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File pursuant to Rule 424(b)(4)
Registration No. 333-238146

 

 

LOGO

9,000,000 Shares

Pliant Therapeutics, Inc.

Common Stock

$16.00 per share

 

 

This is the initial public offering of our common stock. We are selling 9,000,000 shares of common stock. Prior to this offering there has been no public market for our shares. The initial public offering price is $16.00 per share of common stock.

We have granted the underwriters an option to purchase up to 1,350,000 additional shares of common stock. The underwriters can exercise this option at any time within 30 days after the date of this prospectus.

Our common stock has been approved for listing on The Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol “PLRX.”

 

 

Investing in our common stock involves risks. See “Risk Factors” beginning on page 13.

We are an “emerging growth company” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012 and, as such, we have elected to comply with certain reduced reporting requirements for this prospectus and may elect to do so in future filings.

Neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor any state securities commission has approved or disapproved of these securities or passed upon the accuracy or adequacy of this prospectus. Any representation to the contrary is a criminal offense.

 

 

 

     Per Share      Total  

Public Offering Price

   $ 16.00      $ 144,000,000  

Underwriting Discounts and Commissions(1)

   $ 1.12      $ 10,080,000  

Proceeds to Pliant Therapeutics, Inc. (before expenses)

   $ 14.88      $ 133,920,000  

 

(1)   See “Underwriting” for additional information regarding total underwriter compensation.

Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc., or Novartis, our strategic partner and one of our existing stockholders has agreed to purchase $10.0 million in shares of our common stock at the initial public offering price per share (or 625,000 shares based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share), in a private placement transaction that would close concurrently with, and be contingent and conditioned upon consummation of, this offering. The sale of such shares to Novartis will not be registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and these shares will be subject to certain restrictions on transfer pursuant to applicable securities laws and these shares are subject to a 180-day lock-up agreement with the underwriters in this offering. The closing of this offering is not conditioned upon the closing of the proposed concurrent private placement. The underwriters will not receive any fees in connection with the sale of shares to Novartis in the proposed concurrent private placement.

The underwriters expect to deliver the shares of common stock to purchasers on or about June 5, 2020 through book-entry facilities of The Depository Trust Company.

 

 

Joint Book-Running Managers

 

Citigroup   Cowen          Piper Sandler

Lead Manager

Needham & Company

 

 

June 2, 2020


Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

     Page  

Prospectus Summary

     1  

The Offering

     9  

Risk Factors

     13  

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-looking Statements

     73  

Market and Industry Data and Forecasts

     75  

Use of Proceeds

     76  

Dividend Policy

     77  

Capitalization

     78  

Dilution

     80  

Selected Financial Data

     83  

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

     85  

Business

     101  

Management

     163  

Executive Compensation

     173  

Director Compensation

     183  

Certain Relationships and Related Party Transactions

     186  

Principal Stockholders

     191  

Description of Capital Stock

     194  

Shares Eligible for Future Sale

     200  

Material U.S. Federal Income Tax Considerations to Non-U.S. holders

     202  

Underwriting

     206  

Legal Matters

     213  

Experts

     213  

Where You Can Find More Information

     213  

Index to Financial Statements

     F-1  

We and the underwriters have not authorized anyone to provide any information other than that contained in this prospectus or in any free writing prospectus prepared by or on behalf of us or to which we have referred you. We take no responsibility for, and can provide no assurance as to the reliability of, any other information that others may give you. We and the underwriters are not making an offer to sell these securities in any jurisdiction where the offer or sale is not permitted. You should assume that the information appearing in this prospectus is accurate only as of the date on the front cover of this prospectus. Our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects may have changed since that date.

For investors outside of the United States: We have not, and the underwriters have not, done anything that would permit this offering or possession or distribution of this prospectus in any jurisdiction where action for that purpose is required, other than the United States. Persons outside of the United States who come into possession of this prospectus must inform themselves about, and observe any restrictions relating to, the offering of the shares of common stock and the distribution of this prospectus outside of the United States.

