC-derived hGPC-derived myelination in shiverer forebrain, at 7 months; section 1 mm lateral to A. Myelin basic protein (MBP)-immunoreactivity (green) is all human donor-derived. C, D, Myelination in sagittal sections taken at different mediolateral levels from 2 additional 7-month-old mice, each engrafted with iPSC-derived hGPCs at birth. E, Kaplan-Meier plot of survival of iPSC-Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells implanted (n=22) vs. saline-injected (n=19) control mice. Scale: A-B, 2 mm. Adapted from Wang, Cell SC 2013.

MS. Our prior studies established the ability of stem cell-derived hGPCs to myelinate the developing shiverer brain and rescue the afflicted mice. However, the experimental subjects were neonates, not adults. Until recently, it was unclear whether GPCs can migrate extensively in adult brain tissue, as would be required for the repair of diffusely demyelinated adult brains. To explore whether the introduction of stem cell-derived hGPCs delivered directly into the adult brain could remyelinate axons in such a setting as might be encountered clinically in MS, our collaborators studied three different biologic models. First, it was shown that stem cell-derived hGPCs can disperse within and myelinate the brains of adult shiverer mice (as depicted in the figure below). Second, it was shown that neonatally-engrafted hGPCs can generate new oligodendrocytes and remyelinate demyelinated axons after chemically-induced demyelination. This result demonstrated the ability of already-resident hGPCs to remyelinate previously myelinated axons after a new demyelinating insult experienced as an adult, as well as the ability of transplanted hGPCs to reside as a functional reservoir of new myelinogenic cells in the host brains. Third, it was shown that hGPCs transplanted into the adult brain after chemically induced demyelination can remyelinate denuded axons. These data suggest that transplanted hGPCs can disperse broadly and differentiate as myelinogenic cells in the adult brain, and that they are able to remyelinate demyelinated axons and white matter lesions of the brain after an insult experienced as an adult.

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hGPCs Mediate Robust Myelination After Transplantation into the Adult Shiverer Brain

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Human GPCs proved both highly migratory and robustly myelinogenic after delivery to the hypomyelinated adult shiverer x rag2-/- brain (mice were injected as post-weaning adults at 4-6 weeks). A, By 19-20 weeks of age, the injected cells had dispersed broadly throughout the forebrain white matter. B, hGPCs delivered to myelin wild type rag2-/- mice distributed throughout both gray and white matter. C, Oligodendrocyte differentiation and myelinogenesis by donor hGPCs was robust, with myelination of brain regions that would typically be demyelinated in shiverer mice. D, A higher power image of C shows the high proportion of donor cells in those brain regions. Note that DAPI marks all nuclei, hN marks the hGPCs, and MBP marks the remyelinated regions in C and D. From Windrem et al, Cell Reports 2020.

HD. Our collaborators explored the cellular basis for HD-related glial pathology and identified significant defects in potassium channel and glutamate uptake mechanisms in HD glia, which appeared to account for both the glial pathology and its deleterious effects on synaptic function. Together, these studies suggest a critical role for glial pathology in the progression of HD and suggest the potential for glial cell replacement as a therapeutic strategy in HD, and more broadly, to other neurodegenerative diseases in which glial pathology might be causally contributory. It was confirmed in preclinical mouse studies that stem cell-derived hGPC transplant ameliorated both the neuronal and glial pathology of HD by restoring synaptic homeostasis and normal synaptic function to the most affected regions of the host brain.

The majority of the studies with human GPCs thus far have been xenogeneic grafts of human GPCs to neonatal or adult mice or rats (and, in a small sample proof-of-concept study limited to adult tissue-derived hGPCs, NHPs). Our collaborators have also performed studies with murine GPCs transplanted into both developing and adult mice, which have confirmed allogeneic GPC migration and integration. However, we have no assurance that human GPC engraftment of human brain will result in the widespread migration and colonization of host brain that is seen with xenogeneic grafts. To better model the human-to-human graft paradigm, our collaborators have established a new model to evaluate if GPC engraftment will result in migration and colonization in a host brain. This model allows observation of the competitive interactions of the two separately tagged human GPC populations. The human-to-human grafts expanded and integrated well in their humanized host, with competitive interactions. As might be anticipated in the clinical setting of healthy cells being transplanted for the purpose of replacing lost or diseased hGPCs, the healthy donor cells outcompete both diseased and older cells to ultimately colonize the hosts. These data have provided preclinical assurance of the fundamental premise of our approach, that healthy human donor cells can replace lost or diseased human cells in vivo. That said, this determination remains to be made in patients.

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GMP Grade Stem Cell-Derived hGPCs for Clinical Studies

We have established a protocol to direct differentiation of human ESCs, as well as iPSCs, to hGPCs. These hGPCs cells remain bipotential for astrocytes and oligodendrocytes, and they differentiate to either fate depending on local signaling. A GMP-compliant protocol has been established, which will be used to produce cells for our IND-enabling safety and toxicity studies. We have transferred this protocol to a GMP facility to produce clinical-grade cells and plan to use these cells for initial clinical trial supply.

Development Plan and Key Next Steps

We plan to submit an IND for SC379 following completion of safety and toxicology studies. We also plan to conduct definitive preclinical efficacy studies using the anticipated clinical product, which we believe will replicate studies that we have published. Since GPCs are not a terminally differentiated cell type and divide and differentiate in vivo post-transplantation, we plan to continue to assess potential safety risks, including the risk of tumorigenicity. We anticipate beginning human testing for SC379 in at least one indication as early as 2025.

Manufacturing Strategy and Approach. Although the field of cell and gene therapy has had a number of successes with innovative therapies, the challenges of manufacturing at industrial scale have limited access for patients in need. As was the case during the initial development of recombinant biologics, an improvement to our ability to characterize these products will be essential to increasing patient access. It is especially critical to have an in-depth understanding of the impact of manufacturing processes on the product quality attributes and resulting clinical performance of the product.

From inception, we have recognized the key role manufacturing plays in enabling the access of these innovative engineered cells as medicines. Two areas of particular focus are product analytical and biological characterization, leading to a better definition of critical product attributes, as well as process understanding, leading to better control the impact of process parameters on these critical product attributes.

We have developed a manufacturing strategy with early investments in people, technology, and infrastructure, which requires:

establishing a team with diverse, experienced talents with extensive knowledge of both the process and analytical sciences in the field of cell and gene therapy, as well as CMC product development expertise from preclinical to global commercialization;
establishing multiple manufacturing platforms for our diverse portfolio; and
establishing infrastructure from lab bench to a GMP manufacturing and supply chain network.

To support our development pipeline, we are initially establishing manufacturing platforms in allogeneic T cells and PSC-derived therapies.

Although our manufacturing platforms are very different in terms of the manufacturing process and supply chain, they also share some common challenges and opportunities. For example, product characterization and analytical development are critical, and these capabilities are fungible across platforms. In addition, we are focusing on some of the key areas in each of our platforms to enable scaled manufacturing. For the allogeneic T cell platform, we are focusing on scaling the multiplex gene editing process and understanding of the impact of the variability of the starting material from healthy donors to on product quality. For stem-cell derived therapies, such as islet cells and GPCs, we are focusing on developing a scalable process and analytical technologies to characterize stability of the starting cells, end cell products, and critical product quality attributes.

To establish our manufacturing capability, we started with a non-GMP pilot plant for engineered cell platform processes with up to 200L bioreactor scale. This provides the infrastructure for process and technology development, technology transfer support, and production for non-GMP material such for GLP toxicology studies. In addition, we are taking a hybrid approach to establish our end-to-end supply chains for our manufacturing platforms, leveraging a combination of internal manufacturing capability and external CDMOs for clinical supplies, in a staged manner:

we will use CDMOs for initial GMP supply to support our upcoming INDs and early-stage clinical trials; and
we intend to build the internal manufacturing facilities needed to support clinical trials and commercialization of our therapies. In addition, we anticipate we will use CDMOs for at least some portions of our supply chain for the foreseeable future.

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Operating our own internal manufacturing facilities to complement our CDMO networks is a key to our strategy. Accordingly, in June 2022, we entered into a long-term lease to establish and operate our own GMP manufacturing facility to support our late-stage clinical development and early commercial product candidates across our product portfolio, such as the production of allogeneic T cells. We believe that investing in an internal manufacturing facility will offer us a competitive advantage that will better position us to execute on our goal of ensuring broad and uninterrupted patient access to our therapies, including by allowing us to mitigate delays related to third-parties, including related to capacity-, personnel-, or production-related issues at our CDMOs; develop proprietary knowledge and product and process expertise we can use across our programs to create long-term value; and design a facility that can be optimized for and adaptable to our existing and future needs.

Competition

Other companies have stated that they are developing cell and gene therapies that may address oncology, diabetes, and CNS disorders. Some of these companies may have substantially greater financial and other resources than we have, such as larger research and development staff and well-established marketing and salesforces or may operate in jurisdictions where lower standards of evidence are required to bring products to market. For example, we are aware that some of our competitors, including Novartis AG, Gilead Sciences, Inc., Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Novo Nordisk A/S, Johnson & Johnson, Legend Biotech Corporation, Allogene Therapeutics, Inc., Cargo Therapeutics, Inc., CRISPR Therapeutics AG, Caribou Biosciences, Inc., Cabaletta Bio, Inc., Kyverna Therapeutics, Inc., Fate Therapeutics, Inc., Century Therapeutics, Inc., 2seventy bio, Inc., Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated, and Eli Lilly and Company might be conducting large-scale clinical trials for therapies that could be competitive with our ex vivo and in vivo programs. Among companies pursuing ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering, we believe we are substantially differentiated by our robust intellectual property portfolio, extensive research, rigorous and objective approach, and multidisciplinary capabilities.

Intellectual Property

We strive to protect and enhance the proprietary technology, inventions, and improvements that are commercially important to our business, including seeking, maintaining, and defending patent rights, whether developed internally or licensed from our collaborators or other third parties. Our policy is to seek to protect our proprietary position by, among other methods, filing patent applications in the United States and in jurisdictions outside of the United States related to our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, and product candidates that are important to the development and implementation of our business. We also rely on trade secrets and know-how relating to our proprietary technology and product candidates, continuing innovation, and in-licensing opportunities to develop, strengthen, and maintain our proprietary position in the field of cell and gene therapy. We additionally plan to rely on data exclusivity, market exclusivity, and patent term extensions when available and, where applicable, plan to seek and rely on regulatory protection afforded through orphan drug designations. Our commercial success will depend in part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other proprietary protection for our technology, inventions, and improvements, preserve the confidentiality of our trade secrets, maintain our licenses to use intellectual property owned by third parties, defend and enforce our proprietary rights, including our patents, and operate without infringing on the valid and enforceable patents and other proprietary rights of third parties.

We have in-licensed and developed numerous patents and patent applications, which include claims directed to compositions, methods of use, processes, dosing, and formulations, and possess substantial know-how and trade secrets relating to the development and commercialization of our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms and related product candidates, including related manufacturing processes. As of January 2024, our in-licensed and owned patent portfolio consisted of approximately 36 licensed or owned U.S. issued patents, approximately 76 licensed United States pending patent applications, and approximately 55 owned U.S. pending patent applications, as well as approximately 58 licensed patents issued in jurisdictions outside of the United States, approximately 281 licensed patent applications pending in jurisdictions outside of the United States, and approximately 259 owned patent applications pending in jurisdictions outside of the United States (including approximately 38 owned pending Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications) that, in many cases, are counterparts to the foregoing United States patents and patent applications. The patents and patent applications outside of the United States in our portfolio are held primarily in Europe, Canada, China, Japan, and Australia. For information related to our in-licensed intellectual property, see the subsection below titled “—Key Intellectual Property Agreements.”

For the product candidates and related manufacturing processes we develop and may commercialize in the normal course of business, we intend to pursue, when possible, composition, method of use, process, dosing, and formulation patent protection. We may also pursue patent protection with respect to manufacturing, drug development processes and technology, and our technology platforms. When available to expand our exclusivity, our strategy is to obtain or license additional intellectual property related to current or contemplated development platforms, core elements of technology, and/or product candidates.

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Individual patents extend for varying periods of time, depending upon the date of filing of the patent application, the date of patent issuance, and the legal term of patents in the countries in which they are obtained. Generally, patents issued for applications filed in the United States and in many jurisdictions worldwide have a term that extends to 20 years from the earliest non-provisional filing date. In the United States, a patent’s term may be lengthened by patent term adjustment, which compensates a patentee for administrative delays by the Unites States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in examining and granting a patent counterbalanced by delays on the part of a patentee, or may be shortened if a patent is terminally disclaimed over another patent. In addition, in certain instances, the term of a United States patent that covers an FDA-approved drug may also be eligible for patent term extension, which recaptures a portion of the term effectively lost as a result of the testing and regulatory review periods required by the FDA. The patent term extension period cannot be longer than five years, and the total patent term, including the extension, cannot exceed 14 years following FDA approval. There is no guarantee that the applicable authorities will agree with our assessment of whether such extensions should be granted, and, if granted, the length of such extensions. Similar provisions are available in Europe and other foreign jurisdictions to extend the term of a patent that covers an approved drug. Our patents issued as of January 2024 have terms expected to expire on dates ranging from 2028 to 2042. If patents are issued on our patent applications pending as of January 2024, the resulting patents are projected to expire on dates ranging from 2028 to 2044. However, the actual protection afforded by a patent varies on a product-by-product and country-to-country basis and depends upon many factors, including the type of patent, the scope of its coverage, the availability of regulatory-related extensions, the validity and enforceability of the patent, and the availability of legal remedies in a particular country.

In some instances, we submit patent applications directly to the USPTO as provisional patent applications. Provisional patent applications were designed to provide a lower-cost first patent filing in the United States. Corresponding non-provisional patent applications must be filed not later than 12 months after the provisional application filing date. The corresponding non-provisional application benefits in that the priority date(s) of this patent application is/are the earlier provisional application filing date(s), and the patent term of the finally issued patent is calculated from the later non-provisional application filing date. This system allows us to obtain an early priority date, add material to the patent application(s) during the priority year, obtain a later start to the patent term, and to delay prosecution costs, which may be useful in the event that we decide not to pursue examination in an application. While we intend to timely file non-provisional patent applications relating to our provisional patent applications, we cannot predict whether any such patent applications will result in the issuance of patents that provide us with any competitive advantage.

We file United States non-provisional applications and PCT applications that claim the benefit of the priority date of earlier filed provisional applications, when applicable. The PCT system allows an applicant to file a single application within 12 months of the original priority date of the patent application and to designate all of the 153 PCT member states in which national patent applications can later be pursued based on the international patent application filed under the PCT. The PCT searching authority performs a patentability search and issues a non-binding patentability opinion which can be used to evaluate the chances of success for the national applications in foreign countries prior to having to incur the filing fees. Although a PCT application does not issue as a patent, it allows the applicant to seek protection in any of the member states through national-phase applications. At the end of the period of two and a half years from the first priority date of the patent application, separate patent applications can be pursued in any of the PCT member states either by direct national filing or in some cases by filing through a regional patent organization, such as the European Patent Organization. The PCT system delays expenses, allows a limited evaluation of the chances of success for national/regional patent applications, and enables substantial savings where applications are abandoned within the first two and a half years of filing.

We determine claiming strategy for each patent application on a case-by-case basis. We always consider the advice of counsel and our business model and needs. We file patent applications containing claims for protection of all useful applications of our proprietary technologies and any product candidates, as well as all new applications or uses we discover for existing technologies and product candidates, assuming these are strategically valuable. We continuously reassess the number and type of patent applications, as well as the pending and issued patent claims, to help ensure that maximum coverage and value are obtained for our inventions given existing patent office rules and regulations. Further, claims may be and typically are modified during patent prosecution to meet our intellectual property and business needs.

We recognize that the ability to obtain patent protection and the degree of such protection depends on a number of factors, including the extent of the prior art, the novelty and non-obviousness of the invention, and the ability to satisfy the enablement requirement of patent laws. In addition, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted or further altered even after patent issuance. Consequently, we may not obtain or maintain adequate patent protection for any of our future product candidates or for our technology platforms. We cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient proprietary protection from competitors. Any patents that we hold may be challenged, circumvented, or invalidated by third parties.

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The area of patent and other intellectual property rights in biotechnology is an evolving one with many risks and uncertainties. The patent positions of companies like ours are generally uncertain and involve complex legal and factual questions. No consistent policy regarding the scope of claims allowable in patents in the fields of cell and gene therapy has emerged in the United States. The patent positions of companies outside of the United States can be even more uncertain. Changes in either the patent laws or their interpretation in the United States and worldwide may diminish our ability to protect our inventions and enforce our intellectual property rights, and more generally could affect the value of our intellectual property. In particular, our ability to stop third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell, or importing products that infringe our intellectual property will depend in part on our success in obtaining and enforcing patent claims that cover our technology, inventions, and improvements. With respect to both licensed and company-owned intellectual property, we cannot be sure that patents will be granted with respect to any of our pending patent applications or with respect to any patent applications filed by us in the future, nor can we be sure that any of our existing patents or any patents that may be granted to us in the future will be commercially useful in protecting our products and the methods used to manufacture those products. Moreover, our issued patents do not guarantee us the right to practice our technology in relation to the commercialization of our products, as third parties may have blocking patents that could be used to prevent us from commercializing our patented product candidates and practicing our proprietary technology. It is uncertain whether the issuance of any third-party patent would require us to alter our development or commercial strategies, products, or processes, obtain licenses, or cease certain activities. Our breach of any license agreements or our failure to obtain a license to proprietary rights required to develop or commercialize our future products may have a material adverse impact on us. If third parties prepare and file patent applications in the United States that also claim technology to which we have rights, we may have to participate in interference or derivation proceedings in the USPTO to determine priority of invention. Our issued patents and those that may issue in the future may be challenged, invalidated, or circumvented, which could limit our ability to stop competitors from marketing related products or limit the length of the term of patent protection that we may have for our product candidates. In addition, the rights granted under any issued patents may not provide us with protection or competitive advantages against competitors with similar technology. Furthermore, our competitors may independently develop similar technologies. For these reasons, we may have competition for our product candidates. Moreover, because of the extensive time required for development, testing, and regulatory review of a potential product candidate, it is possible that, before any particular product candidate can be commercialized, any related patent may expire or remain in force for only a short period following commercialization, thereby reducing any advantage of the patent. Our commercial success will also depend in part on not infringing upon the proprietary rights of third parties. Patent disputes are sometimes interwoven into other business disputes.

As of January 2024, our registered trademark portfolio contained approximately 24 registered trademarks and pending trademark applications, consisting of approximately two pending trademark applications and two registered trademarks in the United States, and approximately 16 registered trademarks and approximately four pending trademark applications in the following countries through both national filings and under the Madrid Protocol: Australia, Canada, China, European Union, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom, Singapore, and Switzerland.

We may also rely, in some circumstances, on confidential information, including trade secrets, to protect our technology. However, trade secrets are difficult to protect. We seek to protect our technology and product candidates, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with those who have access to our confidential information, including our employees, contractors, consultants, collaborators, and advisors. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our proprietary technology and processes by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. Although we have confidence in these individuals, organizations, and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or may be independently discovered by competitors. To the extent that our employees, contractors, consultants, collaborators, and advisors use intellectual property owned by others in their work for us, disputes may arise as to the rights in related or resulting know-how and inventions. For this and more comprehensive risks related to our proprietary technology, inventions, improvements, and products, see the subsection titled “Risk Factors —Risks Related to Intellectual Property and Information Technology.”

Key Intellectual Property Agreements

The following describes the key agreements by which we have acquired and maintained certain technology related to our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms and therapeutic programs.

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Ex vivo Cell Engineering Platform

License Agreement with Harvard

In March 2019, we entered into a license agreement (as amended, the Harvard Agreement) with the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard), pursuant to which we obtained an exclusive, worldwide, sub-licensable license under certain patent rights controlled by Harvard to make, have made, use, offer for sale, sell, have sold and import (i) products and services covered by the patent rights and (ii) products containing stem cells, pluripotent cells or cells derived from stem cells, or pluripotent cells with certain specified genetic modifications ((i) and (ii) together, Harvard Products) or otherwise practice under and exploit the licensed patent rights, for the treatment of disease in humans or, in the case of certain other patent rights, for applications that involve the use of cells derived ex vivo from stem cells in the treatment of disease in humans. We also obtained a non-exclusive, sub-licensable license under certain other patent rights in the United States, and a non-exclusive, sub-licensable, worldwide license under know-how pertaining to the licensed patent rights, to make, have made, use, offer for sale, sell, have sold and import the Harvard Products, or otherwise practice under and exploit the licensed patent rights and know-how, for the treatment of disease in humans. We have the option to obtain such non-exclusive rights in additional jurisdictions if Harvard is successful in obtaining the right to grant such rights from the third-party co-owner of such patent rights. In October 2021, we entered into an amendment to the Harvard Agreement to include products containing primary cells with certain specified genetic modifications as Harvard Products. We utilize these license rights in our ex vivo cell engineering platform relying on our hypoimmune technology.

We are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop Harvard Products in accordance with a written development plan, to market the Harvard Products following receipt of regulatory approval, and to achieve certain specified development and regulatory milestones within specified time periods, as such period may be extended, for at least two Harvard Products.

The licenses granted pursuant to the Harvard Agreement are subject to certain rights retained by Harvard and the rights of the United States government. The retained rights of Harvard pertain only to the ability of Harvard and other not-for-profit research organizations to conduct academic research and educational and scholarly activities and do not limit our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates. We agreed that we will not use any of the licensed patent rights for human germline modification, including intentionally modifying the DNA of human embryos or human reproductive cells.