 

 

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PROSPECTUS SUMMARY

This summary highlights information contained elsewhere in this prospectus and does not contain all of the information that you should consider in making your investment decision. Before investing in our common stock, you should carefully read this entire prospectus, including our financial statements and the related notes included elsewhere in this prospectus. You should also consider, among other things, the matters described in the sections entitled “Risk Factors” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.” Unless otherwise stated, all references to “us,” “our,” “Pliant,” “we,” the “Company” and similar designations refer to Pliant Therapeutics, Inc.

Overview

We are a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing novel therapies for the treatment of fibrosis. Our initial focus is on treating fibrosis by inhibiting integrin-mediated activation of TGF-ß. We have applied our deep understanding of fibrosis biology, along with our medicinal chemistry and translational medicine expertise to develop a set of proprietary tools designed to discover and de-risk product candidates quickly and efficiently. Our wholly-owned lead product candidate, PLN-74809, is an oral small-molecule dual selective inhibitor of avß6 and avß1 integrins that we are developing for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, and primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC. We have completed a Phase 1a SAD/MAD trial and a Phase 1b proof-of-mechanism trial of PLN-74809 in IPF and are recruiting two Phase 2a trials in IPF. We submitted an investigational new drug application, or IND, for PLN-74809 for the treatment of PSC in March of 2020, and plan to initiate a Phase 2a PSC trial in the second half of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our second product candidate, PLN-1474, is a small-molecule selective inhibitor of avß1 for the treatment of liver fibrosis associated with NASH, which we have partnered with Novartis. PLN-1474 is currently undergoing a Phase 1 trial with top-line data expected by the end of 2020, subject to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our clinical programs, we currently have preclinical integrin-based programs targeting oncology and muscular dystrophies.

Fibrosis Background

Fibrosis refers to excessive scarring, often resulting from aberrant tissue repair processes. Fibrosis occurs when normal tissue repair pathways become dysregulated, causing excessive collagen deposition in the affected organs and ultimately impairing their physiological function. Fibrosis occurs in many organ systems throughout the body including the lungs, liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, skin and muscles. While the exact pathologies for diseases in these organs vary, the development of fibrosis involves many common cell types and biochemical pathways including the transforming growth factor beta, or TGF-ß, signaling pathway.

TGF-ß and Integrins in Fibrosis

TGF-ß signaling is the central pathway by which fibrosis occurs. TGF-ß is a signaling molecule that is secreted by cells as an inactive complex and stored in the extra-cellular matrix. In healthy tissue, TGF-ß is transiently activated in response to tissue injury, resulting in collagen production and, ultimately, healing of the tissue. In fibrosis, however, TGF-ß becomes continuously activated, leading to excess collagen production, sometimes even in the absence of the initial tissue injury, which leads to thickening and stiffening of tissues.

There have been a number of prior approaches to treating fibrosis through TGF-ß inhibition, including through antibodies to TGF-ß and its receptor. However, systemic blockade of TGF-ß signaling has shown significant toxicity due to effects on TGF-ß’s normal physiologic functions.

TGF-ß can be activated by a class of cell surface proteins known as integrins. In certain fibrotic diseases such as IPF and PSC, the integrins avß6 and avß1, which are normally expressed at very low levels, have been

 

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shown to be upregulated and to cause the continuous activation of TGF-ß. We believe that, by inhibiting fibrosis-specific TGF-ß activators such as avß6 and avß1, it may be possible to block abnormal TGF-ß activation in fibrotic tissues without affecting TGF-ß signaling in healthy tissues. Historically, integrin drug development has been hampered by the difficulty of developing integrin inhibitors that are both selective for specific integrins and bioavailable. We believe our pipeline of bioavailable, highly selective integrin inhibitors has the potential to address these challenges.

Our Pipeline

 

LOGO

PLN-74809 in IPF and PSC

Our lead wholly-owned product candidate, PLN-74809, is an oral small-molecule, dual-selective inhibitor of avß6 and avß1 that we are advancing in IPF and PSC. IPF is the most common and severe form of progressive pulmonary fibrosis, affecting approximately 140,000 patients in the United States. The average life expectancy for patients with confirmed IPF is between three and five years. There are currently two U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, approved therapies for IPF. Both have shown modest slowing of disease progression. However, both therapies have raised significant safety and tolerability concerns. PSC is a progressive liver disorder affecting approximately 30,000 to 45,000 patients in the United States. Patients have a median survival of 10 to 12 years without intervention and carry high lifetime risk of developing gastrointestinal malignancies. There are currently no FDA-approved therapies for PSC.

While expressed at very low levels in normal tissues, avß6 and avß1 are upregulated in the pulmonary tissues of IPF patients, and in the liver tissues of PSC patients. They both serve as activators of TGF-ß, leading to increased collagen production and fibrosis in these tissues. By blocking TGF-ß activation by both avß6 and avß1, we believe PLN-74809 may slow and potentially halt the progression of fibrosis in these patient populations. PLN-74809 has been granted orphan drug designation by the FDA for both IPF and PSC.

We have completed a Phase 1a single ascending dose, or SAD, multiple ascending dose, or MAD, and food effect clinical trial involving 85 healthy volunteers in which PLN-74809 was shown to be orally bioavailable and generally well tolerated with a half-life that may support once-daily dosing.

We have also completed a Phase 1b proof-of-mechanism trial in healthy volunteers evaluating PLN-74809’s ability to inhibit TGF-ß activation as measured through pSMAD2/3 activation levels. pSMADs act as signaling

 

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molecules directly downstream from the TGF-ß receptor, and therefore pSMAD2/3 activation is used as a reliable biomarker for TGF-ß activation. In the Phase 1b trial, PLN-74809 was shown to inhibit TGF-ß activation by up to 70% in alveolar macrophages collected from healthy volunteers, in a dose- and exposure-dependent manner. Additionally, PLN-74809 was well tolerated with only mild adverse events and no drug-related adverse events.

We are recruiting two Phase 2a trials of PLN-74809 in IPF. In the first of these trials, we plan to enroll IPF patients and utilize a positron emission tomography, or PET, ligand to measure avß6 target engagement by PLN-74809 in the lungs post-treatment. The second trial is a 12-week double blind placebo-controlled trial recruiting IPF patients across up to four cohorts consisting of up to three doses of PLN-74809 and one placebo and will evaluate safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics, or PK. We also plan to employ exploratory efficacy endpoints including Quantitative Lung Fibrosis imaging analysis, biomarkers and pulmonary function. We submitted an IND for PLN-74809 in PSC in March 2020 and plan to initiate a Phase 2a trial in the second half of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This trial will be a 12-week double blind placebo-controlled trial recruiting PSC patients across up to four cohorts consisting of up to three doses of PLN-74809 and one placebo and will evaluate safety, tolerability and PK. We also plan to employ exploratory efficacy endpoints including biomarkers and evaluation of liver-stiffness.

PLN-1474 in F3/F4 Liver Fibrosis Associated with NASH

Our second clinical-stage product candidate, PLN-1474, is a small-molecule, selective inhibitor of avß1 in development for treatment of stage F3/F4 liver fibrosis associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. NASH is a more severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD. In October 2019, we entered into a license and collaboration agreement with Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc., or Novartis, in which Novartis licensed global rights to PLN-1474.

NASH is highly prevalent, affecting approximately 16.5 million adults in the United States, including approximately 3.3 million with stage F3/F4 fibrosis. The stage of fibrosis is the strongest predictor of liver-related morbidity and all-cause mortality in NASH. Patients with F3 and F4 fibrosis carry liver-related mortality risk that is 17 times and 42 times greater, respectively, than NASH patients without fibrosis. Therefore, we believe that treating F3/F4 liver fibrosis will have an impact on liver-related morbidity and all-cause mortality in NASH. There are currently no approved therapies for NASH and the candidates in development to date have shown only modest antifibrotic effects in published clinical trials.

Pursuant to our collaboration with Novartis, Novartis will reimburse us for all development activities associated with the PLN-1474 Phase 1 trials and will be responsible for all development and commercialization activities following Phase 1 trials. In addition to PLN-1474, during the research term, Novartis will also collaborate with us on up to three separate integrin research programs. Novartis will also pay us tiered royalties, on a product-by-product basis based on annual net sales of products, at percentages ranging from high-single digits to low teens of the applicable licensed products and mid-single digits to high-single digits for any products resulting from the research programs.

avß1 serves as an activator of TGF-ß and its expression has been shown to be upregulated in activated hepatic stellate cells and correlated with severity of liver fibrosis. By inhibiting avß1, we believe PLN-1474 could have a potent direct antifibrotic effect in advanced liver fibrosis.