Pursuant to the Harvard Agreement, we paid Harvard an upfront fee of $3.0 million, and we issued 2.2 million shares of our Series A-2 convertible preferred stock (which converted to shares of our common stock in connection with our initial public offering) to Harvard as partial consideration for the licenses granted under the Harvard Agreement. Additionally, we paid $6.0 million to Harvard in connection with the issuance of shares of our Series B convertible preferred stock. We paid Harvard annual license maintenance fees of $20,000 for 2019, $50,000 for 2020, and $100,000 for each of 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024, and we are required to pay annual license maintenance fees of $100,000 for each calendar year thereafter for the remainder of the term. We are required to pay Harvard up to an aggregate of $15.2 million per Harvard Product upon the achievement of certain specified development and regulatory milestones for up to a total of five Harvard Products, or an aggregate total of $76.0 million for all five Harvard Products. These milestone payments would double if we undergo a change of control. We are also obligated to pay, on a product-by-product and country-by-country basis, royalties in the low single-digit percentage range on quarterly net sales of Harvard Products covered by licensed patent rights, and a lower single-digit percentage royalty on quarterly net sales of Harvard Products not covered by licensed patent rights. The royalty rates with respect to Harvard Products covered by licensed patent rights are also subject to specified and capped reductions for loss of market exclusivity and for payments owed to third parties with respect to patent rights which cover Harvard Products in the territory. We are also obligated to pay Harvard a percentage of certain sublicense income ranging from the high single-digit to low double-digit percentage range. Pursuant to the terms of the Harvard agreement, we may be required to make up to an aggregate of $175.0 million in success payments to Harvard (Harvard Success Payments), payable in cash, based on increases in the per share fair market value of our common stock. The potential Harvard Success Payments are based on multiples of increasing value ranging from 5x to 40x based on a comparison of the per share fair market value of our common stock relative to the original issuance price of $4.00 per share at ongoing pre-determined valuation measurement dates. The Harvard Success Payments can be achieved over a maximum of 12 years from the effective date of the agreement. If a higher success payment tier is met at the same time a lower tier is met, both tiers will be owed. Any previous Harvard Success Payments made are credited against the Harvard Success Payment owed as of any valuation measurement date so that Harvard does not receive multiple success payments in connection with the same threshold. As of December 31, 2023, a Harvard Success Payment had not been triggered.

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The Harvard Agreement will expire upon the expiration of the last-to-expire valid claim within the licensed patent rights or, if later, at the end of the final royalty term, which is determined on a Harvard Product-by-Harvard Product and country-by-country basis, and is the later of (i) the date on which the last valid claim within the licensed patent rights covering such Harvard Product in such country expires, (ii) expiry of regulatory exclusivity for such Harvard Product in such country, or (iii) ten years from the first commercial sale of such Harvard Product in such country, which we expect to occur in 2039. We also have the right to terminate the Harvard Agreement in its entirety for any reason upon 45 days’ prior written notice to Harvard. Either party may terminate the Harvard Agreement upon a material breach by the other party that is not cured within 60 days after receiving written notice thereof. Harvard may terminate the Harvard Agreement upon written notice in the event of our bankruptcy, insolvency, or similar proceedings. If we terminate the Harvard Agreement for convenience, our obligations to pay milestones and royalties with respect to Harvard Products that are not then covered by licensed patent rights will survive for the remainder for the applicable royalty term. If the Harvard Agreement is terminated for any reason, then sublicensees, other than our affiliates or sublicensees in material default or at fault for the termination, have the right to enter into a direct license with Harvard on substantially the same non-economic terms and on economic terms providing for the payment to Harvard of the consideration that would otherwise have been payable if the Harvard Agreement and the sublicense were not terminated.

License Agreement with UCSF

In January 2019, we entered into a license agreement (as amended, the UCSF Agreement) with The Regents of the University of California (The Regents) acting through its Office of Technology Management, University of California San Francisco (UCSF), pursuant to which we obtained an exclusive license to inventions related to immunoengineered pluripotent cells and derivatives claimed in United States and international patents and patent applications (UCSF Patent Rights) by The Regents. The license grants us rights to make, have made, use, sell, offer for sale and import licensed products that are covered by such UCSF Patent Rights, provide licensed services, practice licensed methods, and otherwise practice under the UCSF Patent Rights, for use in humans only, in the United States and other countries where The Regents is not prohibited by applicable law from granting such UCSF Patent Rights. We have the right to sublicense our rights granted under the UCSF Agreement to third parties subject to certain terms and conditions. We utilize these license rights in our ex vivo cell engineering platform that relies on our hypoimmune technology.

We are obligated, directly or through affiliates or sublicensees, to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop, manufacture, and sell one or more licensed products and licensed services and to bring one or more licensed products or licensed services to market. We are required to use commercially reasonable efforts to obtain all necessary governmental approvals in each country where licensed products or licensed services are manufactured, used, sold, offered for sale, or imported. We are required to spend at least $30.0 million towards research, development, and commercialization of licensed products within five years after the closing of our Series A-2 convertible preferred stock financing. In addition, we are required to achieve certain specified development and regulatory milestones within specified time periods. We have the ability to extend the time periods for achievement of development and regulatory milestones under certain terms set forth in the UCSF Agreement, including payment of extension fees. If we are unable to complete any of the specified milestones by the completion date, or extended completion date, for such milestone, then The Regents has the right and option to either terminate the Agreement, subject to our ability to cure the applicable breach, or convert our exclusive license to a non-exclusive license.

The Regents reserves and retains the right to make, use and practice the inventions, and any related technology, and to make and use any products and to practice any process that is the subject of the UCSF Patent Rights (and to grant any of the foregoing rights to other educational and non-profit institutions) for educational and non-commercial research purposes, including publications and other communication of research results. This reservation of rights does not limit our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates.

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Pursuant to the UCSF Agreement, we paid an upfront license fee of $100,000 to The Regents, and we issued The Regents 0.7 million shares of our Series A-2 convertible preferred stock (which converted to shares of our common stock in connection with our initial public offering). In addition, we entered into an amendment to the UCSF Agreement in December 2020, pursuant to which we issued 37,500 shares of our common stock to The Regents. We are required to pay license maintenance fees ranging from $10,000 on the first anniversary of the effective date of the UCSF Agreement to $40,000 on the sixth anniversary and continuing annually thereafter. This fee will not be due if we are selling or exploiting licensed products or licensed services and paying an earned royalty to The Regents on net sales of such licensed products or licensed services. We are also required to pay The Regents up to an aggregate of $2.45 million per licensed product upon the achievement of certain specified development and regulatory milestones for the first five licensed products and half such amount for the second five licensed products, for an aggregate total of $18.4 million in development and regulatory milestone payments. Additionally, we are required to pay The Regents up to an aggregate of $0.5 million per licensed product upon the achievement of certain commercial milestones for the first five licensed products and half such amount for the second five licensed products, for an aggregate total of $3.75 million in commercial milestone payments. With respect to each licensed product, licensed service, or licensed method, we are obligated to pay, on a country-by-country basis, tiered royalties on net sales with percentages in the low single-digits. The royalty rates are subject to specified capped reductions for payments owed to unaffiliated third parties in consideration for patent rights, or patent rights together with know-how, in order to practice licensed methods or to make, have made, use sell, offer to sell, or import licensed products or licensed services. We are required to pay to The Regents a minimum annual royalty of $100,000 beginning with the year of the first sale of a licensed product or licensed service and ending upon the expiration of the last-to-expire UCSF Patent Right. This will be credited against any earned royalty due for the twelve-month period following for which the minimum payment was made and pro-rated. We are also obligated to pay The Regents a percentage of certain non-royalty sublicense income ranging from the low double-digits to mid-twenties.

The UCSF Agreement will expire on expiration or abandonment of the last valid claims within the UCSF Patent Rights licensed thereunder, which we expect to occur in 2040. The Regents has the right to terminate the Agreement if we fail to cure or discontinue a material breach within 60 days of receiving a notice of default. We have the right to terminate the UCSF Agreement in its entirety or under certain UCSF Patent Rights on a country-by-country basis at any time by providing 60 days’ notice of termination to The Regents. The UCSF Agreement will automatically terminate in the event of our bankruptcy that is not dismissed within a specified time period. The Regents may immediately terminate the Agreement upon written notice if we file a non-defensive patent challenge. The termination of the UCSF Agreement will not relieve us of obligations to pay any fees, royalties, or other payments owed to The Regents at the time of such termination or expiration, including the right to receive earned royalties. If the UCSF Agreement is terminated for any reason, then, upon the request of any sublicensee, The Regents will enter into a direct license with such sublicensee on the same terms as the UCSF Agreement, taking into account any difference in license scope, territory, and duration of sublicense grant, provided that such sublicensee is not at the time of such termination in breach of its sublicensing agreement and is not at the time of such termination an opposing party in any legal proceeding against The Regents.

2019 Exclusive License Agreement with Washington University

In November 2019, we entered into a license agreement (the 2019 WU Agreement) with Washington University, pursuant to which we obtained an exclusive sublicensable, non-transferable, worldwide license under certain Washington University patent rights related to genetically engineered hypoimmunogenic stem cells to research, develop, make, have made, and sell products, the manufacture, use, sale or import of which by us or our sublicensees would, in the absence of the 2019 WU Agreement, infringe at least one valid claim of the licensed patent rights (WU Hypoimmune Products).

We are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to (i) develop, manufacture, promote and sell WU Hypoimmune Products and (ii) achieve certain development, regulatory, and commercial diligence milestones within specified time periods. We have the ability to extend the time periods for achievement of such milestones under certain terms set forth in the 2019 WU Agreement, including payment of extension fees.

Washington University retains the right to make, have made, use, and import WU Hypoimmune Products in fields relating to diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of human diseases or disorders for research and educational purposes, including collaboration with other nonprofit entities, but excluding any commercial purposes, and such retained rights do not limit our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates. Washington University retains all rights not granted to us under the patents. In addition, the 2019 WU Agreement is subject to certain rights retained by the United States government, including the requirement that licensed products sold in the United States be substantially manufactured in the United States.

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Pursuant to the 2019 WU Agreement, we paid Washington University an upfront license issue fee of $75,000. We are required to pay Washington University up to $100,000 per year in license maintenance fees on each anniversary of the 2019 WU Agreement’s effective date until the first commercial sale of a WU Hypoimmune Product. Upon the achievement of certain development and regulatory milestones, we are required to pay Washington University up to an aggregate of $2.0 million in milestone payments per WU Hypoimmune Product for the first three WU Hypoimmune Products, for an aggregate of $6.0 million in development and regulatory milestones. Additionally, upon the achievement of certain commercial milestones, we are required to pay Washington University up to an aggregate of $2.5 million in milestone payments per WU Hypoimmune Product for the first three WU Hypoimmune Products, for an aggregate of $7.5 million in commercial milestones. We are also obligated to pay royalties as a percentage of annual net sales of WU Hypoimmune Products in the low single-digits, subject to a minimum amount of royalties payable in advance. The minimum annual royalty for the first anniversary of the effective date following the first commercial sale will be $100,000 and subsequently will increase up to a maximum minimum annual royalty of $750,000 on the fourth anniversary of the effective date following the first commercial sale. The royalties are payable provided there is at least one valid claim of licensed patent rights present in the country of manufacture or sale. The royalty rates are also subject to specified and capped reduction upon certain other events. Furthermore, we are obligated to pay Washington University a percentage of certain non-royalty sublicense income in the low double-digits.

The 2019 WU Agreement will expire upon the last-to-expire valid claim under the licensed patent rights, which we expect to occur in 2038. We have the right to terminate the 2019 WU Agreement for any reason upon 90 days’ prior written notice to Washington University. Washington University may terminate the 2019 WU Agreement upon our material breach that is not cured within 30 days after receiving written notice thereof. In addition, Washington University may terminate the 2019 WU Agreement (i) upon 30 days’ written notice if we fail to achieve certain development, regulatory, or commercial diligence milestones and are unable to resolve Washington University’s concerns through good faith negotiations in accordance with the 2019 WU Agreement, (ii) upon our bankruptcy or insolvency, or (iii) if an order is made or a notice is issued convening a meeting of our stockholders to consider the passing of a resolution of our winding up or a resolution is passed for our winding up (in each case, other than for the purpose of amalgamation or reconstruction). If the 2019 WU Agreement terminates prior to the expiration of the last-to-expire licensed patent rights, we agree (i) to promptly discontinue the exportation of licensed products, (ii) to promptly discontinue the manufacture, sale, and distribution of the licensed products, (iii) to promptly destroy all licensed products in inventory, and (iv) not to manufacture, sell, or distribute licensed products until the expiration of the applicable last-to-expire licensed patent rights.

2020 License Agreement with Washington University

In September 2020, we entered into an exclusive license agreement (the 2020 WU Agreement) with Washington University for certain patent rights relating to the methods and compositions of generating cells of endodermal lineage and beta cells and uses thereof. Under the 2020 WU Agreement, we obtained an exclusive, worldwide, non-transferable, and royalty-bearing license under the patent rights to research, develop, make, have made, sell, offer for sale, have sold, use, have used, export, and import licensed products, the manufacture, use, sale or import of which by us or our sublicensees would, in the absence of the 2020 WU Agreement, infringe at least one valid claim of the licensed patent rights, solely in fields relating to diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of human diseases or disorders. We utilize these license rights in our ex vivo cell engineering platform that relies on our hypoimmune technology, including our beta cell program.

Under the 2020 WU Agreement, we are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to (i) develop, manufacture, promote, and sell licensed products, and (ii) achieve certain development, regulatory, and commercial diligence milestones within specified time periods. We have the ability to extend the time periods for achievement of such milestones under certain terms set forth in the 2020 WU Agreement, including payment of extension fees.

Washington University retains the right to use the licensed patent rights to make, have made, use, and import licensed products worldwide in fields relating to diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of human disease or disorders for research and educational purposes, including collaboration with other nonprofit entities, but expressly excluding any commercial purposes, and such retained rights do not limit our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates. In addition, the 2020 WU Agreement is subject to certain rights retained by the United States government, including the requirement that licensed products sold in the United States be substantially manufactured in the United States.

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Pursuant to the 2020 WU Agreement, we paid Washington University an upfront license issue fee of $150,000. We are required to pay Washington University up to $100,000 per year in license maintenance fees on each anniversary of the 2020 WU Agreement’s effective date until the first commercial sale of a licensed product. Upon the achievement of certain development and regulatory milestones, we are required to pay Washington University up to an aggregate of $2.0 million per licensed product for the first three licensed products under the 2020 WU Agreement, for an aggregate of $6.0 million in development and regulatory milestones. Additionally, of certain commercial milestones, we are required to pay Washington University up to an aggregate of $4.5 million per licensed product for the first three licensed products under the 2020 WU Agreement, for an aggregate of $13.5 million in commercial milestones. We are also obligated to pay royalties as a percentage of annual net sales of licensed products in the low single-digits, subject to a minimum amount of royalties payable in advance. The minimum annual royalty for the first anniversary of the effective date following the first commercial sale will be $100,000 and subsequently will increase up to a maximum minimum annual royalty of $750,000 on the fourth anniversary of the effective date following the first commercial sale. The royalties are payable provided there is at least one valid claim of licensed patent rights present in the country of manufacture or sale. The royalty rates are also subject to specified and capped reduction upon certain other events. Furthermore, we are obligated to pay Washington University a percentage of certain non-royalty sublicense income in the low double-digits.

The 2020 WU Agreement will expire upon the last-to-expire valid claim under the licensed patent rights, which we expect to occur in 2038. We have the right to terminate the 2020 WU Agreement for any reason upon 90 days’ prior written notice to Washington University. Washington University may terminate the 2020 WU Agreement upon our material breach that is not cured within 30 days after receiving written notice thereof. In addition, Washington University may terminate the 2020 WU Agreement (i) upon 30 days’ written notice if we fail to achieve certain development, regulatory, or commercial diligence milestones and are unable to resolve Washington University’s concerns through good faith negotiations in accordance with the 2020 WU Agreement, (ii) upon our bankruptcy or insolvency, or (iii) if an order is made or a notice is issued convening a meeting of our stockholders to consider the passing of a resolution of our winding up or a resolution is passed for our winding up (in each case, other than for the purpose of amalgamation or reconstruction). If the 2020 WU Agreement terminates prior to the expiration of the last-to-expire licensed patent rights, we agree (i) to promptly discontinue the exportation of licensed products, (ii) to promptly discontinue the manufacture, sale and distribution of the licensed products, (iii) to promptly destroy all licensed products in inventory, and (iv) not to manufacture, sell, or distribute licensed products until the expiration of the applicable last-to-expire licensed patent rights.

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Oscine Acquisition

In September 2020, we acquired Oscine Corp. (Oscine), a privately-held early-stage biotechnology company pursing a glial progenitor ex vivo cell engineering program, in exchange for $8.5 million in cash, net of certain expenses. We had originally entered into a collaboration, license, and option to purchase agreement with Oscine in November 2018. That agreement was terminated upon the closing of our acquisition of Oscine. As part of the Oscine acquisition, we also agreed to pay additional amounts of up to an aggregate of $225.8 million upon achievement of certain specified development and commercial milestones, which we may pay in cash or in shares of our common stock, subject to certain conditions. As a result of the Oscine acquisition, we entered into, or obtained and amended, licenses to various technologies related to our glial progenitor cell-based therapy program, including a license agreement with University of Rochester and a supply agreement with Hadasit Medical Research Services and Development Ltd. (Hadasit) for access to certain cells and information. We terminated the supply agreement with Hadasit in September 2022 following our decision to cease using the cells and information in our glial progenitor cell-based therapy program.

License Agreement with University of Rochester

Effective as of the closing of the Oscine acquisition, we entered into an amended and restated exclusive license agreement (the Rochester Agreement) with the University of Rochester, which amended and restated a prior license agreement between Oscine and its affiliates and the University of Rochester and assigned Oscine’s rights and obligations under the prior license agreement to us. Under the Rochester Agreement, we obtained an exclusive, royalty-bearing, sublicensable, worldwide license under certain patents, and a non-exclusive, royalty-free license under know-how, to research, develop, import, make, have made, use, sell, offer to sell, commercialize, and otherwise exploit cell-based therapies for the treatment of human central nervous system disease and disorders. We utilize these license rights in our glial progenitor cell-based therapy program. We granted the University of Rochester a license to practice any patent rights that cover inventions in the field of cell-based therapies for human central nervous system diseases and disorders, which inventions are first conceived and reduced to practice solely by Dr. Steven Goldman acting in his capacity as our employee, or jointly with any of our employees reporting to Dr. Goldman, solely for Dr. Goldman or any of his laboratory members at the University of Rochester to practice such patent rights within Dr. Goldman’s laboratory at the University of Rochester for internal academic research purposes. University of Rochester granted us an automatic royalty-free non-exclusive license, and the option to obtain exclusive rights, to any patent rights or inventions conceived or reduced to practice by Dr. Goldman or members of his laboratory at the University of Rochester within a certain timeframe in connection with the internal academic research license that we granted to the University of Rochester. We are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to proceed with the commercial exploitation of the patents, to create a reasonable supply of licensed products to meet demand, and to adhere to a specified commercial development plan for development of stem cell therapy products, with specified development milestones, including obtaining government approvals to market at least one licensed product, and to market such product within twelve months of receiving such approval.

The licenses granted pursuant to the Rochester Agreement are subject to certain rights retained by the University of Rochester and the rights of the United States government. The retained rights of the University of Rochester pertain only to its ability to conduct internal academic research other than clinical research and for teaching, education, and other non-commercial research activities, in publications related to its scientific research and findings, and for any other non-clinical and non-commercial purpose that is not inconsistent with the rights granted to us under the Rochester Agreement. These retained rights do not limit our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates.

Pursuant to the Rochester Agreement, we paid to University of Rochester a minimum annual royalty of $20,000 in January 2024, and are obligated to pay future minimum annual royalties of $20,000 in 2025, $50,000 in each of 2026, 2027, and 2028, and $70,000 in 2029 and each year thereafter. The minimum annual royalty payment is creditable against our obligation to pay tiered royalties on annual net sales in the low single-digits. The royalty rates are also subject to reduction upon certain other events. We are also required to pay University of Rochester up to an aggregate of $950,000 upon the achievement of certain specified development and commercial milestones for each licensed product. In addition, we are required to pay a tiered mid-single-digit to mid-double-digit percentage of revenue arising from any sublicenses granted by us to third parties.

The Rochester Agreement will expire on the last-to-expire of the licensed patents thereunder, which we expect to occur in 2038. We have the right to terminate the Rochester Agreement in its entirety for any reason upon 90 days’ prior written notice to the University of Rochester. The University of Rochester may terminate the Rochester Agreement upon our material breach that is not cured within 30 days of receiving written notice thereof or immediately in the event of our bankruptcy. The University of Rochester may also terminate the Rochester Agreement, or at its sole discretion terminate the exclusivity of the license granted, upon our failure to meet the diligence obligations under and cure such failure within 90 days of our receipt of notice thereof, or such longer reasonable time determined by University of Rochester, at its discretion, and subject to a good faith negotiation mechanism included in the Rochester Agreement.

 

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License Agreement with Beam

In October 2021, we entered into an option and license agreement (as amended, the Beam Agreement) with Beam, pursuant to which Beam granted us a non-exclusive license to use Beam’s proprietary CRISPR Cas12b nuclease editing technology for a specified number of gene editing targets to research, develop, and commercialize engineered cell therapy products that (i) are directed to certain antigen targets, with respect to our allogeneic T cell programs, or (ii) comprise certain human cell types, with respect to our stem cell-derived programs. We are permitted to use the CRISPR Cas12b system to modify or introduce, ex vivo, selected genetic sequences with respect to licensed products. The Beam Agreement excludes any rights to base editing using the CRISPR Cas12b system.

Pursuant to the Beam Agreement, we originally had the option, for a period of one year from the effective date of the Beam Agreement, to select additional antigen targets, with respect to our allogeneic T cell programs, or human cell types, with respect to our stem cell-derived programs, in each case, upon our payment of an option payment of $10 million per antigen target or cell type. We subsequently amended the Beam Agreement in July 2022 to extend the term of the option period and to add certain additional rights to the scope of the license for the purpose of supporting research and development of licensed products, and amended the Beam Agreement again in March 2023 to further extend such option period. In addition, we may (i) until the expiration of such option period, elect to replace an antigen target, with respect to our allogeneic T cell programs, or human cell type, with respect to our stem cell-derived programs (Replacement Right) previously selected by us, and (ii) for a period of three years from the effective date of the Beam Agreement, select new gene editing targets, or replace gene editing targets previously selected by us, with respect to any licensed product (Gene Nomination Right). In each case, our rights with respect to exercise of the option, Replacement Right, or Gene Nomination Right are subject to certain limitations.

Pursuant to the Beam Agreement, we paid Beam an upfront payment of $50.0 million. Additionally, with respect to each licensed product, we will be obligated to pay to Beam up to $65.0 million in specified developmental and commercial milestones. We will also be obligated to pay to Beam an aggregate royalty, including any royalty owed by Beam to its licensor, on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis, in the low to mid-single-digits, subject to reduction in certain circumstances, on net sales of each licensed product until the latest of (i) the expiration of certain patents covering such licensed product in the applicable country, (ii) the date on which any applicable regulatory exclusivity, including orphan drug, new chemical entity, data or pediatric exclusivity, with respect to such licensed product expires in such country, or (iii) the 10th anniversary of the first commercial sale of such licensed product in such country.

Unless earlier terminated by either party, the Beam Agreement will expire on a licensed product-by-licensed product and country-by-country basis upon the expiration of our payment obligations with respect to each licensed product thereunder. We may terminate the Beam Agreement in its entirety or on an antigen target-by-antigen target basis (with respect to licensed product applicable to our allogeneic T cell programs), on a cell type-by-cell type basis (with respect to licensed product applicable to our stem cell-derived programs), or on a licensed product-by-licensed product basis, in each case, upon (i) 90 days’ advance written notice, if such notice is provided prior to the first commercial sale of a licensed product, or (ii) 180 days’ advance written notice, if such notice is provided after the first commercial sale of a licensed product. Either party may terminate the Beam Agreement with written notice for the other party’s material breach if such breaching party fails to timely cure the breach with respect to the country in which such material breach relates. Beam may terminate the Beam Agreement in its entirety if we or our affiliates or sublicensees commence a legal action challenging the validity, patentability, enforceability, or scope of any of the patent rights licensed to us thereunder. Either party also may terminate the Beam Agreement in its entirety upon certain insolvency events involving the other party.

 

License Agreement with the NIH

In January 2022, we entered into a patent license agreement (the NIH Agreement) with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as represented by The National Cancer Institution, an institute of the National Institutes of Health (the NIH), pursuant to which the NIH granted to us an exclusive, worldwide, commercial license under certain patent rights related to certain fully-human anti-CD22 binders and CD22 CAR constructs comprising such binders for use in certain in vivo gene therapy and ex vivo allogeneic CAR T cell applications for B cell malignancies. The license grant is subject to customary statutory requirements and reserved rights as required under federal law and NIH requirements. We have the right to grant sublicenses under the licensed patent rights with the NIH’s prior consent.

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Pursuant to the NIH Agreement, we paid to the NIH an upfront payment of $1.0 million. Additionally, we will be obligated to pay to the NIH (i) up to an aggregate of $9.6 million in specified regulatory, developmental, and commercial milestone payments with respect to each licensed product, and (ii) a payment of $1.0 million upon the assignment of the NIH Agreement to an affiliate upon a change of control. In addition, we are obligated to pay to the NIH (i) a royalty on net sales of licensed products in the low-single-digits, subject to reduction in certain circumstances, and subject to certain annual minimum royalty payments, and (ii) a percentage, ranging from the mid-single-digits to mid-teens, of revenues from sublicensing arrangements. Additionally, if we are granted a priority review voucher by the FDA with respect to a licensed product, we will be obligated to pay to the NIH the greater of (i) $5.0 million or (ii) a percentage in the mid-single-digits of any consideration received for the sale, transfer, or lease of such priority review voucher. We are also obligated to pay to the NIH a percentage in the low-single-digits of the consideration we receive for any assignment of the NIH Agreement to a non-affiliate.

We are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to exploit, and make publicly available, inventions developed by the exploitation of the licensed patent rights, including licensed products.

Unless earlier terminated by either party, the NIH Agreement will expire upon expiration of the last-to-expire valid claim in the licensed patent rights. The NIH may terminate the Agreement with written notice for our material breach if we fail to timely cure such breach or upon certain insolvency events involving us. In addition, the NIH may terminate or modify the NIH Agreement, at its option, if the NIH determines that such termination or modification is necessary to meet the requirements for public use specified by federal regulations issued after the effective date of the NIH Agreement, and we do not reasonably and timely satisfy these requirements. We may terminate the NIH Agreement or any licenses in any country or territory upon 60 days’ prior written notice.

In Vivo Cell Engineering Platform

Cobalt Acquisition

In February 2019, we acquired all of the outstanding equity interests in Cobalt Biomedicine, Inc. (Cobalt), a privately-held early-stage biotechnology company, in consideration of the issuance of 36.4 million shares of our Series A-2 convertible preferred stock, valued at $136.0 million. Of the 36.4 million shares of Series A-2 convertible preferred stock issued, 12.1 million shares were contingent on the achievement of a pre-specified development milestone, which was achieved in July 2019. Pursuant to the terms and conditions of the Cobalt acquisition agreement, we are obligated to pay to certain former Cobalt stockholders contingent consideration (Cobalt Contingent Consideration) of up to an aggregate of $500.0 million upon our achievement of certain pre-specified development milestones and a success payment (Cobalt Success Payment) of up to $500.0 million, each of which is payable in cash or stock. The Cobalt Success Payment is payable if, at pre-determined valuation measurement dates, our market capitalization equals or exceeds $8.1 billion, and we are advancing a program based on the fusogen technology in a clinical trial pursuant to an IND, or have filed for, or received approval for, a biologics license application or new drug application for a product based on the fusogen technology. A valuation measurement date would also be triggered upon a change of control if at least one of our programs based on the fusogen technology is the subject of an active research program at the time of such change of control. If there is a change of control and our market capitalization is below $8.1 billion as of the date of such change of control, the amount of the potential Cobalt Success Payment will decrease, and the amount of potential Cobalt Contingent Consideration will increase. As a result of the Cobalt transaction, we obtained licenses to various technologies and intellectual property rights that relate to the development of our fusogen technology and related fusosome programs, including exclusive license agreements with Flagship Pioneering Innovations V, Inc. (Flagship) and La Societe Pulsalys (Pulsalys), as well as several exclusive options to enter into exclusive license agreements, including one such option with The Regents of the University of California acting through The Technology Development Group of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), with whom we later entered into an exclusive license agreement.

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License Agreement with Flagship

In February 2016, Cobalt entered into an agreement (as amended, the Flagship Agreement) with Flagship, pursuant to which (i) Cobalt irrevocably and unconditionally assigned to Flagship all of its right, title and interest in and to certain foundational intellectual property developed by Flagship Pioneering, Inc. (Flagship Management) during the exploration and/or proto-company phase of Cobalt prior to its spin-out from Flagship (the Managerial Agreement), as set forth in the Flagship Agreement (such foundational intellectual property, the Fusogen Foundational IP), and (ii) Cobalt obtained an exclusive, worldwide, royalty-bearing, sublicensable, transferable license from Flagship under such Fusogen Foundational IP to develop, manufacture, and commercialize any product or process or component thereof, the development, manufacturing and commercialization of which would infringe at least one valid claim of Fusogen Foundational IP absent the license granted under the Flagship Agreement (Fusogen Products) in the field of human therapeutics during the term of the Flagship Agreement. In addition, Flagship irrevocably and unconditionally assigned to Cobalt all of its right, title and interest in and to any and all patents claiming any inventions conceived (i) solely by Flagship Management or jointly by Flagship Management and Cobalt, (ii) after Cobalt’s spinout from Flagship, and (iii) as a result of activities conducted pursuant the Managerial Agreement or other participation of Flagship Management in Cobalt’s affairs, but excluding Fusogen Foundational IP. We utilize the rights granted by Flagship under the Flagship Agreement in our fusogen platform and related therapeutic product candidates. The license granted to Fusogen Foundational IP is contingent upon Cobalt’s compliance with its obligations under the Flagship Agreement. Under the Flagship Agreement, Cobalt also granted Flagship a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable license to practice the Fusogen Foundational IP within the field of human therapeutics solely to perform under the Managerial Agreement.

Pursuant to the Flagship Agreement, Cobalt is obligated to pay, on a Fusogen Product-by-Fusogen Product and jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, royalties in the low single-digit percentage on net sales of Fusogen Products. The Flagship Agreement will expire on the expiration of the last-to-expire royalty term, which is determined on a Fusogen Product-by-Fusogen Product and jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, and occurs on the earlier of (i) the expiration of the last valid claim of any Fusogen Foundational IP covering such Fusogen Product or (ii) the date on which the last applicable additional milestone payment has been made in accordance with that certain merger agreement under which we acquired Cobalt, which we expect to be in 2039. Upon expiration of the royalty term with respect to a Fusogen Product in any jurisdiction and payment in full of all amounts owed under the Flagship Agreement for such Fusogen Product, the license granted to us will automatically convert into a non-exclusive, fully paid-up license for such Fusogen Product in such jurisdiction. We have the right to terminate the Flagship Agreement in its entirety for convenience upon 60 days of written notice. Either party may terminate the Flagship Agreement upon a material breach by the other party that is not cured within 30 days after receiving written notice. Also, Flagship may terminate the Flagship Agreement (i) upon 30 days’ written notice if we cease to carry on our business with respect to the rights granted in the Flagship Agreement, (ii) upon written notice if we experience an event of bankruptcy, or (iii) immediately upon written notice if we challenge the validity, patentability, or enforceability of any Fusogen Foundational IP or participate in any such challenge.

Sublicense Agreement with Pulsalys

In August 2018, Cobalt entered into an exclusive sublicense agreement (as amended, the Pulsalys Agreement), with Pulsalys, which Cobalt assigned to us in May 2020, and pursuant to which we obtained an exclusive, worldwide, sublicensable sublicense from Pulsalys of the exclusive license granted to Pulsalys by École normale supérieure de Lyon (ENS Lyon) on behalf of itself and Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 (collectively, the Co-Owners) under certain patent rights relating to methods to selectively modulate the activity of distinct subtypes of immune cells using engineered virus-like particles. In addition, Pulsalys granted us the first right to negotiate an exclusive license to patent rights covering certain improvements to the licensed patent rights that are owned or held by Pulsalys. We utilize the rights granted under the Pulsalys Agreement in our in vivo fusogenic platform and related fusosome programs. Under the Pulsalys Agreement, we are obligated to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop and commercialize licensed products, which efforts we can demonstrate by the achievement of the following diligence milestones: (i) incurring a minimum annual spend of $1.0 million for each of the five years after the effective date of the Pulsalys Agreement, and (ii) submitting an IND within a certain period of time, originally five years, after the effective date of the Pulsalys Agreement. In July 2023, we amended the Pulsalys Agreement to extend such five-year period. Under the Pulsalys Agreement, the Co-Owners will retain the right to practice the licensed patent rights for non-commercial research purposes, alone or in collaboration with third parties. These retained rights do not affect our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates.

Pursuant to the Pulsalys Agreement, Cobalt paid Pulsalys an upfront fee of 18,000 EUR. We are required to pay an annual license maintenance fee of 18,000 EUR until the first commercial sale of a licensed product. We are also required to pay Pulsalys up to an aggregate of 575,000 EUR upon the achievement of certain development and regulatory milestones for each of the first three distinct licensed products. In addition, we are obligated to pay an annual royalty in the low single-digits on net sales of the licensed products, with the royalty rate being subject to reduction upon certain events. Lastly, we are obligated to pay percentage annual fees on certain sublicense income in the low single-digits.

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The Pulsalys Agreement will expire on a country-by-country and licensed product-by-licensed product basis upon the expiration of the last-to-expire valid claim within the licensed patent rights covering the making, using, sale, and import of such licensed product in such country or any patent term extension or supplementary protection certificate thereof covering the sale of such licensed product in such country, which we expect to occur in 2037. We also have the right to terminate the Pulsalys Agreement in its entirety upon notice if we determine, in our sole discretion, that continued pursuit of development of the licensed patent rights is not feasible or desirable in the context of (i) the resources available to us or due to external factors such as competition, market forces, or access or license to other reasonably useful intellectual property, or (ii) a change of direction of our business focus. Either party may terminate the Pulsalys Agreement upon a material breach by the other party that is not cured within 90 days after receiving written notice thereof. Pulsalys may terminate the Pulsalys Agreement (i) in full in the case of we undergo a cessation of business, dissolution or voluntary liquidation, or (ii) in full or in part (x) if we challenge the validity of the licensed patents, provided that such termination will be with respect to the claims within the licensed patents that are the subject of such challenge, or (y) if we fail to achieve the diligence milestones, and if the parties have not extended such milestones after good faith negotiations, and subject to our ability to cure such failure within 90 days after notice of the same.

License Agreement with UCLA

In March 2019, we entered into a license agreement (as amended, the UCLA Agreement) with UCLA, upon the exercise of an option originally granted by UCLA to Cobalt in April 2018. Under the UCLA Agreement, UCLA granted us an exclusive, sublicensable, transferable (subject to certain conditions) license in the licensed territory in the field of human therapeutics under certain patent rights relating to certain virus envelope pseudotyped lentiviruses and methods of their use to (i) research, make, have made, use, sell, offer for sale, have sold, and import licensed products and (ii) practice licensed methods for the purposes of researching, manufacturing, and using licensed products, but not to perform services for a fee. The licensed territory under the UCLA Agreement is all countries of the world in which the licensed patent rights have or will be filed. UCLA agreed not to grant any rights under the licensed patents regarding licensed methods to third parties without first offering us an opportunity to remove the restrictions regarding the use of licensed methods to perform services for a fee. In addition, we agreed not to commercialize any licensed product that is not administered directly to a patient for therapeutic purposes without first negotiating with UCLA for possible development milestones, royalties, or other payments applicable to such licensed products. We utilize the rights granted under the UCLA Agreement in our in vivo fusogenic platform and related fusosome programs. We are obligated to use commercially reasonable and diligent efforts to (i) develop licensed products, (ii) market licensed products, and (ii) manufacture and sell licensed products in quantities sufficient to meet market demand. We are also required to satisfy certain development and commercial milestones with respect to at least one licensed product that is administered directly to a patient for therapeutic purposes.

The license granted pursuant to the UCLA Agreement is subject to certain rights retained by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and the United States government, including a non-exclusive, royalty-free license granted to the United States government in accordance with 35 U.S.C. §200-212. If CIRM exercises its rights under Title 17, California Code of Regulations, Section 100600, and the scope of our exclusive license under the UCLA Agreement is impacted, then our financial obligations therein will be reduced by 50%. Otherwise, rights retained by CIRM do not limit our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates. In addition, UCLA retains the right to (i) use the licensed patent rights for educational and research purposes and research sponsored by commercial entities, (ii) publicly disclose research results, (iii) use the licensed patent rights to offer and perform clinical diagnostic and prognostic care solely within the University of California system, and (iv) allow other non-profit and academic institutions to use the licensed patent rights for educational and research purposes and research sponsored by commercial entities, as well as to publicly disclose research results. These retained rights do not affect our ability to pursue our programs and product candidates.

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Pursuant to the UCLA Agreement, we paid UCLA an upfront license issue fee of $25,000. We also reimbursed UCLA for its past patent costs, and we have a continuing obligation to reimburse UCLA for its patent costs during the term of the UCLA Agreement. For licensed products that are administered directly to a patient for therapeutic purposes, we are required to pay UCLA up to an aggregate of (i) $825,000 upon the achievement of certain pre-specified development milestones for each of the first three such licensed products, and (ii) $15.0 million upon the achievement of certain pre-specified commercial milestones for such licensed products. In addition, we are obligated to pay an annual license maintenance fee beginning on the first anniversary of the UCLA Agreement until the first commercial sale of a licensed product. The license maintenance fee for the first anniversary was $10,000, and subsequently increases by $10,000 per anniversary up to a maximum annual license maintenance fee of $100,000. We are also required to pay, on a country-by-country basis, earned royalty percentages in the low single-digits on net sales of the licensed products, with the royalty rate being subject to reduction upon certain events. Under the UCLA Agreement, we are obligated to pay a minimum annual royalty of $100,000 beginning with the first full calendar year after the first commercial sale of a licensed product, and the minimum annual royalty will be credited against the earned royalty made during the same calendar year. If any claim within the licensed patent rights is held invalid or unenforceable in a final decision by a court of competent jurisdiction, all royalty obligations with respect to that claim or any claim patentably indistinct from it will expire as of the date of that final decision. No royalties will be collected or paid on licensed products sold to the United States government to the extent required by law, and we will be required to reduce the amount charged for licensed products distributed to the United States government by the amount of the royalty that otherwise would have been paid. Furthermore, we are obligated to pay UCLA tiered fees on a percentage of certain sublicense income in the low single-digit to low double-digit range. Lastly, if we challenge the validity of any licensed patent rights, we agree to pay UCLA all royalties and other amounts due in view of our activities under the UCLA Agreement during the period of challenge. If such challenge fails, we are required to pay two times the royalty rate paid during the period of such challenge for the remaining term of the UCLA Agreement and all of UCLA’s verifiable legal out-of-pocket fees and costs incurred in defending against such challenge, including attorney’s fees.

The UCLA Agreement will expire on the later of the expiration of the last-to-expire patent or last to be abandoned patent application in the licensed patent rights, which we expect to occur in 2033. We also have the right to terminate the UCLA Agreement in its entirety or with respect to any portion of the licensed patent rights for any reason upon 90 days’ prior written notice to UCLA. UCLA may terminate the UCLA Agreement upon a material breach by us that is not cured within 90 days after receiving written notice. If the breach is incapable of being cured within such period, then UCLA will consider our efforts to avoid, and to take reasonable steps to cure, such breach when determining whether to terminate the UCLA Agreement. Also, UCLA has the right and option, at its sole discretion, to either terminate the UCLA Agreement or reduce our exclusive license to a non-exclusive license if we fail to (i) exercise commercially reasonable and diligent efforts to develop, market, manufacture, and sell licensed products, or (ii) achieve certain development milestones set forth in the UCLA Agreement, subject to our ability to extend such milestones in accordance with terms set forth in the UCLA Agreement. Upon our termination of the UCLA Agreement, we may continue to sell any previously manufactured licensed products for 180 days after the effective date of termination. Upon termination of the UCLA Agreement by UCLA for our failure to reimburse UCLA for certain patent costs after the applicable cure period, we may continue to sell all previously made licensed products for 180 days after the effective date of the notice of termination; however, this right is not available if the UCLA Agreement is terminated for any other cause.

Government Regulation

The FDA and other regulatory authorities at federal, state, and local levels, as well as in foreign countries, extensively regulate, among other things, the research, development, testing, manufacture, quality control, import, export, safety, effectiveness, labeling, packaging, storage, distribution, record keeping, approval, advertising, promotion, marketing, post-approval monitoring, and post-approval reporting of biologics such as those we are developing. We, along with third-party contractors, will be required to navigate the various preclinical, clinical and commercial approval requirements of the governing regulatory agencies of the countries in which we wish to conduct studies or seek approval or licensure of our product candidates. The process of obtaining regulatory approvals and the subsequent compliance with applicable federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations require the expenditure of substantial time and financial resources.

U.S. Biologics Regulation

In the United States, biological products are subject to regulation under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the Public Health Service Act, and other federal, state, local and foreign statutes and regulations. The process required by the FDA before biologics may be marketed in the United States generally involves the following:

completion of preclinical laboratory tests and animal studies performed in accordance with the FDA’s Good Laboratory Practice requirements (GLPs) and other applicable regulations;
submission to the FDA of an Investigational New Drug application (IND), which must become effective before clinical trials may begin;

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approval by an institutional review board (IRB), or ethics committee at each clinical site before the trial is commenced;
performance of adequate and well-controlled human clinical trials to satisfy the FDA’s legal standards with respect to the safety, purity, and potency of the proposed product candidate, which may include, among other things, demonstrating that the benefits of the product candidate outweigh its known risks for the intended patient population;
preparation of and submission to the FDA of a biologics license application (BLA), after completion of all pivotal clinical trials;
satisfactory completion of an FDA Advisory Committee review, if applicable;
a determination by the FDA within 60 days of its receipt of a BLA to file the application for review;
satisfactory completion of an FDA pre-approval inspection of the manufacturing facility or facilities at which the proposed product is processed, packed, or held to assess compliance with current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP), and to assure that the facilities, methods, and controls will continue to meet the FDA’s legal requirements, and, if applicable, to assess compliance with the FDA’s current Good Tissue Practice (cGTP) requirements for the use of human cellular and tissue products, and of selected clinical investigation sites to assess compliance with Good Clinical Practices (GCPs); and
FDA review and approval of the BLA to permit commercial marketing of the product for particular indications for use in the United States.