We have shown through our assays of live human fibrotic liver tissue that PLN-1474 is able to decrease the expression of pro-fibrotic genes such as COL1A1, the gene associated with the production of the most abundant type of collagen produced in fibrosis. We have also shown in multiple animal models of NASH that PLN-1474 has a potent anti-fibrotic effect. Despite delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently conducting a Phase 1 trial of PLN-1474 in healthy volunteers with data expected by the end of 2020.

 

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In addition to our clinical programs, we are developing two additional preclinical integrin-based programs. The first of these is our oncology program. As TGF-ß biology has been elucidated, it has become increasingly understood in the scientific literature that TGF-ß plays an important anti-inflammatory role in the tumor micro-environment, preventing T-cell infiltration and inhibiting release of various cytokines. This mechanism is becoming increasingly recognized as a potential cause of the resistance to checkpoint inhibitors such as anti-PD-1 therapies seen in many tumors. We are targeting the TGF-ß activating integrin avß8, which is upregulated in certain tumors with the goal of sensitizing tumors to checkpoint inhibitors. This program has generated positive data in preclinical tumor models and our candidate is currently undergoing IND-enabling studies.

Our second preclinical program is an allosteric agonistic monoclonal antibody against an undisclosed integrin receptor being developed for treatment of muscular dystrophies, including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The target integrin is upregulated on muscle cells across multiple muscular dystrophy indications, acting as a substitute for dystrophin and helping to anchor muscle cells to the extracellular matrix. The program utilizes an allosteric agonistic antibody to activate the target in order to augment the naturally occurring compensatory mechanism. Because the antibody is not mutation specific, it could potentially be effective as a single therapy or in combination with other treatment modalities across multiple muscular dystrophy indications. This program is currently in the candidate selection phase of development.

Our Approach and Capabilities

Our approach to drug development in fibrosis combines our deep knowledge of the biology of fibrosis with various cellular, tissue, and in vivo assays developed in house to uncover pathways and potential targets. We have developed and utilized a quantitative fibrosis target expression atlas to identify and validate novel fibrosis targets. We have built a library of over 7,000 integrin inhibitors that we test against these identified targets to select potential candidates. In addition to our integrin library, we have a non-integrin based library of over 70,000 compounds that we also screen against non-integrin targets. We evaluate potential candidates in a series of integrin selectivity assays, cell-based assays, precision cut tissue slices and animal models prior to advancing our product candidates into development.

A key component of our de-risking strategy is our live fibrotic human tissue program.

We obtain live fibrotic human tissue post-transplant through partnerships with research hospitals and organ tissue networks and utilize proprietary protocols to maintain viability of these tissues for multiple days. We test our product candidates in this live tissue and measure multiple markers of antifibrotic activity, effectively bridging the gap between animal models and clinical proof-of-concept. We believe data from these live fibrotic human tissue experiments will increase our confidence that the tested product candidates will show anti-fibrotic effects in patients.

Once in the clinic, we seek to further de-risk our programs by designing clinical trials that allow us to show proof-of-mechanism in advance of clinical efficacy data. We utilize pharmacodynamic biomarkers and advanced imaging techniques, including positron emission tomography, or PET, to evaluate target engagement of our product candidates over relatively short time periods and observe whether the product candidate is having its anticipated effect. We believe these collective capabilities uniquely allow us to (i) efficiently identify targets, (ii) optimize the potency and selectivity of candidates and (iii) de-risk product candidates in advance of clinical proof-of-concept.