Prior to beginning the first clinical trial with a product candidate in the United States, we must submit an IND to the FDA. An IND is a request for authorization from the FDA to administer an investigational new drug to humans. The central focus of an IND submission is on the general investigational plan and the protocol(s) for clinical studies. The IND also includes results of animal and in vitro studies assessing the toxicology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacology, and pharmacodynamic characteristics of the product; chemistry, manufacturing, and controls information; and any available human data or literature to support the use of the investigational product. An IND must become effective before human clinical trials may begin. The IND automatically becomes effective 30 days after receipt by the FDA, unless the FDA, within the 30-day time period, raises safety concerns or questions about the proposed clinical trial. In such a case, the IND may be placed on clinical hold and the IND sponsor and the FDA must resolve any outstanding concerns or questions before the clinical trial can begin. Submission of an IND therefore may or may not result in FDA authorization to begin a clinical trial.

In addition to the IND submission process, under the National Institutes of Health Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules (the NIH Guidelines), supervision of human gene transfer trials includes evaluation and assessment by an institutional biosafety committee (IBC), a local institutional committee that reviews and oversees research utilizing recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecules at that institution. The IBC assesses the safety of the research and identifies any potential risk to public health or the environment, and such review may result in some delay before initiation of a clinical trial. Although the NIH Guidelines are not mandatory unless the research in question is being conducted at or sponsored by institutions receiving NIH funding of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acid molecule research, many companies and other institutions not otherwise subject to the NIH Guidelines voluntarily follow them.

Clinical trials involve the administration of the investigational product to human subjects under the supervision of qualified investigators in accordance with GCPs, which include the requirement that all research subjects provide their informed consent for their participation in any clinical study. Clinical trials are conducted under protocols detailing, among other things, the objectives of the study, the parameters to be used in monitoring safety and the effectiveness criteria to be evaluated. A separate submission to the existing IND must be made for each successive clinical trial conducted during product development and for any subsequent protocol amendments. While the IND is active, progress reports summarizing the results of the clinical trials and nonclinical studies performed since the last progress report, among other information, must be submitted at least annually to the FDA, and written IND safety reports must be submitted to the FDA and investigators for serious and unexpected suspected adverse events, findings from other studies suggesting a significant risk to humans exposed to the same or similar drugs, findings from animal or in vitro testing suggesting a significant risk to humans, and any clinically important increased incidence of a serious suspected adverse reaction compared to that listed in the protocol or investigator brochure.

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Furthermore, an independent IRB for each site proposing to conduct the clinical trial must review and approve the plan for any clinical trial and its informed consent form before the clinical trial begins at that site, and must monitor the study until completed. Regulatory authorities, the IRB, or the sponsor may suspend a clinical trial at any time on various grounds, including a finding that the subjects are being exposed to an unacceptable health risk or that the trial is unlikely to meet its stated objectives. Some studies also include oversight by an independent group of qualified experts organized by the clinical study sponsor, known as a data safety monitoring board, which provides authorization for whether or not a study may move forward at designated check points based on access to certain data from the study and may halt the clinical trial if it determines that there is an unacceptable safety risk for subjects or other grounds, such as no demonstration of efficacy. There are also requirements governing the reporting of ongoing clinical studies and clinical study results to public registries.

For purposes of BLA approval, human clinical trials are typically conducted in three sequential phases that may overlap or be combined:

Phase 1—The investigational product is initially introduced into healthy human subjects or patients with the target disease or condition. These studies are designed to test the safety, dosage tolerance, absorption, metabolism and distribution of the investigational product in humans, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and, if possible, to gain early evidence on effectiveness.
Phase 2—The investigational product is administered to a limited patient population with a specified disease or condition to evaluate the preliminary efficacy, optimal dosages and dosing schedule and to identify possible adverse side effects and safety risks. Multiple Phase 2 clinical trials may be conducted to obtain information prior to beginning larger and more expensive Phase 3 clinical trials.
Phase 3—The investigational product is administered to an expanded patient population to further evaluate dosage, to provide statistically significant evidence of clinical efficacy and to further test for safety, generally at multiple geographically dispersed clinical trial sites. These clinical trials are intended to establish the overall risk/benefit ratio of the investigational product and to provide an adequate basis for product approval.

In some cases, the FDA may require, or companies may voluntarily pursue, additional clinical trials after a product is approved to gain more information about the product. These so-called Phase 4 studies may also be made a condition to approval of the BLA. Concurrent with clinical trials, companies may complete additional animal studies and develop additional information about the biological characteristics of the product candidate, and must finalize a process for manufacturing the product in commercial quantities in accordance with cGMP requirements. The manufacturing process must be capable of consistently producing quality batches of the product candidate and, among other things, sponsors must develop methods for testing the identity, strength, quality, and purity of the final product. Additionally, appropriate packaging must be selected and tested, and stability studies must be conducted to demonstrate that the product candidate does not undergo unacceptable deterioration over its shelf life.

BLA Submission and Review by the FDA

Assuming successful completion of all required testing in accordance with all applicable regulatory requirements, the results of product development, nonclinical studies and clinical trials are submitted to the FDA as part of a BLA requesting approval to market the product for one or more indications. The BLA must include all relevant data available from preclinical and clinical studies, including negative or ambiguous results as well as positive findings, together with detailed information relating to the product’s chemistry, manufacturing, controls, and proposed labeling, among other things. Data can come from company-sponsored clinical studies intended to test the safety and effectiveness of a use of the product, or from a number of alternative sources, including studies initiated by independent investigators. The submission of a BLA requires payment of a substantial application user fee to the FDA, unless a waiver or exemption applies.

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Within 60 days following submission of the application, the FDA reviews a BLA submitted to determine if it is substantially complete before the FDA accepts it for filing. The FDA may refuse to file any BLA that it deems incomplete or not properly reviewable at the time of submission and may request additional information. In this event, the BLA must be resubmitted with the additional information. Once a BLA has been accepted for filing, the FDA’s goal is to review standard applications within ten months after the filing date, or, if the application qualifies for priority review, six months after the FDA accepts the application for filing. In both standard and priority reviews, the review process may also be extended by FDA requests for additional information or clarification. The FDA reviews a BLA for a product candidate to determine, among other things, whether the information provided satisfies the FDA’s legal standards with respect to the safety, purity, and potency of the proposed product candidate, which may include, among other things, demonstrating that the benefits of the product candidate outweigh its known risks for the intended patient population. The FDA also reviews a BLA to determine whether the facility in which it is manufactured, processed, packed, or held meets standards designed to assure that the product candidate will continue to meet the FDA’s legal requirements. The FDA may also convene an advisory committee to provide clinical insight on application review questions. The FDA is not bound by the recommendations of an advisory committee, but it considers such recommendations carefully when making decisions.

Before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect the facility or facilities where the product is manufactured. The FDA will not approve an application unless it determines that the manufacturing processes and facilities are in compliance with cGMP and adequate to assure consistent production of the product within required specifications. For a product candidate that is also a human cellular or tissue product, the FDA also will not approve the application if the manufacturer is not in compliance with cGTPs. These are FDA regulations that govern the methods used in, and the facilities and controls used for, the manufacture of human cells, tissues, and cellular and tissue based products (HCT/Ps) which are human cells or tissue intended for implantation, transplant, infusion, or transfer into a human recipient. The primary intent of the GTP requirements is to ensure that cell and tissue based products are manufactured in a manner designed to prevent the introduction, transmission and spread of communicable disease. FDA regulations also require tissue establishments to register and list their HCT/Ps with the FDA and, when applicable, to evaluate donors through screening and testing. Additionally, before approving a BLA, the FDA will typically inspect one or more clinical sites to assure compliance with GCP.

After the FDA evaluates a BLA and conducts any inspections it deems necessary, the FDA may issue an approval letter or a Complete Response Letter (CRL). An approval letter authorizes commercial marketing of the product with specific prescribing information for specific indications. A CRL will describe all of the deficiencies that the FDA has identified in the BLA, except that where the FDA determines that the data supporting the application are inadequate to support approval, the FDA may issue the CRL without first conducting required inspections, testing submitted product lots, and/or reviewing proposed labeling. In issuing the CRL, the FDA may recommend actions that the applicant might take to place the BLA in condition for approval, including requests for additional information or clarification. The FDA may delay or refuse approval of a BLA if applicable regulatory criteria are not satisfied, require additional testing or information, and/or require post-marketing testing and surveillance to monitor safety or efficacy of a product.

If regulatory approval of a product is granted, such approval will be granted for particular indications and may entail limitations on the indicated uses for which such product may be marketed. For example, the FDA may approve the BLA with a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS), to ensure the benefits of the product outweigh its risks. A REMS is a safety strategy implemented to manage a known or potential serious risk associated with a product and to enable patients to have continued access to such medicines by managing their safe use, and could include medication guides, physician communication plans, or elements to assure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. The FDA also may condition approval on, among other things, changes to proposed labeling or the development of adequate controls and specifications. Once approved, the FDA may withdraw the product approval if compliance with pre- and post-marketing requirements is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the marketplace. The FDA may require one or more Phase 4 post-market studies and surveillance to further assess and monitor the product’s safety and effectiveness after commercialization, and may limit further marketing of the product based on the results of these post-marketing studies.

In addition, the Pediatric Research Equity Act (PREA) requires a sponsor to conduct pediatric clinical trials for most drugs for a new active ingredient, new indication, new dosage form, new dosing regimen, or new route of administration. Under PREA, original BLAs and supplements must contain a pediatric assessment unless the sponsor has received a deferral or waiver. In general, the required assessment must evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the product for the claimed indications in all relevant pediatric subpopulations and support dosing and administration for each pediatric subpopulation for which it is determined that there is substantial evidence that the product provides benefits that outweigh its known and potential risks. The sponsor or FDA may request a deferral of pediatric clinical trials for some or all of the pediatric subpopulations. A deferral may be granted for several reasons, including a finding that the drug is ready for approval for use in adults before pediatric clinical trials are complete or that additional safety or efficacy data need to be collected before the pediatric clinical trials begin. The FDA must send a non-compliance letter to any sponsor that fails to submit the required assessment, keep a deferral current, or submit a request for approval of a pediatric formulation.

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Expedited development and review programs

The FDA offers a number of expedited development and review programs for qualifying product candidates. For example, the fast track program is intended to expedite or facilitate the process for reviewing new products that are intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition and demonstrate the potential to address unmet medical needs for the disease or condition. Fast track designation applies to the combination of the product and the specific indication for which it is being studied. The sponsor of a fast track product has opportunities for more frequent interactions with the applicable FDA review team during product development and, once a BLA is submitted, the product candidate may be eligible for priority review. A fast track product may also be eligible for rolling review, where the FDA may consider for review sections of the BLA on a rolling basis before the complete application is submitted, if the sponsor provides a schedule for the submission of the sections of the BLA, the FDA agrees to accept sections of the BLA and determines that the schedule is acceptable, and the sponsor pays any required user fees upon submission of the first section of the BLA.

A product candidate intended to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition may also be eligible for breakthrough therapy designation to expedite its development and review. A product candidate can receive breakthrough therapy designation if preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the product candidate, alone or in combination with one or more other drugs or biologics, may demonstrate substantial improvement over existing therapies on one or more clinically significant endpoints, such as substantial treatment effects observed early in clinical development. The designation includes all of the fast track program features, as well as more intensive FDA interaction and guidance beginning as early as Phase 1 and an organizational commitment to expedite the development and review of the product candidate, including involvement of senior managers.

Any marketing application for a drug or biologic submitted to the FDA for approval, including a product candidate with a fast track designation and/or breakthrough therapy designation, may be eligible for other types of FDA programs intended to expedite the FDA review and approval process, such as priority review and accelerated approval. A BLA is eligible for priority review if the product candidate is designed to treat a serious or life-threatening disease or condition, and if approved, would provide a significant improvement in safety or effectiveness compared to available alternatives for such disease or condition. For original BLAs, priority review designation means the FDA’s goal is to take action on the marketing application within six months of the 60-day filing date (as compared to ten months under standard review).

Additionally, product candidates studied for their safety and effectiveness in treating serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions may receive accelerated approval upon a determination that the product has an effect on a surrogate endpoint that is reasonably likely to predict clinical benefit, or on a clinical endpoint that can be measured earlier than irreversible morbidity or mortality, that is reasonably likely to predict an effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit, taking into account the severity, rarity, or prevalence of the condition and the availability or lack of alternative treatments. As a condition of accelerated approval, the FDA will generally require the sponsor to perform adequate and well-controlled confirmatory clinical studies to verify and describe the anticipated effect on irreversible morbidity or mortality or other clinical benefit. Products receiving accelerated approval may be subject to expedited withdrawal procedures if the sponsor fails to conduct the required confirmatory studies in a timely manner or if such studies fail to verify the predicted clinical benefit. In addition, the FDA currently requires as a condition for accelerated approval pre-approval of promotional materials, which could adversely impact the timing of the commercial launch of the product.

In 2017, the FDA established the regenerative medicine advanced therapy (RMAT) designation as part of its implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act. The RMAT designation program is intended to fulfill the 21st Century Cures Act requirement that the FDA facilitate an efficient development program for, and expedite review of, any drug or biologic that meets the following criteria: (i) the drug or biologic qualifies as a RMAT, which is defined as a cell therapy, therapeutic tissue engineering product, human cell and tissue product, or any combination product using such therapies or products, with limited exceptions; (ii) the drug or biologic is intended to treat, modify, reverse, or cure a serious or life-threatening disease or condition; and (iii) preliminary clinical evidence indicates that the drug or biologic has the potential to address unmet medical needs for such a disease or condition. RMAT designation provides all the benefits of breakthrough therapy designation, including more frequent meetings with the FDA to discuss the development plan for the product candidate and eligibility for rolling review and priority review. Product candidates granted RMAT designation may also be eligible for accelerated approval on the basis of a surrogate or intermediate endpoint reasonably likely to predict long-term clinical benefit, or reliance upon data obtained from a meaningful number of clinical trial sites, including through expansion of trials to additional sites.

Fast track designation, breakthrough therapy designation, priority review, accelerated approval, and RMAT designation do not change the standards for approval but may expedite the development or approval process. Even if a product candidate qualifies for one or more of these programs, the FDA may later decide that the product no longer meets the conditions for qualification or decide that the time period for FDA review or approval will not be shortened.

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Orphan drug designation and exclusivity

Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may grant orphan designation to a drug or biologic intended to treat a rare disease or condition, defined as a disease or condition with a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or a patient population greater than 200,000 individuals in the United States and when there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing and making available the drug or biologic in the United States will be recovered from sales in the United States for that drug or biologic. Orphan drug designation must be requested before submitting a BLA. After the FDA grants orphan drug designation, the generic identity of the therapeutic agent and its potential orphan use are disclosed publicly by the FDA.

If a product that has orphan drug designation subsequently receives the first FDA approval for a particular active ingredient for the disease or condition for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to orphan drug exclusivity, which means that the FDA may not approve any other applications, including a full BLA, to market the same biologic for the same disease or condition for seven years, except in limited circumstances, such as a showing of clinical superiority to the product with orphan drug exclusivity or if the FDA finds that the holder of the orphan drug exclusivity has not shown that it can assure the availability of sufficient quantities of the orphan drug to meet the needs of patients with the disease or condition for which the drug was designated. Orphan drug exclusivity does not prevent the FDA from approving a different drug or biologic for the same disease or condition, or the same drug or biologic for a different disease or condition. Among the other benefits of orphan drug designation are tax credits for certain research and a waiver of the BLA application user fee.

A designated orphan drug may not receive orphan drug exclusivity if it is approved for a use that is broader than the disease or condition for which it received orphan designation. In addition, orphan drug exclusive marketing rights in the United States may be lost if the FDA later determines that the request for designation was materially defective or, as noted above, if a second applicant demonstrates that its product is clinically superior to the approved product with orphan exclusivity or the manufacturer of the approved product is unable to assure sufficient quantities of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition. Recently, the court in Catalyst Pharms., Inc. v. Becerra, 14 F.4th 1299 (11th Cir. 2021) (Catalyst) held that orphan drug exclusivity blocks approval of another company’s application for the same drug for the entire disease or condition for which the drug is granted orphan drug designation, regardless of whether the drug was approved only for a narrower use or indication. However, in January 2023, the FDA published a notice in the Federal Register in response to the Catalyst decision to clarify that while the agency complies with the court’s order in Catalyst, the FDA intends to continue to apply its longstanding interpretation of the regulations to matters outside of the scope of the Catalyst order – that is, the agency will continue tying the scope of orphan drug exclusivity to the uses or indications for which a drug is approved, which permits other sponsors to obtain approval of a drug for new uses or indications within the same orphan-designated disease or condition that have not yet been approved. It is unclear how future litigation, legislation, agency decisions, and administrative actions will impact the scope of the orphan drug exclusivity.

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FDA regulation of companion diagnostics

We or our collaborators may develop an in vitro diagnostic (IVD) to identify appropriate patient populations for investigation or use of our product candidates. These diagnostics, often referred to as companion diagnostics, are regulated as medical devices. In the United States, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and its implementing regulations, and other federal and state statutes and regulations govern, among other things, medical device design and development, preclinical and clinical testing, premarket clearance or approval, registration and listing, manufacturing, labeling, storage, advertising and promotion, sales and distribution, export and import, and post-market surveillance. Unless an exemption applies, diagnostic tests require marketing clearance or approval from the FDA prior to commercial distribution. The two primary types of FDA marketing authorization applicable to a medical device are premarket notification, also called 510(k) clearance (or decision to grant a De Novo classification request if there is no predicate device), and premarket approval (PMA). The FDA classifies medical devices as Class I, Class II, or Class III devices according to their level of risk, with Class III devices being those with the highest risk. This classification of medical devices affects whether the device will require 510(k) clearance or PMA prior to marketing. In January 2024, the FDA announced its plans to reclassify certain high-risk in vitro diagnostics, including companion diagnostics, as Class II devices. As such, to the extent we or our collaborators develop a companion diagnostic, it may be regulated as a Class II or Class III medical device, depending on its intended use and technical characteristics, among other factors.

If use of companion diagnostic is deemed essential to the safe and effective use of a drug product, then the FDA generally will require approval or clearance of the diagnostic contemporaneously with the approval of the therapeutic product. On August 6, 2014, the FDA issued final guidance titled "In Vitro Companion Diagnostic Devices” addressing the development and approval process for such devices. According to the guidance, for novel product candidates, a companion diagnostic device and its corresponding drug candidate should be approved or cleared contemporaneously by the FDA for the use indicated in the therapeutic product labeling. The guidance also explains that a companion diagnostic device used to make treatment decisions in clinical trials of a drug generally will be considered an investigational device unless it is employed for an intended use for which the device is already approved or cleared. If used to make critical treatment decisions, such as patient selection, the diagnostic device may be considered a significant risk device under the FDA’s Investigational Device Exemption (IDE) regulations, in which case the sponsor of the diagnostic device will be required to submit and obtain approval of an IDE application and subsequently comply with the IDE regulations. However, according to the guidance, if a diagnostic device and a drug are to be studied together to support their respective approvals, both products can be studied in the same investigational study if the study meets both the requirements of applicable IDE regulations and the IND regulations. The guidance provides that, depending on the details of the study plan and degree of risk posed to subjects, a sponsor may seek to submit an IND alone, or both an IND and an IDE.

510(k) clearance process

To obtain 510(k) clearance, a premarket notification is submitted to the FDA demonstrating that the proposed device is substantially equivalent to a previously cleared 510(k) device or a device that was in commercial distribution before May 28, 1976 for which the FDA has not yet required the submission of a PMA application. The FDA’s 510(k) clearance process may take three to 12 months from the date the application is submitted and filed with the FDA, but it may take longer if, among other reasons, the FDA requests additional information, which can significantly prolong the review process. In some cases, the FDA may require clinical data to support substantial equivalence. Notwithstanding compliance with all of the 510(k) clearance requirements, such clearance is never assured.

After a device receives 510(k) clearance, any subsequent modification of the device that could significantly affect its safety or effectiveness, or that would constitute a major change in its intended use, will require a new 510(k) clearance or require a PMA. In addition, the FDA may make substantial changes to industry requirements, including which devices are eligible for 510(k) clearance, which may significantly affect the review and approval process.

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De Novo classification process

If a new medical device does not qualify for the 510(k) premarket notification process because no predicate device to which it is substantially equivalent can be identified, the device is automatically classified into Class III. The Food and Drug Administration Modernization Act of 1997 established a different route to market for low- to moderate-risk medical devices that are automatically placed into Class III due to the absence of a predicate device called the “Request for Evaluation of Automatic Class III Designation,” or the De Novo classification process. This process allows a manufacturer whose novel device is automatically classified into Class III to request down-classification of its medical device into Class I or Class II on the basis that the device presents low or moderate risk rather than requiring the submission and approval of a PMA. If the manufacturer seeks reclassification into Class II, the manufacturer must include a draft proposal for special controls that are necessary to provide a reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of the medical device. The FDA may reject the reclassification petition if it identifies a legally marketed predicate device that would be appropriate for 510(k) premarket notification or determines that the device is not low- to moderate-risk and requires PMA or that general controls would be inadequate to control the risks and special controls cannot be developed.

PMA process

The PMA process, including the gathering of clinical and preclinical data and the submission to and review by the FDA, can take several years or longer. It involves a rigorous premarket review during which the applicant must prepare and provide the FDA with reasonable assurance of the device’s safety and effectiveness and information about the device and its components regarding, among other things, device design, manufacturing, and labeling. PMA applications are subject to an application fee. In addition, PMAs for certain devices must generally include the results from extensive preclinical and adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to establish the safety and effectiveness of the device for each indication for which FDA approval is sought. In particular, for a diagnostic, a PMA application typically requires data regarding analytical and clinical validation studies. As part of the PMA review, the FDA will typically inspect the manufacturer’s facilities for compliance with the Quality System Regulation (QSR), which imposes elaborate testing, control, documentation, and other quality assurance requirements. The FDA issued a final rule in February 2024 replacing the QSR with the Quality Management System Regulation (QMSR), which incorporates by reference the quality management system requirements of ISO 13485:2016. The FDA has stated that the standards contained in ISO 13485:2016 are substantially similar to those set forth in the existing QSR. The FDA will begin to enforce the QMSR requirements upon the QMSR effective date of February 2, 2026.

Approval of a PMA submission is not guaranteed, and the FDA may ultimately respond to a PMA submission with a not approvable determination based on deficiencies in the application and require additional clinical trial or other data that may be expensive and time-consuming to generate and that could substantially delay approval. If the FDA’s evaluation of the PMA submission is favorable, the FDA typically issues an approvable letter requiring the applicant’s agreement to specific conditions, such as changes in labeling or specific additional information, such as submission of final labeling, in order to secure final approval of the PMA. If the FDA’s evaluation of the PMA submission or manufacturing facilities is not favorable, the FDA will deny approval of the PMA submission or issue a not approvable letter. A not approvable letter will outline the deficiencies in the application and, where practical, will identify what is necessary to make the PMA approvable. The FDA may also determine that additional clinical trials are necessary, in which case approval of the PMA submission may be delayed for several months or years while the trials are conducted and then the data submitted in an amendment to the submission. If the FDA concludes that the applicable criteria have been met, the FDA will issue a PMA for the approved indications, which may be more limited than those originally sought by the applicant. The PMA can include post-approval conditions that the FDA believes necessary to ensure the safety and effectiveness of the device, including, among other things, restrictions on labeling, promotion, sale, and distribution. Once granted, a PMA may be withdrawn by the FDA if compliance with post-approval requirements, conditions of approval, or other regulatory standards are not maintained or problems are identified following initial marketing.

Obtaining FDA marketing authorization, De Novo down-classification, or approval for medical devices is expensive and uncertain, may take several years, and generally requires significant scientific and clinical data.

 

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Post-approval requirements

Biologics are subject to pervasive and continuing regulation by the FDA, including, among other things, requirements relating to record-keeping, reporting of adverse experiences, periodic reporting, product sampling and distribution, and advertising and promotion of the product. After approval, most changes to the approved product, such as adding new indications or other labeling claims, are subject to prior FDA review and approval. There also are continuing, annual program fees for any marketed products. Biologic manufacturers and their subcontractors are required to register their establishments with the FDA and certain state agencies, and are subject to periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA and certain state agencies for compliance with cGMP, which impose certain procedural and documentation requirements up. Changes to the manufacturing process are strictly regulated, and, depending on the significance of the change, may require prior FDA approval before being implemented. FDA regulations also require investigation and correction of any deviations from cGMP and impose reporting requirements. Accordingly, manufacturers must continue to expend time, money, and effort in the area of production and quality control to maintain compliance with cGMP and other aspects of regulatory compliance.

The FDA may withdraw approval if compliance with regulatory requirements and standards is not maintained or if problems occur after the product reaches the market. Later discovery of previously unknown problems with a product, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with manufacturing processes, or failure to comply with regulatory requirements, may result in revisions to the approved labeling to add new safety information; imposition of post-market studies or clinical studies to assess new safety risks; or imposition of distribution restrictions or other restrictions under a REMS program. Other potential consequences include, among other things:

restrictions on the marketing or manufacturing of the product, complete withdrawal of the product from the market or product recalls;
fines, warning letters, or untitled letters;
clinical holds on clinical studies;
refusal of the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications, or suspension or revocation of product license approvals;
product seizure or detention, or refusal to permit the import or export of products;
consent decrees, corporate integrity agreements, debarment or exclusion from federal healthcare programs;
mandated modification of promotional materials and labeling and the issuance of corrective information;
the issuance of safety alerts, Dear Healthcare Provider letters, press releases and other communications containing warnings or other safety information about the product; or
injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

The FDA closely regulates the marketing, labeling, advertising and promotion of biologics. A company can make only those claims relating to safety and efficacy, purity, and potency that are approved by the FDA and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in, among other things, adverse publicity, warning letters, corrective advertising and potential civil and criminal penalties. Physicians may prescribe legally available products for uses that are not described in the product’s labeling and that differ from those tested and approved by the FDA. Such off-label uses are common across medical specialties. Physicians may believe that such off-label uses are the best treatment for many patients in varied circumstances. The FDA does not regulate the behavior of physicians in their choice of treatments. The FDA does, however, restrict manufacturer’s communications on the subject of off-label use of their products.

Biosimilars and reference product exclusivity

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, includes a subtitle called the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act (BPCIA), which created an abbreviated approval pathway for biological products that are biosimilar to or interchangeable with an FDA-licensed reference biological product.

Biosimilarity, which requires that there be no clinically meaningful differences between the biological product and the reference product in terms of safety, purity, and potency, can be shown through analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical study or studies. Interchangeability requires that a product is biosimilar to the reference product and the product must demonstrate that it can be expected to produce the same clinical results as the reference product in any given patient and, for products that are administered multiple times to an individual, the biologic and the reference biologic may be alternated or switched after one has been previously administered without increasing safety risks or risks of diminished efficacy relative to exclusive use of the reference biologic.

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Under the BPCIA, an application for a biosimilar product may not be submitted to the FDA until four years following the date that the reference product was first licensed by the FDA. In addition, the approval of a biosimilar product may not be made effective by the FDA until 12 years from the date on which the reference product was first licensed. During this 12-year period of exclusivity, another company may still market a competing version of the reference product if the FDA approves a full BLA for the competing product containing that applicant’s own preclinical data and data from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials to demonstrate that the product meets the FDA’s legal standards with respect to safety, purity, and potency, which may include, among other things, demonstrating that the benefits of the product outweigh its known risks. The BPCIA also created certain exclusivity periods for biosimilars approved as interchangeable products. At this juncture, it is unclear whether products deemed “interchangeable” by the FDA will, in fact, be readily substituted by pharmacies, which are governed by state pharmacy law.

A biological product can also obtain pediatric market exclusivity in the United States. Pediatric exclusivity, if granted, adds six months to existing exclusivity periods and patent terms. This six-month exclusivity, which runs from the end of other exclusivity protection or patent term, may be granted based on the voluntary completion of a pediatric study in accordance with an FDA-issued “Written Request” for such a study. The BPCIA is complex and continues to be interpreted and implemented by the FDA. In addition, government proposals have sought to reduce the 12-year reference product exclusivity period. Other aspects of the BPCIA, some of which may impact the BPCIA exclusivity provisions, have also been the subject of recent litigation. As a result, the ultimate impact, implementation, and impact of the BPCIA is subject to significant uncertainty.

Other Healthcare Laws

Pharmaceutical companies are subject to additional healthcare regulation and enforcement by the federal government and by authorities in the states and foreign jurisdictions in which they conduct their business, which may constrain the financial arrangements and relationships through which we conduct research, as well as sell, market and distribute any products for which we obtain marketing approval. Such laws include, without limitation, federal and state anti-kickback, fraud and abuse, false claims, data privacy and security and physician and other health care provider transparency laws and regulations. If our significant operations are found to be in violation of any of such laws or any other governmental regulations that apply, they may be subject to penalties, including, without limitation, administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, the curtailment or restructuring of operations, integrity oversight and reporting obligations, exclusion from participation in federal and state healthcare programs and imprisonment.

Coverage and Reimbursement

Sales of any product depend, in part, on the extent to which such product will be covered by third-party payors, such as federal, state, and foreign government healthcare programs, commercial insurance and managed healthcare organizations, and the level of reimbursement for such product by third-party payors. Decisions regarding the extent of coverage and amount of reimbursement to be provided are made on a plan-by-plan basis. These third-party payors are increasingly reducing reimbursements for medical products, drugs, and services. In addition, the U.S. government, state legislatures, and foreign governments have continued implementing cost-containment programs, including price controls, restrictions on coverage and reimbursement and requirements for substitution of generic products. Adoption of price controls and cost-containment measures, and adoption of more restrictive policies in jurisdictions with existing controls and measures, could further limit sales of any product. Decreases in third-party reimbursement for any product or a decision by a third-party payor not to cover a product could reduce physician usage and patient demand for the product and also have a material adverse effect on sales.

Healthcare Reform

The United States government and other governments have shown significant interest in pursuing health care reform. Any government-adopted reform measures could adversely impact the pricing of health care products and services in the United States or internationally and the amount of reimbursement available from governmental agencies or other third-party payors. For example, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the ACA) which was enacted in the United States in 2010, substantially changed the way healthcare is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly affected the pharmaceutical industry. The ACA contains a number of provisions, including those governing enrollment in federal healthcare programs, reimbursement adjustments and changes to fraud and abuse laws. For example, the ACA:

increased the minimum level of Medicaid rebates payable by manufacturers of brand name drugs from 15.1% to 23.1% of the average manufacturer price;
expanded the manufacturer Medicaid rebate obligation to drugs paid by Medicaid managed care organizations;

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required manufacturers to participate in a coverage gap discount program, under which they must agree to offer 70 percent point-of-sale discounts off negotiated prices of applicable brand drugs to eligible beneficiaries during their coverage gap period, as a condition for the manufacturer’s outpatient drugs to be covered under Medicare Part D; and
imposed a non-deductible annual fee on pharmaceutical manufacturers or importers who sell “branded prescription drugs” to specified federal government programs.

Since its enactment, there have been judicial, executive, and Congressional challenges to certain aspects of the ACA. On June 17, 2021, the United States Supreme Court dismissed the most recent judicial challenge to the ACA without specifically ruling on the constitutionality of the ACA. Thus, the ACA will remain in force in its current form. Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted, including reductions of Medicare payments to providers through 2032. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 eliminated the statutory Medicaid drug rebate cap. Elimination of this cap may require pharmaceutical manufacturers to pay more in rebates than they receive from the sale of products, which could have a material impact on our business.

 

Most significantly, on August 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA) into law. This statute marks the most significant action by Congress with respect to the pharmaceutical industry since adoption of the ACA in 2010. Among other things, the IRA requires, beginning in 2026, that manufacturers of certain drugs to engage in price negotiations with Medicare, with prices that can be negotiated subject to a cap; imposes rebates, first due in 2023, under Medicare Part B and Medicare Part D to penalize price increases that outpace inflation; and, beginning in 2025, replaces the Part D coverage gap discount program with a new discounting program. The IRA permits the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to implement many of these provisions through guidance, as opposed to regulation, for the initial years. Various industry stakeholders, including certain pharmaceutical companies and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, have initiated lawsuits against the federal government asserting that the price negotiation provisions of the IRA are unconstitutional. The impact of these judicial challenges and any future healthcare measures and agency rules implemented by the government on us and the pharmaceutical industry as a whole is unclear. The implementation of cost containment measures or other healthcare reforms may prevent us from being able to generate revenue, attain profitability, or commercialize our product candidates, if approved.

Moreover, there has been recent heightened governmental scrutiny over the manner in which manufacturers set prices for their marketed products, which is likely to continue. Individual states in the United States have also become increasingly active in implementing regulations designed to control pharmaceutical 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. For example, the FDA recently authorized the state of Florida to import certain prescription drugs from Canada for a period of two years to help reduce drug costs, provided that Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration meets the requirements set forth by the FDA. Other states may follow Florida. We expect that additional state and federal healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our product candidates, if approved, or additional pricing pressures.

 

Similar political, economic, and regulatory developments are occurring in the European Union (EU) and may affect the ability of pharmaceutical companies to profitably commercialize their products. In addition to continuing pressure on prices and cost containment measures, legislative developments at the EU or member state level may result in significant additional requirements or obstacles. The delivery of healthcare in the EU, including the establishment and operation of health services and the pricing and reimbursement of medicines, is almost exclusively a matter for national, rather than EU, law and policy. National governments and health service providers have different priorities and approaches to the delivery of healthcare and the pricing and reimbursement of products in that context. In general, however, the healthcare budgetary constraints in most EU member states have resulted in restrictions on the pricing and reimbursement of medicines by relevant health service providers. Coupled with ever-increasing EU and national regulatory burdens on those wishing to develop and market products, this could restrict or regulate post-approval activities and affect the ability of pharmaceutical companies to commercialize their products. In international markets, reimbursement and healthcare payment systems vary significantly by country, and many countries have instituted price ceilings on specific products and therapies.

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On December 13, 2021, Regulation 2021/2282 on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) amending Directive 2011/24/EU (the Regulation), was adopted. Although the Regulation entered into force in January 2022, it will only begin to apply from January 2025 onward, with preparatory and implementation-related steps to take place in the interim. Once the Regulation becomes applicable, it will have a phased implementation depending on the concerned products. The Regulation intends to boost cooperation among EU member states in assessing health technologies, including new medicinal products, and providing the basis for cooperation at the EU level for joint clinical assessments in these areas. The Regulation will permit EU member states to use common HTA tools, methodologies, and procedures across the EU, working together in four main areas, including joint clinical assessment of the innovative health technologies with the most potential impact for patients, joint scientific consultations whereby developers can seek advice from HTA authorities, identification of emerging health technologies to identify promising technologies early, and continuing voluntary cooperation in other areas. Individual EU member states will continue to be responsible for assessing non-clinical (e.g., economic, social, and ethical) aspects of health technology, and making decisions on pricing and reimbursement.

We expect that additional state, federal, and foreign healthcare reform measures will be adopted in the future, any of which could limit the amounts that federal and state governments will pay for healthcare products and services, which could result in reduced demand for our product candidates once approved or additional pricing pressures.

Employees and Human Capital Resources

As of December 31, 2023, we had 328 employees, 251 of whom were primarily engaged in research and development activities. A total of 179 employees have an advanced degree. None of our employees are represented by a labor union or party to a collective bargaining agreement. We consider our relationship with our employees to be good.

Our human capital resources objectives include, as applicable, identifying, recruiting, retaining, incentivizing, and integrating our existing and additional employees. The principal purposes of our equity incentive plans are to attract, retain, and motivate selected employees, consultants, and directors through the granting of stock-based compensation awards and, with respect to our employees, cash-based performance bonus awards.

In October 2023, we announced a strategic repositioning to increase our focus on our ex vivo cell therapy product candidates. As a result, we reduced our near-term investment in our fusogen platform for in vivo gene delivery, including by delaying the investigational new drug application submission for our SG299 program and reducing our workforce by approximately 29%.

Our Corporate Information

We were founded in July 2018 as a Delaware corporation. Our principal executive offices are located at 188 East Blaine Street, Suite 400, Seattle, Washington 98102, and our telephone number is (206) 701-7914. Our website address is www.sana.com. The information on, or that can be accessed through, our website is not part of this Annual Report, and is not incorporated by reference herein. We have included our website address as an inactive textual reference only. We may use our website as a means of disclosing material non-public information and for complying with our disclosure obligations under Regulation Fair Disclosure promulgated by the SEC. These disclosures will be included on our website under the “Investors” section.

 

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Item 1A. Risk Factors.

Investing in shares of our common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the following risks and uncertainties, together with all of the other information contained in this Annual Report, including our financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report, before making an investment decision. The risks described below are not the only ones we face. Many of the following risks and uncertainties are, and will continue to be, exacerbated by any worsening of the global geo-political, business, and economic environment. The occurrence of any of the following risks, or of additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently believe to be immaterial, could materially and adversely affect our business, financial condition, reputation, or results of operations. In such a case, the trading price of shares of our common stock could decline, and you may lose all or part of your investment.

Risks Related to Our Business and Industry

Our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms are based on novel technologies that are unproven and may not result in approvable or marketable products. This uncertainty exposes us to unforeseen risks, makes it difficult for us to predict the time and cost that will be required for the development and potential regulatory approval of our product candidates, and increases the risk that we may ultimately not be successful in our efforts to use and expand our technology platforms to build a pipeline of product candidates.

A key element of our strategy is to identify and develop a broad pipeline of product candidates using our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms and advance those product candidates through clinical development for the treatment of various different diseases. The scientific research that forms the basis of our efforts to develop product candidates with our platforms is still ongoing. We are not aware of any FDA-approved therapeutics that are cell products derived from pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) or that utilize our fusogen technology. Further, the scientific evidence that supports the feasibility of developing therapeutic treatments based on our platforms is preliminary, limited, and remains ongoing. We are therefore exposed to a number of unforeseen risks, and it is difficult to predict the types of challenges and risks that we may encounter during development of our product candidates.

Preclinical and clinical testing of product candidates is inherently unpredictable and may lead to unexpected results, in particular when such product candidates are based on novel technologies. For example, we have not tested our cell engineering platforms on all pluripotent and differentiated cell types or in all microenvironments, and results from one cell type or microenvironment may not translate into other cell types or microenvironments. In addition, our current gene editing approaches rely on novel gene editing reagents that may have unanticipated or undesirable effects or prove to be less effective than we expect. Also, we are in the early stages of testing product candidates developed using our cell engineering platforms in humans, and most of our current data are limited to animal models and preclinical cell lines and assays, which may not accurately predict the safety and efficacy of our product candidates in humans. Additionally, we and third parties may have limited preclinical and clinical data, and a more limited understanding generally, with respect to certain indications, including autoimmune diseases, and we cannot predict the extent to which the safety and efficacy of a product candidate may vary across indications. We may encounter significant challenges creating appropriate models and assays for evaluating the safety and purity of our product candidates and may not be able to provide sufficient data or other evidence, to the satisfaction of regulatory authorities, that certain unexpected results observed in preclinical and clinical testing of our product candidates are not indicative of the potential safety issues of such product candidates. In addition, we may use manufacturing reagents and materials across various programs and initiatives. Certain reagents and materials may be novel and have unknown or unanticipated effects, including with respect to a product candidate’s safety, efficacy, or manufacturability. Any unanticipated or adverse effects related or attributed to such reagents or materials could affect all the programs and initiatives in which they are used, and result in delays and harm our ability to timely and successfully progress our product candidates through preclinical and clinical development.

We may develop program plans and timelines for certain product candidates based on our experience with such product candidates in different indications or with other product candidates that incorporate or were developed with the same technologies based on our expectation that such product candidates will perform and act similarly. However, our product candidates may reveal unexpected, important differences, including with respect to safety or efficacy, when developed in different indications or as compared to such other product candidates, including differences that may require changes to the manufacturing process or clinical development plan that require additional time and resources beyond what we initially anticipated. Any such occurrence could require us to adjust or alter our development plans, which could delay, harm, or prevent our ability to develop and commercialize such product candidates.

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In addition, product candidates developed with our hypoimmune and fusogen technologies have potential safety risks, including those related to genotoxicity associated with the delivery of genome-modifying payloads. For example, DNA sequences that randomly integrate into a cell’s DNA may increase the risk for or cause certain cancers. Additionally, gene editing approaches may edit the genome at sites other than the intended DNA target or cause DNA rearrangements, each of which may have oncogenic or other adverse effects. PSC-derived cell products may have potential safety risks related to genomic and epigenomic variations that have occurred or may occur during the manufacturing process. We cannot always predict the types and potential impact of these genomic changes, including whether certain changes are or may eventually be harmful. Accordingly, it may be difficult for us to conduct the level of testing and assay development necessary to ensure that our PSC-derived cell product candidates have an acceptable safety profile when used in humans. These risks related to genetic variation are also relevant to our product candidates created from donor-derived cells. Additionally, our stem cell-based product candidates have potential safety risks that may result from cells that are undifferentiated or have not been completely differentiated to the desired phenotype and lead to oncogenic transformations or other adverse effects. As a result, it is possible that safety events or concerns could negatively affect the development of our product candidates, as described elsewhere in these Risk Factors.

Given the novelty of our technologies, we intend to work closely with the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities to perform the requisite scientific analyses and evaluation of our methods to obtain regulatory approval for our product candidates. However, due to a lack of experience with similar therapeutics or delivery methods, the regulatory pathway with the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities may be more complex, time-consuming, and unpredictable relative to more well-known therapeutics.