Pliant was founded in 2015 by world-renowned researchers Dean Sheppard, Rik Derynck, Bill DeGrado and Hal Chapman from the University of California, San Francisco who bring broad experience in fibrosis biology

 

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and small-molecule chemistry among other related disciplines. In addition, we have built an executive team with highly relevant experience in drug discovery and clinical development. To date, Pliant has raised over $220 million from investors including, Third Rock Ventures, Cowen Healthcare Investments, Eventide Asset Management, Novartis, Redmile Group, Farallon Capital Management, Cormorant Asset Management, Surveyor Capital (a Citadel company), Logos Capital, Schroder Adveq Management, Menlo Ventures, S-Cubed Capital and Agent Capital.

Our Strategy

Our goal is to become a world-leading fibrosis company, developing and commercializing disease-modifying therapies across a spectrum of fibrotic diseases. To achieve this, we are focused on the following key strategies:

 

   

Rapidly advance PLN-74809 in IPF and PSC through clinical development and commercialization.

 

   

Rapidly advance our second product candidate, PLN-1474, through Phase 1 for subsequent trials in NASH associated liver fibrosis.

 

   

Selectively evaluate additional partnerships in indications and geographies where we believe partners can add commercial and/or development capabilities.

 

   

Explore opportunities for our pipeline assets in additional fibrotic indications.

 

   

Leverage our industry leading tools and capabilities to advance our mission of becoming a leading fibrosis company.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Our Operations

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant industry-wide delays in clinical trials. There are multiple causes of these delays, including reluctance of patients to enroll or continue in trials for fear of exposure to COVID-19, local and regional shelter-in-place orders and regulations that discourage, hamper, or prohibit patient visits, healthcare providers and health systems shifting away from clinical trials toward the acute care of COVID-19 patients and the FDA and other regulators making product candidates for the treatment of COVID-19 a priority over product candidates unrelated to the pandemic.

We are working closely with our contract research organizations, or CROs, manufacturers, investigators and clinical trial sites to assess the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on timelines and expected costs for each of our programs. Our CROs are largely decentralized organizations and, to date, have not experienced significant impacts to their ability to support our trials. Our manufacturers have experienced impacts to their operations, however, these operational challenges have had minimal impact on their ability to produce and deliver materials to us in a timely manner.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter-in-place restrictions, commencement of enrollment of our clinical trials of PLN-74809 in IPF and PSC has been delayed. We anticipate delays in site start-up activities of one to two quarters for both the PLN-74809 IPF and PSC Phase 2a trials, and we could experience slower than expected enrollment. In addition, after enrollment in these trials, if patients contract COVID-19 during participation in our trials or are subject to isolation or shelter in place restrictions, this may cause them to drop out of our trials, miss scheduled doses or follow-up visits or otherwise fail to follow trial protocols. If patients are unable to follow the trial protocols or if our trial results are otherwise disputed due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or actions taken to mitigate its spread, the integrity of data from our trials may be compromised or not accepted by the FDA or other regulatory authorities, which would represent a significant setback for the applicable program.

 

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We are currently focusing our efforts on completing site-readiness and conducting an awareness campaign to generate interest in our trials. We are not aware of any of our directors or employees being infected with coronavirus, but the virus can remain asymptomatic for a significant period of time and methods and availability of testing are continuing to evolve. Notwithstanding the current shelter-in-place orders, our directors or employees or their family members could become infected.

We note the high level of difficulty in projecting the effects of COVID-19 on our programs and our company, given the rapid and dramatic evolution in the course and impact of the pandemic and the societal and governmental response to it.

For additional information, see the section titled “Business—Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Risks Associated with Our Business

Our business is subject to numerous risks that you should be aware of before making an investment decision. These risks are described more fully in the section entitled “Risk Factors.” These risks include, among others:

 

   

We have a limited operating history, which may make it difficult to evaluate our prospects and likelihood of success.

 

   

Our business is highly dependent on the success of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, as well as any other product candidates that we advance into the clinic. All of our product candidates will require significant additional preclinical and clinical development before we may be able to seek regulatory approval for and launch a product commercially.

 

   

Clinical development involves a lengthy, complex and expensive process, with an uncertain outcome.

 

   

We may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of PLN-74809 or any other product candidates.

 

   

If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.

 

   

We face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before or more successfully than us.