For example, even if we obtain human data to support continued evaluation and approval of our product candidates, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may lack experience in evaluating the safety and efficacy of therapeutics similar to our product candidates or may scrutinize such data more closely than data generated from more established types of biological products. In addition, given that there are no approved PSC- or donor-derived cell therapy products on the market, the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities have not established consistent standards by which to evaluate the safety of such products, and any such standards that they do establish may subsequently change. Moreover, the FDA remains focused on potential safety issues associated with gene and cell therapy products, and as the number of new gene and cell therapy product candidates submitted for FDA review has increased in recent years, the number of clinical holds imposed by the FDA has also increased. For example, the FDA has placed clinical holds on certain product candidates pending further evaluation of genomic abnormalities detected in as few as a single patient following administration of such product candidates. We cannot be certain that the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities will determine that the potential safety risks associated with our product candidates outweigh the potential therapeutic benefits in each indication for which we develop our products, and that they will allow us to commence clinical trials of such product candidates in a timely manner, or at all, or to continue such clinical trials once they have commenced. If we become subject to a clinical hold with respect to any of our product candidates due to a potential safety issue, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide the applicable regulatory authority with sufficient data or other evidence regarding the safety profile of such product candidate such that we will be able to commence or resume clinical development of such product candidates in a timely manner or at all. Any such event could delay clinical development of such product candidate, including in other indications, or our other product candidates, increase our expected development costs, increase the length of the regulatory review process, and delay or prevent commercialization of our product candidates. In addition, the evaluation process for our product candidates will take time and resources and may require independent third-party analyses, and our product candidates may ultimately not be accepted or approved by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. As such, even if we are successful in building our pipeline of product candidates from our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms, we cannot be certain that such efforts will lead to the development of approvable or marketable products, either alone or in combination with other therapies.

In response to reports of T cell malignancies in patients that previously received chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell immunotherapies, the FDA announced in November 2023 that it is investigating the risk of secondary cancers and the need for regulatory action for such therapies as a class and has advised of new patient monitoring and reporting requirements with respect to such therapies. In January 2024, the FDA imposed a class-wide boxed warning requirement regarding the occurrence of T cell malignancies for all approved CAR T therapies. The FDA has noted that it currently believes that the overall benefits of these therapies continue to outweigh their potential risks for their approved uses. However, all currently approved CAR T cell immunotherapies are approved only in oncology indications, and there can be no assurance that the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities will reach the same risk-benefit determination in other indications, such as autoimmune diseases. We have received and may in the future receive FDA correspondence requesting updates to certain of our CAR T cell clinical trials to address these developments. Additionally, we and our product candidates may be subject to further regulatory actions or requirements of the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities relating to these therapies, such as requiring a black box warning or other labeling disclosures for any approved products. The occurrence of any of the foregoing could increase the cost and complexity of development and commercialization of, and limit the commercial opportunity for, such product candidates, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

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If we are unable to successfully identify, develop, and commercialize any product candidates, or experience significant delays in doing so, our business, financial condition, and results of operations will be materially adversely affected.

Our ability to generate revenue from sales of any of our product candidates, which we do not expect to occur for at least the next several years, if ever, will depend heavily on the timely and successful identification, development, regulatory approval, and eventual commercialization of any such product candidates, which may never occur. To date, we have not generated revenue from sales of any products, and we may never be able to develop, obtain regulatory approval for, or commercialize a marketable product. Before we generate any revenue from product sales of any of our current or potential future product candidates, we will need to manage preclinical, clinical, and manufacturing activities, including undertaking significant clinical development, obtain regulatory approval in multiple jurisdictions, establish manufacturing supply, including commercial manufacturing supply, and build a commercial organization, which will require substantial investment and significant marketing efforts. We may never receive regulatory approval for any of our product candidates, which would prevent us from marketing, promoting, or selling any of our product candidates and generating revenue.

The successful development of our product candidates will depend on or be affected by numerous factors, including the following:

our successful and timely completion of preclinical studies and clinical trials for which the FDA and any comparable foreign regulatory authorities agree with the design, endpoints, and implementation;
the sufficiency of our financial and other resources to complete the necessary preclinical studies and clinical trials;
the timely receipt of regulatory approvals or authorizations to conduct clinical trials;
our ability to timely and successfully initiate, enroll patients in, and complete clinical trials;
our ability to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the FDA or any comparable foreign regulatory authority that the applicable product candidate meets the FDA’s or such comparable foreign regulatory authority’s legal standards with respect to safety, purity, and potency, or efficacy, which may include, among other things, demonstrating that the benefits of the product candidate outweigh its known risks for the intended patient population, and that such product candidate can be manufactured in accordance with applicable legal requirements;
the timely receipt of marketing approvals for our product candidates from applicable regulatory authorities, including the impact of any changes to the FDA’s Accelerated Approval Program;
our ability to address any potential interruptions or delays resulting from external factors, including those related to the current global geo-political, business, and economic environment;
the extent of any clinical or regulatory setbacks experienced by other companies developing similar products or within adjacent fields, including autologous and allogeneic cell-based therapies and the fields of gene editing and gene therapy, which could negatively impact the perceptions of the value and risk of our product candidates and technologies;
the extent of any post-marketing approval commitments we may be required to make to applicable regulatory authorities, including the conduct of any post-marketing approval clinical studies, and our ability to comply with any such commitments; and
our ability to establish, scale up, and scale out, either alone or with CDMOs, manufacturing capabilities for clinical supply of our product candidates for our clinical trials and, if any of our product candidates are approved, commercial supply (including licensure) of such product candidates.

If we experience issues or delays with respect to any one or more of these factors, we could experience significant delays or be unable to successfully develop and commercialize our product candidates, which would materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, and results of operations.

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We may not realize the benefits of technologies that we have acquired or in-licensed or will acquire or in-license in the future.

A key component of our strategy is to acquire and in-license technologies to support our mission of using engineered cells as medicines. Our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering technologies represent an aggregation of years of innovation and technology from multiple academic institutions and companies, including hypoimmune technology that we licensed from the President and Fellows of Harvard College (Harvard) and The Regents of the University of California (UCSF), our ex vivo cell engineering program focused on certain brain disorders that we acquired from Oscine Corp., our fusogen technology that we acquired from Cobalt Biomedicine, Inc. (Cobalt), and gene editing technology that we licensed from Beam Therapeutics Inc., among others. We continue to actively evaluate various acquisition and licensing opportunities on an ongoing basis.

The level of success of these acquisition and in-licensing arrangements, including any that we may enter into in the future, will depend on the risks and uncertainties involved, including:

unanticipated liabilities related to acquired companies;
difficulty integrating acquired personnel, technologies, and operations into our existing business;
difficulty retaining key employees, including of any acquired businesses;
diversion of management time and focus from operating our business to management of acquisition and integration efforts;
increases in our expenses and reductions in our cash available for operations and other uses;
higher than expected acquisition or integration costs;
disruption in our relationships with collaborators, key suppliers, manufacturers, or customers as a result of an acquisition;
incurrence of substantial debt or dilutive issuances of equity securities to pay transaction consideration or costs;
possible write-offs of assets, goodwill or impairment charges, or increased amortization expenses relating to acquired businesses;
difficulty in and cost of combining the operations and personnel of any acquired business with our own; and
challenges integrating acquired businesses into our business, including our existing operations and culture.

For example, in October 2023, we underwent a strategic repositioning pursuant to which we updated our portfolio to increase our focus on our ex vivo cell therapy product candidates and reduce our near-term investment in our fusogen platform. As part of this reduction, we shifted our focus on fusogen to research activities. We expect to encounter increased costs and difficulties if and when we expand preclinical development and initiate clinical development for product candidates derived from our fusogen platform, including those related to scaling up and driving forward clinical development and manufacturing activities. As a result, there is increased risk that the benefits we expected from the fusogen platform at the time of the Cobalt acquisition may be more expensive and difficult to obtain or may not occur at all.

In addition, foreign acquisitions are subject to additional risks, including those related to integration of operations across different cultures and languages, currency risks, potentially adverse tax consequences of overseas operations, and the particular economic, political, and regulatory risks associated with specific countries. The occurrence of any of these risks or uncertainties may preclude us from realizing the anticipated benefit of any acquisition, and our financial condition may be harmed.

Additionally, we may not be successful in our efforts to acquire or obtain rights to certain technologies or products that are necessary for the success of our product candidates or technologies on acceptable terms or at all, including because we may be unable to successfully or timely negotiate the terms of an agreement with the third-party owner of such technology or products or such third party may have determined to deprioritize such technology or products. Such transactions, as well as other strategic relationships we may enter into, may also be impacted by policies of or actions by certain regulatory authorities, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), that have jurisdiction over various aspects of such transactions and relationships. If we are not able to acquire or obtain rights to certain technologies or products on which certain of our product candidates or technologies may depend, it may be necessary for us to delay, reduce, or curtail the development of such product candidates or technologies, or incur additional costs in order to continue development without such rights.

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We may fail to enter into new strategic relationships or may not realize the benefits of any strategic relationships that we have entered into, either of which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, commercialization prospects, and results of operations.

Our product development programs and the potential commercialization of our product candidates will require substantial additional cash to fund expenses. In addition, our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering platforms are attractive technologies for potential collaborations due to their breadth of application. Therefore, for certain of our product candidates, including product candidates that we may develop in the future, we may decide to form or seek strategic alliances, collaborations, or similar arrangements with pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies that we believe will complement or augment our development and potential commercialization efforts with respect to such product candidates, including in territories outside the United States or for certain indications. We may also pursue joint ventures or investments in complementary businesses that align with our strategy. To the extent we enter into strategic relationships involving companies located outside the United States, we are subject to similar risks to those described elsewhere in these Risk Factors with respect to foreign acquisitions.

We face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators. Collaborations are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. We may not be successful in our efforts to establish a collaboration or other alternative arrangements for our product candidates on acceptable terms or at all, including because our product candidates may be deemed to be at too early of a stage of development for collaborative effort or third parties may not view our product candidates as having the requisite potential to demonstrate success in clinical trials and ultimately obtain regulatory approval. Additionally, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have reduced the number of potential future collaborators and changed the strategies of the resulting combined companies. In addition, under the terms of certain license agreements applicable to our product candidates, we may be restricted from entering into collaboration or similar agreements relating to those product candidates on certain terms or at all. If and when we collaborate with a third party for development and commercialization of a product candidate, we expect that we may have to relinquish some or all of the control over the future success of that product candidate to the third party. Our ability to reach a definitive agreement for a collaboration will depend, among other things, upon our assessment of the collaborator’s resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed collaboration, and the proposed collaborator’s evaluation of our technologies, product candidates, and market opportunities. The collaborator may also consider alternative product candidates or technologies for similar indications that may be available for collaboration and could determine that such other collaboration is more attractive than a collaboration with us for our product candidate. Similar risks exist with respect to any joint ventures we may pursue, as well as risks and uncertainties related to the costs, time, and other resources required to manage and gain the benefit of any such joint venture, and any potential liabilities we may incur in connection with a joint venture.

In instances where we enter into collaborations, we could be subject to the following risks, each of which may materially harm our business, commercialization prospects, and financial condition:

collaborators may have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply to a collaboration and may not commit sufficient efforts, funding, and other resources to the development or marketing programs for collaboration product candidates or may misapply those efforts, funding, or resources;
collaborators may experience financial difficulties, including those that could negatively impact their ability to perform their obligations pursuant to the collaboration agreement, such as funding and development obligations;
collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of collaboration product candidates or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs based on clinical trial results or changes in their strategic focus;
collaborators may decide or may be required by regulatory authorities to delay clinical trials, stop a clinical trial or abandon a product candidate, repeat or conduct new clinical trials, or require a new formulation of a product candidate for clinical testing;
we may be required to relinquish important rights to our product candidates, such as marketing, distribution, and intellectual property rights;
we may be required to agree to exclusivity, non-competition, or other terms that restrict our ability to research, develop, or commercialize certain existing or potential future product candidates, including our ability to develop our product candidates in certain indications or geographic regions or combine our product candidates with certain third-party products;
collaborators may not properly maintain or defend our intellectual property rights or may use our proprietary information in a way that gives rise to actual or threatened litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our intellectual property rights or proprietary information or expose us to potential liability;
collaborators may infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;

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collaborators may acquire outside of the collaboration or develop, independently or in collaboration with third parties, including our competitors, products that compete directly or indirectly with our product candidates and may decide to advance such product candidates instead of ours;
collaborators may own or co-own intellectual property rights covering the product candidates that result from our collaboration, and in such cases, we may not have the exclusive right to commercialize such product candidates;
we and our collaborators may disagree regarding the development plan for a collaboration product candidate, including, for example, with respect to target indications, inclusion or exclusion criteria for a clinical trial, or the decision to seek approval as front-line therapy versus second-, third-, or fourth-line therapy;
disputes may arise with our collaborators that could result in the delay or termination of the research, development, or commercialization of the applicable product candidates or costly litigation or arbitration that diverts management attention and resources;
business combinations or significant changes in a collaborator’s business strategy may adversely affect our or the collaborator’s willingness to complete our or such collaborator’s obligations under the collaboration;
collaborations may be terminated, which may require us to obtain additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates; or
we may not achieve the revenue, specific net income, or other anticipated benefits that justify our having entered into, or otherwise led us to enter into, the collaboration.

If our strategic collaborations do not result in the successful development and commercialization of product candidates, or if one of our collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may not receive any future research funding or milestone or royalty payments under the collaboration. Moreover, our initial estimates of the potential revenue we are eligible to receive under our strategic collaborations may include potential payments related to therapeutic programs for which our collaborators may discontinue development. If we are unable to enter into strategic collaborations, or if any of the other events described in this Risk Factor occur after we enter into a collaboration, we may have to curtail the development of a particular product candidate, reduce or delay the development program for such product candidate or one or more of our other product candidates, delay its potential commercialization or reduce the scope of our sales or marketing activities, or increase our expenditures and undertake development or commercialization activities at our own expense. If we elect to increase our expenditures to fund development or commercialization activities on our own, we may need to obtain additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms or at all. If we do not have sufficient funds, we will not be able to bring our product candidates to market and generate product revenue.

Our ability to develop our cell engineering platforms and product candidates and our future growth depend on retaining our key personnel and recruiting additional qualified personnel.

Our success depends upon the continued contributions of our key management, scientific, and technical personnel, many of whom have been instrumental for us and have substantial experience with our cell engineering platforms and their underlying technologies and related product candidates. Given the specialized nature of our ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering technologies and the fact that we are operating in novel and emerging fields, there is an inherent scarcity of personnel with the requisite experience to fill the roles across our organization. As we continue developing our product candidates and building our pipeline, we will require personnel with medical, scientific, or technical qualifications and expertise specific to each program. The loss of key management and senior scientists or other personnel could delay our research and development activities. In addition, the loss of key executives could disrupt our operations and our ability to conduct our business. Despite our efforts to retain valuable employees, all of our employees are at-will employees, and members of our management, scientific, and development teams may terminate their employment with us at any time, with or without notice. Moreover, regulations or legislation impacting our workforce, such as the proposed rule published by the FTC that would, if issued, generally prohibit employers from imposing non-compete obligations on their employees and require employers to rescind existing non-compete obligations, may lead to increased uncertainty in hiring and competition for talent, and harm our ability to protect our company, including our intellectual property, after termination of employment. If our retention efforts are unsuccessful now or in the future, it may be difficult for us to implement our business strategy, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

Further, certain of our key employees, including Drs. Terry Fry and Steve Goldman, retain partial employment at academic institutions. We may in the future have other employees that have similar employment arrangements. These arrangements expose us to the risk that these individuals may return to their academic positions full-time, devote less of their time or attention to us than is optimal, or potentially expose us to claims of intellectual property ownership or co-ownership by their respective academic institutions.

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The competition for qualified personnel in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries is intense, and our future success depends upon our ability to attract, retain, and motivate highly skilled employees, including executives, scientists, engineers, clinical operations and manufacturing personnel, and sales professionals. We expect that we may continue to face competition for personnel from other companies, universities, public and private research institutions, and other organizations. We have from time to time experienced, and we expect to continue to experience, difficulty in hiring and retaining qualified employees on acceptable terms, or at all. Many of the companies with which we compete for experienced personnel may have greater resources than we do and may be able to provide prospective job candidates or our existing employees with more attractive roles, salaries, or benefits than we can provide. If we hire employees from competitors or other companies, their former employers may attempt to assert that these employees or we have breached legal obligations, including non-solicitation or non-compete obligations, which may result in a diversion of our time and resources and, potentially, damages. In addition, job candidates and existing employees often consider the value of the stock awards they receive in connection with their employment. If the perceived benefits of our stock awards decline or are otherwise viewed unfavorably compared to those of companies with which we compete for talent, or if we or our prospects are otherwise viewed unfavorably, this could negatively impact our ability to recruit, motivate, and retain highly skilled employees.

As part of our November 2022 and October 2023 restructurings, we reduced our then-current headcount by approximately 15% and 29%, respectively. Reductions in our workforce may result in reduced employee morale and negative publicity, which may damage our reputation and make it more difficult for us to retain and motivate our current personnel as well as attract new personnel. These workforce reductions have also caused us to lose institutional knowledge, capabilities, and subject matter expertise and could negatively affect our efforts to obtain and maintain our intellectual property rights in the event we are unable to identify inventions made or identify or recreate the necessary scientific records or data. Any of the foregoing could significantly harm our business and future growth prospects.

Though many of our personnel have significant experience with respect to manufacturing biopharmaceutical products, we, as a company, do not have experience in developing or maintaining a manufacturing facility. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to maintain a compliant facility and manufacture our product candidates as intended, given the complexity of manufacturing novel therapeutics. If we fail to successfully operate our facility and manufacture a sufficient and compliant supply of our product candidates, our clinical trials and the commercial viability of our product candidates could be adversely affected.

The manufacture of biopharmaceutical products is complex and requires significant expertise, including the development of advanced manufacturing techniques and process controls. Manufacturers of gene and cell therapy products often encounter difficulties in production, particularly in scaling up, scaling out, validating initial production, ensuring the absence of contamination, and ensuring process robustness after initial production. These include difficulties with production costs and yields, quality control, including stability of the product, quality assurance testing, operator error, and shortages of qualified personnel, as well as compliance with strictly enforced federal, state, and foreign regulations. As a result of the complexities involved in biopharmaceutical manufacturing, the cost to manufacture biologics is generally higher than traditional small molecule chemical compounds and the manufacturing process is less reliable and more difficult to reproduce, and this is particularly true with respect to our product candidates. The application of new regulatory guidelines or parameters, such as those related to control strategy testing, may also adversely affect our ability to manufacture our product candidates in a compliant and cost-effective manner or at all.

We continue to invest in building world class capabilities in key areas of manufacturing sciences and operations, including development of our cell engineering platforms, product characterization, and process analytics. Our investments also include scaled research solutions, scaled infrastructure, and novel technologies to improve efficiency, characterization, and scalability of manufacturing, including establishing our internal manufacturing capabilities. However, we have limited experience in managing the manufacturing processes necessary for making cell and gene therapies. We cannot be sure that the manufacturing processes that we use, or the technologies that we incorporate into these processes, will result in viable or scalable yields of ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering product candidates that will have acceptable safety, purity, and potency, or efficacy, profiles and meet market demand.

A key part of our strategy is operating our own manufacturing capabilities, including our own manufacturing facilities. In June 2022, we entered into a long-term lease to establish and develop our own current good manufacturing practices (cGMP) manufacturing facility in Bothell, Washington (the Bothell facility). In addition, in January 2022, we entered into an agreement with the University of Rochester, pursuant to which we have obtained access to manufacturing capabilities within University of Rochester Medical Center’s (URMC) cell-based manufacturing facility (the URMC site) to support manufacturing of product candidates across our portfolio for early-stage clinical trials.

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Designing and building out the Bothell facility and the URMC site are time-consuming and require significant resources, including a reallocation of certain of our existing financial, human, and other resources, including the time and attention of our senior management. In addition, given the volatility in the costs of building materials, as well as the impact of rising rates of inflation in recent years and which may occur in the future, building out our manufacturing capabilities may be more expensive than we expect. We do not have experience as a company in developing internal manufacturing capabilities, and we may experience unexpected costs or delays or be unsuccessful in developing our internal manufacturing capabilities in time to support registration-enabling clinical trials of our product candidates or at all. In order to build out the Bothell facility and the URMC site, we will need to continue to engage third-party service providers and obtain equipment and third-party technology necessary to manufacture our product candidates. However, we may not be able to negotiate agreements with third parties or access necessary technologies on commercially reasonable terms or at all. Moreover, there is no guarantee that the space that we are leasing to develop the Bothell facility will not change ownership over the term of the lease or be subject to additional zoning or other restrictions, and that, in such an event, we will be able to continue to build or operate the facility without restriction or further delay or cost.

In addition, operating the Bothell facility and the URMC site will require us to continue to hire and retain experienced scientific, quality control, quality assurance, and manufacturing personnel. As described elsewhere in these Risk Factors, this may be difficult given the intense competition for qualified personnel in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. In addition, though we plan to design and build out our manufacturing capacities at the URMC site, we do not control URMC’s cell-based manufacturing facility, nor do we have control over how URMC manages and operates this facility. If URMC does not maintain its cell-based manufacturing facility in accordance with our requirements, we may not be able to manufacture our product candidates in a timely manner or at all, which may delay our ability to commence clinical trials for, obtain regulatory approval for, and commercialize our product candidates.

We currently rely, and expect we will continue to rely, on CDMOs to manufacture our product candidates for preclinical studies and clinical trials. Moreover, it may take us longer to establish and operationalize our Bothell facility than we originally anticipated, which may delay our ability to begin manufacturing certain of our product candidates internally and extend the period of time during which we must solely rely on CDMOs for the manufacture of such product candidates. For example, we may rely on our CDMOs for the potential registration and commercial launch of our first product candidate under our current clinical development timelines, and if there are any delays in our ability to establish and operationalize the Bothell facility, we may be required to rely more heavily on our CDMOs for the potential registrations and commercial launches of additional product candidates as well.

Once we have completed the build-out of the Bothell facility and the URMC site, we may be required to transition manufacturing processes and know-how for certain of our product candidates from our CDMOs to the Bothell facility and the URMC site. To date, we and our CDMOs have limited experience in the technology transfer of manufacturing processes. Transferring manufacturing processes and know-how is complex and involves review and incorporation of both documented and undocumented processes that may have evolved over time. In addition, transferring production to the Bothell facility and the URMC site may require utilization of new or different processes to meet our facility requirements. Additional studies may also need to be conducted to support the transfer of certain manufacturing processes and process improvements. We will not know with certainty whether all relevant know-how and data have been adequately incorporated into the manufacturing process being conducted at our facilities until the completion of studies and evaluations intended to demonstrate the comparability of material previously produced by our CDMOs with that generated by our facilities. Similar risks and considerations apply to the initial technology transfer from us to our CDMOs for manufacturing of pre-clinical and clinical supply, as well as between CDMOs in the event we are required to switch to a new CDMO.

Operating the Bothell facility and the URMC site will require us to comply with complex regulations. Moreover, the Bothell facility, and any future commercial manufacturing facilities we may operate, will require FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority approval, which we may not obtain in time to support registration-enabling clinical trials for our product candidates, if at all. Even if approved, we would be subject to ongoing periodic unannounced inspections by the FDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, corresponding state agencies, and comparable foreign regulatory authorities to ensure strict compliance with cGMP, current good tissue practices (cGTPs), and other government regulations. We may be unable to manufacture our product candidates if we fail to meet regulatory requirements and may be unable to scale up or scale out our manufacturing to meet market demand. Any failure or delay in the development of our manufacturing capabilities, including at the Bothell facility and the URMC site, could adversely impact the development and potential commercialization of our product candidates.

We may encounter difficulties in managing our growth if and as we expand our operations, including our development and regulatory capabilities, which could disrupt our operations and otherwise harm our business.

We experienced rapid growth following our inception in July 2018. However, as described elsewhere in these Risk Factors, we undertook workforce reductions as part of our November 2022 and October 2023 restructurings. These workforce reductions may yield unintended consequences and costs, including difficulty retaining and motivating remaining employees, difficulty attracting and hiring qualified employees, and increased reliance on third parties if needed to support our internal capabilities.

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Despite our workforce reductions, if we have success in our initial clinical trials, we expect continued growth in the scope of our operations, particularly if and as we advance our product candidates into and through IND-enabling studies and clinical trials and continue to establish and develop our regulatory, quality, and clinical operations and supply chain logistics and manufacturing. To manage our growth, we have implemented and improved, and plan to continue to implement and improve, our managerial, operational, and financial systems, and continue to recruit and train additional qualified personnel. However, due to our limited financial resources and the complexity of managing a company with such growth, we may not be able to effectively manage the expansion of our operations or recruit and train sufficient additional qualified personnel to achieve our business objectives within our desired timelines. The continued expansion of our operations will be costly and may divert our management and business development resources. For example, members of management will have significant added responsibilities in connection with effecting and managing our growth, including identifying, recruiting, integrating, maintaining, and motivating current and future employees, effectively managing our internal development efforts, including the clinical and regulatory (e.g., FDA) review process, while complying with our contractual obligations to third parties, and maintaining and improving our operational, financial, and management controls, reporting systems, and procedures. In addition, as we grow, we may be required to rely more heavily on third-party service providers, which exposes us to risks to which we would not be subject if we performed all work internally, as described elsewhere in these Risk Factors. Our inability to successfully manage our growth could disrupt our operations and otherwise harm our business, including by delaying execution of our programs and business plans.

We may expend our limited resources to pursue a particular product candidate or indication and fail to capitalize on product candidates or indications that may be more profitable or for which there is a greater likelihood of success.

Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we focus on research programs, therapeutic platforms, and product candidates that we identify for specific indications. Additionally, we have contractual commitments under certain of our agreements to use commercially reasonable efforts to develop certain programs and, thus, do not have unilateral discretion to vary from such efforts. In addition, we have contractual commitments to conduct certain development plans, and thus may not have discretion to modify such development plans, including clinical trial designs, without agreement from our partners. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other therapeutic platforms or product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities. Additionally, we may be required to invest our resources in a limited number of more advanced programs with higher probabilities of success in the shorter term and, consequently, to reduce our investment in promising earlier stage programs. Such decisions would require us to reduce the breadth and diversity of our product portfolio, which could potentially limit the long-term growth of our pipeline and subject us to greater risk that the failure of any such programs would harm our prospects. Our spending on current and future research and development programs, therapeutic platforms, and product candidates for specific indications may not yield any commercially viable products. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular product candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that product candidate through collaboration, licensing, or other royalty arrangements in cases in which it would have been more advantageous for us to retain sole development and commercialization rights.

The use of human stem cells exposes us to a number of risks in the development of our human stem cell-derived products, including inability to obtain suitable donor material from eligible and qualified human donors, restrictions on the use of human stem cells, as well as the ethical, legal, and social implications of research on the use of stem cells, any of which could prevent us from completing the development of or commercializing and gaining acceptance for our products derived from human stem cells.

We use human stem cells in our research and development, including induced PSCs (iPSCs) and embryonic stem cells (ESCs), and one or more of our ex vivo cell engineering product candidates may be derived from human stem cells. The use of such cells in our research, or as starting cell lines in the manufacture of one or more of our product candidates, exposes us to numerous risks. These risks include difficulties in securing viable, appropriate, and sufficient stem cells as starting material, recruiting patients for our clinical trials, as well as managing a multitude of global legal and regulatory restrictions on the sourcing and use of these cells. For example, to the extent regulatory requirements differ across jurisdictions, we may face increased difficulty finding cells that meet all applicable jurisdictional requirements, or may be required to develop our product candidates using multiple different types of cells, which could increase the complexity and cost of development. In addition, certain cells may be subject to restrictions regarding the patient populations in which the resulting products can be used, which could limit the applicability and value of our product candidates. Further, in some states, use of embryonic tissue as a source of stem cells is prohibited and many research institutions have adopted policies regarding the ethical use of human embryonic tissue. If these regulations, policies, or restrictions have the effect of limiting the scope of research or other activities we can conduct using stem cells, our ability to develop our ex vivo cell engineering product candidates may be significantly impaired, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

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Additionally, the use of stem cells generally, and ESCs, in particular, has social, legal, and ethical implications. Certain political and religious groups continue to voice opposition to the use of human stem cells in drug research, development, and manufacturing. Adverse publicity due to ethical and social controversies surrounding the use of stem cells could lead to negative public opinion, difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical trials, increased regulation, and stricter policies regarding the use of such cells, which could harm our business and may limit market acceptance of any of our product candidates that may receive regulatory approval. In addition, clinical experience with stem cells, including iPSCs and ESCs, is limited. We are not aware of any products utilizing iPSCs or ESCs as a starting material that have received marketing approval from the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority. Therefore, patients in our clinical trials may experience unexpected side effects, and we may experience unexpected regulatory delays prior to or, if approval were to be granted, after regulatory approval.

Furthermore, manufacturing and development of our ex vivo stem cell-derived and allogeneic T cell-derived product candidates will require that we obtain suitable donor material from eligible and qualified human donors. If we are unable to obtain sufficient quantities of suitable donor material, or if we are unable to obtain such material in a timely manner, we may experience delays in manufacturing our ex vivo product candidates, which would harm our ability to conduct clinical trials for or to commercialize these product candidates. Moreover, if the consent, authorization, or process for the donation and use of those materials is not obtained or conducted in accordance with applicable legal, ethical, and regulatory requirements, we could face delays in the clinical testing and approval of these product candidates, or, potentially, we could face claims by such human donors or regulatory authorities, which could expose us to damages and reputational harm.

Negative public opinion and increased regulatory scrutiny of research and therapies involving gene editing or other ex vivo or in vivo cell engineering technologies may damage public perception of our product candidates or adversely affect our ability to conduct our business or obtain regulatory approvals for our product candidates.

Certain aspects of our cell engineering platforms rely on the ability to modify the genome, including by editing genes. Public perception may be influenced by claims that genome modification is unsafe, and products using or incorporating genome modification may not gain the acceptance of the public or the medical community. Similarly, general perceptions of products relying on ex vivo or in vivo cell engineering techniques may be impacted by developments across the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, including those affecting or related to other companies, including those developing products that are similar or within adjacent fields or that are being developed in the same indications. Negative perceptions of genome modification, including gene editing, or of cell or gene therapy products generally, may result in fewer physicians being willing to enroll patients into clinical trials of our product candidates or prescribing our treatments, reduce the willingness of patients to participate in clinical trials of our product candidates or use our treatments, or otherwise negatively impact the development of our product candidates.

In addition, given the novel nature of ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering technologies, governments may impose import, export, or other restrictions in order to retain control or limit the use of such technologies. Further, in order to further understand the risks of novel genome modification technologies, regulatory authorities may require us to provide additional data prior to allowing clinical testing or commercialization of product candidates that use such technologies, which may cause us to incur additional costs and delay our development plans for certain of our product candidates. Increased scrutiny, negative public opinion, more restrictive government regulations, or enhanced governmental requirements, either in the United States or internationally, would have a negative effect on our business or financial condition and may delay or impair the development and commercialization of our product candidates or demand for such product candidates.

Risks Related to the Development and Clinical Testing of Our Product Candidates

We must successfully progress our product candidates through extensive preclinical studies and clinical trials in order to obtain regulatory approval to market and sell such product candidates. Even if we obtain positive results in preclinical studies of a product candidate, these results may not be predictive of the results of future preclinical studies or clinical trials.

Before an IND or comparable foreign submission can be submitted to the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority and be cleared or otherwise become effective, which is a prerequisite for conducting clinical trials on human subjects, a product candidate must successfully progress through extensive preclinical studies, which include preclinical laboratory testing, animal studies, and formulation studies conducted in accordance with good laboratory practices. In addition, to obtain the requisite regulatory approvals to ultimately market and sell any of our product candidates, we or any future collaborator for such product candidate must satisfy the FDA’s or a comparable foreign regulatory authority’s legal standards with respect to safety, purity, and potency, or efficacy, which may include, among other things, demonstrating through adequate and well-controlled clinical trials that the benefits of the product candidate outweigh its known risks for the intended patient population.

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Preclinical and clinical testing is inherently unpredictable. We may obtain positive data from early research involving our product candidates but subsequently encounter unexpected or unexplained results in preclinical or clinical studies that may cause such product candidates to be unsuitable for further development. We may also need to perform additional research and preclinical or clinical studies for various reasons, including to determine the cause of any unexpected results, including whether such results were caused by our product candidates or other factors, which could delay our development timelines or prevent us from continuing further development at all.

Even if we obtain positive results from preclinical or clinical studies of our product candidates, success in preclinical or clinical studies does not ensure that later preclinical studies or clinical trials will be successful. A number of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies have suffered significant setbacks in clinical trials, even after positive results in earlier preclinical or clinical studies, such as adverse findings observed while clinical trials were underway or safety or efficacy observations during clinical trials, including previously unreported adverse events, and we cannot be certain that we will not face similar setbacks. The design of a clinical trial can determine whether its results have the potential to support approval of a product, and flaws in a clinical trial’s design may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. In addition, the results of our preclinical animal studies, including our non-human primate (NHP) studies, may not be predictive of the results of subsequent clinical trials involving human subjects. Product candidates may fail to show the desired pharmacological properties or safety and efficacy traits in clinical trials despite having successfully progressed through preclinical studies or earlier clinical trials.

If we fail to obtain positive results in preclinical studies or clinical trials of any product candidate, the development timeline and regulatory approval and commercialization prospects for that product candidate, and, correspondingly, our business and financial prospects, would be negatively impacted.

Preclinical testing of our product candidates may be delayed or otherwise unsuccessful, which would harm our ability to commence and successfully complete clinical trials of, and ultimately commercialize, such product candidates.

Applicable laws and regulations require us to conduct preclinical testing of our product candidates in animals before initiating clinical trials involving humans, and the results and timing of such testing are uncertain. We may experience delays in or difficulty completing studies of our product candidates in animals for various reasons. For example, due to global supply chain issues caused by global geo-political, economic, and other factors beyond our control, as described elsewhere in these Risk Factors, we have experienced and may continue to experience difficulty and increased costs in accessing animal models, specifically certain NHP models, which could delay completion of our preclinical studies involving such models or harm our ability to conduct or complete such studies at all, and could limit the potential patient population for our product candidates.

In addition, animal testing has been the subject of controversy and adverse publicity. Animal rights groups and others have attempted to stop animal testing by pressing for legislation and regulation and by disrupting such testing through protests and other means. To the extent these attempts are successful, our research and development activities may be interrupted or delayed, become more expensive, or both.

We are required to submit an IND or comparable foreign submission to the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities with respect to each product candidate prior to commencing a clinical trial for such product candidate in the applicable jurisdiction. Although we expect our pipeline to yield additional INDs and plan to submit INDs for each of our product candidates, we may not be able to submit future INDs in accordance with our expected timelines for various reasons, including due to:

manufacturing challenges or delays, including due to challenges associated with scaling up our manufacturing processes and developing and validating assays or otherwise meeting applicable regulatory requirements;
delays in our IND-enabling preclinical studies; or
feedback from the FDA that requires us to conduct additional testing or change the design of a planned clinical trial prior to submitting such IND.

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Moreover, we cannot guarantee that submission of an IND or comparable foreign submission for a product candidate will result in the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities allowing clinical trials of that product candidate to commence in accordance with our timelines or expectations or at all, or that, once begun, issues will not arise that require suspension or termination of such clinical trials. For example, the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority may accept an IND or comparable foreign submission for a product candidate but place clinical trials of such product candidate on hold pending the results of additional testing or the development of additional assays, or may otherwise refuse or terminate the applicable submission. Further, because legal and regulatory requirements for conducting clinical trials vary across jurisdictions, our receipt of authorization to conduct clinical trials in one jurisdiction does not guarantee such authorization will be granted in other jurisdictions.

In addition, such legal and regulatory requirements may change over time, including in a manner that could cause us to incur delays or additional expense in order to comply. For example, the regulatory landscape related to clinical trials in the European Union (EU) continues to evolve. The EU Clinical Trials Regulation (CTR), which was adopted in April 2014 and repealed the EU Clinical Trials Directive, became applicable on January 31, 2022. Unlike the EU Clinical Trials Directive, which required a separate clinical trial application (CTA) to be submitted to both the competent national health authority and an independent ethics committee in each EU member state in which the clinical trial will be conducted, the CTR provides for a centralized process. The CTR allows sponsors for multi-center trials to make a single submission to both the competent authority and an ethics committee in each member state, leading to a single decision per member state. The CTA assessment procedure has been harmonized as well, including a joint assessment by all member states concerned, and a separate assessment by each member state with respect to specific requirements related to its own territory, including ethics rules. The decision of each EU member state is communicated to the sponsor via the centralized EU portal. Once the CTA is approved, clinical studies may proceed. The CTR foresees a three-year transition period. Compliance with the CTR requirements by us and our service providers, such as CROs, may impact our development plans. For example, because the CTR requires coordination of application review and processing across multiple member states, our ability to commence clinical trials in accordance with our timelines could be delayed. Further, as discussed elsewhere in these Risk Factors, the United Kingdom (UK) withdrew from the EU in 2020, and uncertainty remains as to whether and to what extent certain UK laws and regulations will be aligned with those of the EU, including the CTR, which does not apply in the UK. Local requirements in the UK and the EU have diverged and may further diverge in the future, which could impact any UK clinical and development activities we may conduct. In addition, clinical trial submissions in the UK must be separate from those submitted to EU member states, adding further complexity, cost, and potential risk to any clinical and development activity in the UK.

If we are unable to satisfy applicable legal or regulatory requirements for an IND or comparable foreign submission, or experience delays in doing so, clinical development of our product candidates may be delayed or we may be unable to execute clinical trials of the applicable product candidate in the relevant jurisdiction. For example, we may decide not to submit an IND or comparable foreign submission in certain jurisdictions due to applicable legal or regulatory requirements in such jurisdiction, including based on future changes to such requirements. Additionally, even if regulatory authorities agree with the design and implementation of the clinical trials set forth in an IND or a comparable foreign submission, we cannot guarantee that such regulatory authorities will not change their requirements in the future, which could require us to make costly changes to and delay the conduct of our clinical trials or require suspension or termination of such trials entirely. In addition, because the manufacturing of our product candidates, including our ex vivo CAR T cell product candidates, is in its early stages and continues to evolve, we expect that manufacturing-related matters such as chemistry, manufacturing, and controls, including product specifications, will continue to be a focus of regulatory review of our INDs or comparable foreign submissions, which may delay our ability to proceed with the relevant clinical trials. These considerations also apply to new clinical trials we may submit as amendments to existing INDs or comparable foreign submissions.

Clinical drug development is a lengthy and expensive process with uncertain timelines and outcomes. If clinical trials of any of our product candidates are prolonged or delayed, or need to be terminated, we may be unable to obtain required regulatory approvals and commercialize such product candidates on a timely basis or at all.

Clinical trials are expensive, complex, and can take many years to complete, and their outcomes are inherently uncertain and their data subject to varying interpretations and analyses. Product candidates in later-stage clinical trials may fail to produce the same results as observed in earlier trials or fail to show the desired safety and efficacy characteristics despite having progressed through preclinical studies and earlier clinical trials.

We do not know whether our current or future clinical trials will begin on time, need to be redesigned, enroll patients on time, or be completed on schedule, if at all. Clinical trials may be delayed, suspended, or terminated, or may not be able to be conducted at all, for a variety of reasons, including the following:

delays in or failure to obtain regulatory authorization to commence a trial;
delays in or failure to obtain institutional review board (IRB) or ethics committee (EC) approval for each clinical trial site;

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delays in or failure to reach agreement with prospective CROs and other service providers, clinical trial sites, or companion diagnostic development partners on acceptable terms, or at all;
difficulty in recruiting clinical trial investigators or clinical trial sites of appropriate competencies and experience, including due to pre-existing commitments or resource and other infrastructure constraints, including resource allocation to other clinical trials, such as those of our competitors;
delays in or inability to timely manufacture sufficient quantities of a product candidate for use in clinical trials, including due to lack of sufficient availability of suitable donor material from eligible and qualified donors for the manufacture of our ex vivo cell engineering product candidates;
failure of a product candidate to meet acceptable quality or stability standards, or failure to manufacture product candidates in accordance with cGMP and other applicable laws, regulations, and guidelines;
delays in establishing the appropriate dosage levels in clinical trials;
delays in or inability to recruit, enroll, and retain suitable patients in a trial, as discussed elsewhere in these Risk Factors;
failure of patients to complete a trial or return for post-treatment follow-up;
difficulty in identifying the sub-populations that are the target group for a particular trial, which may delay enrollment and reduce the power of a clinical trial to detect statistically significant results;
clinical sites deviating from trial protocol or dropping out of a trial;
delays caused by the addition of new investigators or clinical trial sites or replacement of existing investigators or sites;
safety, efficacy, or other concerns arising out of investigator-sponsored clinical trials (ISTs) involving our product candidates or technologies;
safety or tolerability concerns relating to the product candidate being tested that could cause us or governmental authorities, as applicable, to suspend or terminate a clinical trial or program or impose a clinical hold, including if participants are being exposed to unacceptable health or safety risks or experiencing undesirable side effects, there are other unfavorable characteristics of the product candidate, or regulators deem our product candidate to have the potential for comparable undesirable side effects or risks to those of other product candidates, including those under development by us or third parties, due to compositional, biologic, mechanistic, sourcing, or other similarities;
the failure of third-party contractors to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations in a timely manner or at all;
changes in regulatory requirements, policies, and guidelines;
changes in the treatment landscape for our target indications that may make it more difficult to initiate or recruit patients for our clinical trials in certain jurisdictions or may make our product candidates no longer relevant;
claims that the product candidate being tested infringes third-party intellectual property rights, including any resulting injunctions that may prevent further use of such product candidates and interfere with the progress of the trial; and
business interruptions resulting from geo-political actions, including war and terrorism, natural disasters including earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and fires, or disease.

Clinical trials must be conducted in accordance with the FDA’s and comparable foreign regulatory authorities’ legal requirements, regulations, and guidelines and are subject to oversight by these governmental authorities and IRBs or ECs of the medical institutions where the clinical trials are conducted. We could encounter delays if a clinical trial is suspended or terminated by us, by the IRBs or ECs of the institutions at which such trial is being conducted, by the Data Review Committee or Data Safety Monitoring Board for such trial, or by the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities. Such authorities may impose such a suspension or termination, including following an inspection of clinical trial operations or a clinical trial site, for various reasons, including failure to conduct the clinical trial in accordance with regulatory requirements or our clinical protocols, unforeseen safety issues or adverse side effects, failure to demonstrate a benefit from use of the product candidate being tested, or changes in governmental regulations or administrative actions.

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In addition, the complexity and novelty of certain product candidates, the clinical trial design, and the indications for which such product candidates are being developed, as well as the combination of these factors, could negatively affect our ability to successfully execute and complete clinical trials of such product candidates in accordance with our timelines. For example, clinical trials involving certain indications, such as autoimmune diseases, may require the involvement and alignment of medical professionals across various specialties. Additionally, we may evaluate certain of our product candidates in multiple indications, including in oncology and B-cell-mediated autoimmune diseases, and across a broad range of diseases in a single clinical trial. Because these diseases can vary significantly, doing so may introduce additional complexities and challenges with executing our clinical trials, any of which could increase the time and expense required to commence and complete the applicable trial. Further, to the extent we develop our product candidates for multiple indications, the occurrence of any potential safety issues or significant side effects with respect to a particular indication or study could negatively affect the development of such product candidate in all indications. We and third parties involved in our clinical trials may not have sufficient resources to adequately address such complexities in accordance with our timelines or at all. If we experience delays in completing, or are required to terminate, any clinical trial of our product candidates, the commercial prospects of the relevant product candidates will be harmed, and our ability to generate product revenues from these product candidates will be delayed. In addition, any delays in completing our clinical trials will increase our costs, delay our ability to obtain regulatory approval for the relevant product candidate, and jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenues. Significant clinical trial delays could also allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do or shorten any periods during which we have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates, which may impair our ability to commercialize our product candidates and harm our business and results of operations.

Furthermore, as described elsewhere in these Risk Factors, we rely and will continue to rely on third parties that are responsible for executing or supporting our clinical trials, such as CROs and clinical trial sites, including principal investigators, and to the extent they fail to timely and properly perform their obligations, we may experience program delays, incur additional costs, or both, which may harm our business. In addition, we may experience delays and incur additional costs with respect to clinical trials that we conduct in countries outside the United States, including as a result of increased shipment and distribution costs, compliance with additional regulatory requirements, and the engagement of non-United States-based CROs, and may also be exposed to risks associated with clinical investigators who are unknown to the FDA, and different standards of diagnosis, screening, and medical care.

We will depend on timely and successful enrollment and retention of patients in our clinical trials for our product candidates. If we experience delays or difficulties enrolling or retaining patients in our clinical trials, our research and development efforts and business, financial condition, and results of operations could be materially adversely affected.

Successful and timely initiation and completion of clinical trials will require that we timely enroll and retain a sufficient number of patients. Any clinical trials we conduct may be subject to delays for a variety of reasons, including as a result of patient enrollment taking longer than anticipated, patient withdrawal, or the occurrence of adverse events. These types of developments could cause us to delay the trial or halt further development of the relevant product candidate.

Patient enrollment in clinical trials depends on many factors, including:

the size and nature of the patient population;
the severity of the disease under investigation, including patients’ prior lines of therapy and treatment;
eligibility and exclusion criteria for the trial;
the number and location of clinical trial sites;
the proximity of patients to clinical sites;
the design of the clinical protocol;
the ability to obtain and maintain patient consents;
competition with other sponsors or clinical trials for clinical trial sites or patients;
the perceived risks and benefits of the product candidate under evaluation;
the ability to recruit and availability of clinical trial investigators and sites with the appropriate competencies and experience;
the risk that enrolled patients will drop out of the trial before administration of the product candidate or trial completion;
the availability of patients resulting from the impact of any pandemic, epidemic, or disease outbreak;

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the availability of, and clinicians’ and patients’ satisfaction with, existing and new drugs approved for the indication the clinical trial is investigating; and
clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new therapies that may be approved for the indications the clinical trial is investigating or the approved label expansion of an existing therapy into the indication the clinical trial is investigating.

In particular, our clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates. In addition, because the number of qualified clinical investigators and clinical trial sites is limited, we expect to conduct at least some of our clinical trials at the same sites as those used by our competitors. Competition with other clinical trials may reduce the number and types of patients available to participate in our trials, as some patients who might have opted to enroll in our trials may instead opt to enroll in a trial being conducted by one of our competitors. Moreover, enrolling patients in clinical trials for diseases for which there is an approved standard of care is challenging, as patients will first receive the applicable standard of care, and many patients who respond positively to the standard of care do not enroll in clinical trials. In addition, although patients who fail to respond positively to the standard of care treatment may be eligible for clinical trials of our product candidates, treatment with prior regimens may render our product candidates less effective in clinical trials. As a result, the number of eligible patients who have the potential to benefit from our product candidates could be limited, which could extend development timelines or increase costs for our programs.

The circumstances described above and elsewhere in these Risk Factors may make it difficult for us to enroll enough patients to complete our clinical trials in a timely and cost-effective manner. If we are unable to timely recruit and enroll patients for our clinical trials, enroll a sufficient number of patients to complete our clinical trials as planned, or retain patients in our clinical trials, we may be required to change our trial design, recruit and enroll a different population of patients than we anticipated, or recruit and enroll patients in geographies that are more challenging. We may not be fully prepared to address such challenges, and even if we are able to address such challenges, the results of our clinical trials may be negatively impacted. Delays in the completion of any clinical trial we may conduct will increase our costs, slow down the development and approval process, and delay or potentially jeopardize our ability to commence product sales and generate revenue for the relevant product candidate. In addition, some of the factors that may cause, or lead to, a delay in the commencement or completion of clinical trials may also ultimately lead to the denial of regulatory approval of our product candidates.

Clinical trials may fail to demonstrate that our product candidates, including any future product candidates, or technologies used in or used to develop such product candidates, meet the FDA’s or a comparable foreign regulatory authority’s requirements with respect to safety, purity, and potency, or efficacy, which would prevent, delay, or limit the scope of regulatory approval and commercialization of such product candidates.

To obtain the requisite regulatory approvals to market and sell any of our current or future product candidates , we or our potential future collaborators must demonstrate with substantial evidence from adequate and well-controlled clinical trials of the product candidate, and to the satisfaction of the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities, that such product candidate meets the FDA’s or such comparable foreign regulatory authorities’ legal standards with respect to safety, purity, and potency, or efficacy, which may include, among other things, demonstrating through adequate and well-controlled clinical trials that the benefits of the product candidate outweigh its known risks for the intended patient population. Clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. Failure can occur at any time during the clinical development process. Most product candidates that begin clinical trials are never approved by regulatory authorities for commercialization. We may be unable to establish clinical endpoints that applicable regulatory authorities would consider clinically meaningful.

Clinical trials of our product candidates or product candidates developed using our technologies (including those conducted by third parties, such as in the case of ISTs) may not demonstrate that such product candidates or technologies have efficacy and safety profiles necessary to support regulatory approval. Safety or efficacy results for a particular clinical trial, or between different clinical trials of the same product candidate, can vary significantly due to numerous factors, including differences in the size and type of the patient populations, variety of patients and disease types within a trial, changes in and adherence to the clinical trial protocols and trial procedures, and the rate of dropout among clinical trial participants. If the results of clinical trials are inconclusive with respect to the efficacy of our product candidates or those developed using our technologies, if we do not meet the clinical endpoints with statistical and clinically meaningful significance, or if there are safety concerns associated with our product candidates or technologies, we may experience delays in obtaining marketing approval, or we may not obtain approval at all. Additionally, any safety concerns observed in any clinical trial of one of our product candidates, or those developed using our technologies, in our targeted indications could limit the prospects for regulatory approval of such product candidate in those and other indications or the prospects of other product candidates we may develop that are perceived to have the potential for similar safety concerns.

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Additionally, some of our trials may be open-label trials in which the patient and/or investigator know whether the patient is receiving the investigational product candidate. Data generated from open-label clinical trials may exaggerate any therapeutic effect, as patients and/or investigators are aware when a patient has received the experimental treatment, which may cause investigators to interpret the information of the treated group more favorably. Therefore, positive results observed in open-label trials may not be replicated in later controlled trials.

Even if we or our collaborators (or other third parties, in the case of ISTs) successfully complete any future clinical trials, clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses. We cannot guarantee that the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities will interpret the results as we do, and more trials could be required before we submit our product candidates for approval. Even if positive results are observed in clinical trials, we cannot guarantee that the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities will view our product candidates as having efficacy. Further, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may not agree with our manufacturing strategy or may not find comparability between our clinical trial product candidates and proposed commercial product candidates, which may result in regulatory delays or a need to perform additional clinical studies. Moreover, clinical trial results that may be acceptable to support approval of a certain scope in one jurisdiction may be deemed inadequate to support regulatory approval, or may only be deemed sufficient to support a narrower scope of approval, in other jurisdictions. If the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities determine that the results of clinical trials of our product candidates are not adequate to support approval of a marketing application, we may experience delays in obtaining, or fail to obtain, approval of our product candidates, or we may be required to expend significant additional resources, which may not be available to us, to conduct additional trials in support of potential approval of our product candidates. Even if regulatory approval is obtained for a product candidate, the terms of such approval may limit the scope and use of the specific product candidate, which may also limit its commercial potential.

Our product candidates may cause serious adverse, undesirable, or unacceptable side effects or have other properties that may delay or prevent marketing approval. If a product candidate receives regulatory approval, and such side effects are identified following such approval, the commercial profile of any approved label may be limited, or we may be subject to other significant negative consequences following such approval.

Our product candidates may cause serious adverse, undesirable, or unacceptable side effects, which could cause us or regulatory authorities to interrupt, delay, or halt our future clinical trials and could result in a more restrictive label or the delay or denial of regulatory approval by the FDA or comparable foreign authorities. We do not currently, and in the future may not, have sufficient clinical data or other information to enable us to fully anticipate the side effects of our product candidates. Accordingly, we may observe unexpected side effects or higher levels of expected side effects in clinical trials of our product candidates, including adverse events known to occur in the same classes of therapeutics, such as infusion reaction, cytokine release syndrome, graft-versus-host disease, neurotoxicities, and certain cancers.

Results of our clinical trials could reveal a high and unacceptable severity and prevalence of these or other side effects associated with our product candidates. In such an event, clinical trials of such product candidates could be suspended or terminated, and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities could order us to cease further development of or deny approval of such product candidates for any or all targeted indications. In addition, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may more closely scrutinize any side effects or safety concerns associated with our product candidates in the context of the potential benefits observed in diseases that are not immediately life-threatening, such as certain autoimmune diseases, which could harm our ability to develop or obtain regulatory approval for applicable product candidate in such diseases. Moreover, the occurrence of such side effects could negatively affect our ability to recruit and enroll patients in our clinical trials or the ability of enrolled patients to complete the clinical trials, or result in product liability claims. For example, patients with diseases that are not immediately life-threatening, including certain autoimmune diseases, and their physicians may be less likely to enroll or recommend enrollment in clinical trials of our product candidates if there is a risk of certain side effects or safety concerns and may be more likely to cease their participation in such clinical trials if they experience certain side effects. Similar events may occur if it is determined that there are side effects or safety concerns associated with other products or product candidates that are, or are perceived to be, similar to ours. Any of these occurrences could significantly harm our business, financial condition, and prospects.

Further, clinical trials by their nature involve only a sample of the potential patient population. Because our clinical trials will involve only a limited number of patients and limited duration of exposure to our product candidates, rare and severe side effects of our product candidates may not be apparent during early clinical trials and may only be uncovered once a significantly larger number of patients have been exposed to the product candidate, including during later-stage clinical trials or following commercialization, or when longer-term data is available. As such, even if applicable regulatory authorities initially determine that our product candidates have an acceptable safety profile for their intended use in humans, they may later prove to cause serious side effects in patients that we were unable to observe or predict during their clinical development.

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In the event that any of our product candidates receives regulatory approval and we or others later determine that such product may cause undesirable or unacceptable side effects, a number of potentially significant negative consequences could result, including:

regulatory authorities may withdraw or limit approvals of such product and require us to take such product off the market;
regulatory authorities may require the addition of labeling statements, specific warnings, or a contraindication or field alerts to physicians and pharmacies, or issue other communications containing warnings or other safety information about the product;
regulatory authorities may require a medication guide outlining the risks of such side effects for distribution to patients or that we implement a risk evaluation and mitigation strategy (REMS) plan to ensure that the benefits of the product outweigh its risks;
we may be required to change the therapeutic dose or 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 or manufacture the product;
sales of the product may decrease significantly;
we may be subject to litigation or product liability claims; and
our reputation may suffer.

Any of these events could prevent us or our potential future partners from achieving or maintaining market acceptance of the affected product or could substantially increase commercialization costs and expenses, which in turn could delay or prevent us from generating significant revenue from the sale of any products.

Interim, topline, or preliminary data from our preclinical studies or clinical trials that we may announce or publish from time to time may change as more data become available or as we make changes to our manufacturing processes. These data are subject to audit and verification procedures that could result in material changes in the final data.

From time to time, we may publicly disclose interim, topline, or preliminary data from our preclinical studies or clinical trials, which are based on a preliminary analysis of then-available data, and the final results and related findings and conclusions are subject to change following a more comprehensive review of the study or trial data. We also make assumptions, estimations, calculations, and conclusions as part of our analyses of data, and we may not have received or had the opportunity to fully and carefully evaluate all data at the time of our initial disclosure of data. Further, modifications or improvements to our manufacturing processes for a product candidate may result in changes to its characteristics or behavior that could cause the product candidate to perform differently and affect the results of our preclinical studies or planned or ongoing clinical trials of such product candidate, and potentially require us to conduct additional preclinical studies or clinical trials. As a result, the topline results that we report may differ from future results of the same studies, or different conclusions or considerations may qualify such results once additional data have been received and fully evaluated. Topline data also remain subject to audit and verification procedures that may result in the final data being materially different from the preliminary data we previously disclosed. As a result, topline data should be viewed with caution until the final data are available. Similarly, preliminary or interim data from clinical trials are subject to the risk that one or more of the clinical outcomes may materially change as patient enrollment continues and more patient data become available. Adverse differences between preliminary or interim data and final data could significantly harm our business prospects. Additionally, disclosure of preliminary or interim data by us or our competitors, with respect to clinical trials of their product candidates, could result in volatility in the price of our common stock.

Further, others, including regulatory authorities, investors, or analysts, may not accept or agree with our assumptions, estimates, calculations, conclusions, or analyses, or may interpret or weigh the importance of data, including any decisions we may make based on that data, particularly limited or preliminary data, differently than we do, which could impact the value of the particular program, the approvability or commercialization of the particular product candidate, and our company in general. If the interim, topline, or preliminary data that we report differ from actual results, or if others, including regulatory authorities, investors, or analysts, disagree with the conclusions reached, our ability to obtain approval for and commercialize our product candidates, as well as our business, operating results, prospects, and financial condition, could be harmed.

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Our product candidates or technologies may be involved in investigator-sponsored clinical trials, and we will have limited or no control over the conduct of such trials.

ISTs involving our product candidates or technologies pose or are subject to similar risks to those set forth elsewhere in these Risk Factors relating to clinical trials that we conduct ourselves. Although ISTs may provide us with clinical data that can inform the development strategy for our product candidates, we will be unable to control the timing, design, and conduct of such ISTs or regulatory matters with respect to such ISTs, including the submission, clearance or approval, or maintenance of any IND or comparable foreign submission required to conduct such ISTs. In addition, we would not control the data collection and reporting, including timing thereof, with respect to any ISTs, and may not control the manufacturing of the product candidate or technology to be tested in any such ISTs. A delay in the timely completion of or reporting of data from any potential IST, including as a result of manufacturing complications or delays, which could occur for various reasons such as the need to obtain additional licenses, delays in recruiting, enrolling, or retaining patients, or other potential issues, including those described in these Risk Factors, could have a material adverse effect on our ability to further develop our product candidates or to advance our product candidates through subsequent clinical trials. Negative results from an IST could have a material adverse effect on our business and prospects and the perception of our product candidates and technologies. Additionally, there is a possibility that ISTs may be conducted under less rigorous clinical standards than those used in company-sponsored clinical trials. Accordingly, the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities may more closely scrutinize the resulting data and may not view these data as providing adequate support for future clinical trials, whether sponsored by us or third parties. In addition, any potential IST could demonstrate marginal efficacy or reveal clinically relevant safety concerns that could delay the further clinical development or regulatory approval of our product candidates. Further, data from a potential IST may fail to demonstrate efficacy for various reasons, including those unrelated to our product candidates or technologies, which may negatively impact the perception of such product candidates and technologies, despite their potential for future success. To the extent that the results of any ISTs raise safety or other concerns regarding our product candidates or technologies, regulatory authorities may question the results of such ISTs or other clinical trials involving the relevant product candidate or technology. Safety concerns arising from any potential ISTs may cause the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities to impose partial or full clinical holds on our product candidates, including product candidates that were developed using the same technology or manufactured using the same reagents and materials as those product candidates that are the subject of such ISTs, which could delay or prevent us from advancing our product candidates into further clinical development and require us to discontinue our development of such product candidates. The occurrence of any of the foregoing would severely harm our business and prospects.

The manufacture of our product candidates is complex. We or our CDMOs may encounter difficulties in production, which could delay or entirely halt our or their ability to supply our product candidates for clinical trials or, if approved, for commercial sale.

Our product candidates are considered to be biologics, and the process of manufacturing biologics is complex and requires significant expertise and capital investment, including with respect to the development of advanced manufacturing techniques and process controls. As described elsewhere in these Risk Factors, we have entered into a long-term lease to establish manufacturing capabilities at the Bothell facility and have entered into an agreement to access manufacturing capabilities within URMC’s cell-based manufacturing facility. We currently rely, and expect to continue to rely, on CDMOs for the manufacture of certain of our product candidates for preclinical and clinical studies. We also anticipate that we will continue to rely on CDMOs for at least some portions of our supply chain following commercialization of any product candidates for which we may receive regulatory approval. As described elsewhere in these Risk Factors, we expect that we will also be required to transition certain manufacturing processes and know-how, including to our CDMOs and to the Bothell facility and the URMC site, over time, which is a complex process with which we have limited experience. If we experience any delays or issues with the foregoing, our ability to begin manufacturing certain of our product candidates internally could be delayed, and we may need to rely to a greater extent on CDMOs for the manufacture of such product candidates for longer than we currently anticipate.

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To date, we and our CDMOs have limited experience in manufacturing of cGMP batches of our product candidates. Our CDMOs and, once we begin to operate the Bothell facility and the URMC site, we, must comply with cGMPs and other complex regulations and guidelines applicable to the manufacturing of biologics for use in clinical trials and, if approved, commercial sale, and any inability or failure to comply with such regulations and guidelines could delay our clinical trials or prevent us from being able to commence clinical testing at all. To date, we have not scaled the manufacturing processes with respect to our product candidates for later-stage clinical trials and commercialization, and we and our CDMOs may not have sufficient capacity, resources, or capabilities to scale such manufacturing processes in accordance with our desired timelines or at all. Further, certain of our product candidates may have characteristics that present increased manufacturing complexity and necessitate longer manufacturing timelines. If we are unable to successfully scale the manufacturing process for these product candidates, including in compliance with cGMP quality requirements, or adapt such manufacturing process to meet late-stage development or commercial quality requirements, we may not be able to manufacture sufficient quantities of compliant product candidates, or manufacture them in a timely manner, which would harm our ability to clinically develop and commercialize such product candidates. In addition, the manufacturing of our product candidates, including large-scale manufacturing, may require the development of novel processes for upstream and downstream activities, including analytical technologies, which could cause delays in the scaling of manufacturing, as well as greater costs that could negatively impact the financial viability of our product candidates. We cannot be sure that the manufacturing processes employed by our CDMOs or the technologies that our CDMOs incorporate into our manufacturing processes will result in viable or scalable yields of ex vivo and in vivo cell engineering product candidates that will have acceptable safety, purity, potency, or efficacy profiles and, if approved, meet market demand.

Our biologic product candidates are susceptible to product loss or reduced manufacturing success rates at various points during the manufacturing process, including due to contamination, equipment damage or failure, including during shipment or storage, failure of equipment to operate as expected, improper installation or operation of equipment, vendor or operator error, damage to, variability of, or improper use of raw materials or consumables necessary for the manufacturing process, inconsistency in yields, variability in product characteristics, and difficulties in scaling the production process. Any of these issues, and even minor deviations from normal manufacturing processes, could result in reduced production yields, product defects, and other supply disruptions and delays. If microbial, viral, or other contaminations are discovered in our product candidates or in the facilities in which our product candidates are manufactured, including the Bothell facility, the URMC site, or any future manufacturing facilities, or those of our CDMOs, such supply may have to be discarded, our products may be withdrawn from clinical trials and, if approved, the market, and such facilities may need to be closed for an extended period of time to investigate and remedy the contamination. Moreover, if the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities determine that we or our CDMOs, or our or our CDMOs’ facilities, are not in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including cGMPs, the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authority may not approve a biologics license application (BLA) or comparable foreign marketing authorization until the deficiencies are corrected or we replace the manufacturer in our applications with a compliant manufacturer, and we may ultimately be unable to manufacture our product candidates. The occurrence of any of these issues could delay our ability to commence or timely complete clinical development, obtain regulatory approval of, and commercialize our product candidates.

We also may make changes to our manufacturing processes at various points during development, and even after commercialization, for various reasons, such as to control costs, achieve scale, decrease processing time, or increase manufacturing success rate. Such changes carry the risk that they will not achieve their intended objectives, and any of these changes could result in changes to a product candidate’s characteristics or behavior or cause our product candidates to perform differently and affect the results of any of our then-ongoing or future preclinical studies or clinical trials, or the performance of the product, once commercialized. In certain circumstances, if we make changes to our manufacturing process for a product candidate, regulatory authorities may require us to perform comparability studies and collect additional preclinical or clinical data prior to undertaking additional clinical trials or obtaining marketing approval for or commercializing the product candidate produced with such modified process. For instance, if we make changes to our manufacturing process for a product candidate during the course of preclinical or clinical developm