 

   

We have entered into a collaboration agreement with Novartis for the development of PLN-1474, and may in the future seek to enter into collaborations with third parties for the development and commercialization of other product candidates. If we fail to enter into such collaborations, or our collaborations are not successful, we may be unable to continue development of such product candidates, we would not receive any contemplated milestone payments or royalties, and we could fail to capitalize on the market potential of such product candidates.

 

   

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, could adversely impact our business, including our preclinical studies and clinical trials.

 

   

If we lose key management personnel, or if we fail to recruit additional highly skilled personnel, our ability to develop current product candidates or identify and develop new product candidates will be impaired, could result in loss of markets or market share and could make us less competitive.

 

   

Our success depends in part on our ability to protect our intellectual property. It is difficult and costly to protect our proprietary rights and technology, and we may not be able to ensure their protection.

 

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Concurrent Private Placement

Novartis, our strategic partner and one of our existing stockholders, has agreed to purchase $10.0 million in shares of our common stock at the initial public offering price per share (or 625,000 shares based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share), in a private placement transaction that would close concurrently with, and be contingent and conditioned upon consummation of, this offering, or the Concurrent Private Placement. The sale of such shares to Novartis will not be registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and these shares will be subject to certain restrictions on transfer pursuant to applicable securities laws and these shares are subject to a 180-day lock-up agreement with the underwriters in this offering. The closing of this offering is not conditioned upon the closing of the Concurrent Private Placement.

 

Corporate History and Information

We were incorporated under the laws of the State of Delaware in June 2015. Our principal executive office is located at 260 Littlefield Avenue, South San Francisco, California 94080, and our telephone number is (650) 481-6770. Our website address is https://pliantrx.com. We do not incorporate the information on or accessible through our website into this prospectus, and you should not consider any information on, or that can be accessed through, our website as part of this prospectus.

We use various trademarks and trade names in our business, including without limitation our corporate name and logo. All other trademarks or trade names referred to in this prospectus are the property of their respective owners. Solely for convenience, the trademarks and trade names in this prospectus may be referred to without the ® and symbols, but such references should not be construed as any indicator that their respective owners will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, their rights thereto.

Implications of Being an Emerging Growth Company and a Smaller Reporting Company

We qualify as an “emerging growth company,” or EGC, as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, as amended, or the JOBS Act. As an EGC, we may take advantage of specified reduced disclosure and other requirements that are otherwise applicable generally to public companies. These provisions include, but are not limited to:

 

   

being permitted to present only two years of audited financial statements in this prospectus and only two years of related “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” in our periodic reports and registration statements, including this prospectus;

 

   

not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as amended;

 

   

reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports, proxy statements, and registration statements, including in this prospectus; and

 

   

exemptions from the requirements of holding a nonbinding advisory vote on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved.

We may take advantage of these exemptions for up to five years from the date of effectiveness of this registration statement or such earlier time that we are no longer an EGC. We will cease to be an EGC on the date that is the earliest of (i) the last day of the fiscal year in which we have total annual gross revenues of $1.07 billion or more; (ii) the last day of our fiscal year following the fifth anniversary of the date of the completion of this offering; (iii) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in nonconvertible debt during the previous three years; or (iv) the last day of the fiscal year in which we are deemed to be a large accelerated filer under the rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, which means the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of the prior June 30th. We may

 

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choose to take advantage of some but not all of these exemptions. We have taken advantage of reduced reporting requirements in this prospectus. Accordingly, the information contained herein may be different from the information you receive from other public companies in which you hold stock. In addition, the JOBS Act provides that an EGC can take advantage of an extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standards. This provision allows an EGC to delay the adoption of some accounting standards until those standards would otherwise apply to private companies. We have elected to use this extended transition period for complying with new or revised accounting standards that have different effective dates for public and private companies until the earlier of the date we (i) are no longer an EGC or (ii) affirmatively and irrevocably opt out of the extended transition period provided in the JOBS Act. As a result, our financial statements may not be comparable to companies that comply with new or revised accounting pronouncements as of public company effective dates.

We are also a “smaller reporting company” as defined in the Exchange Act. We may continue to be a smaller reporting company even after we are no longer an emerging growth company. We may take advantage of certain of the scaled disclosures available to smaller reporting companies until the fiscal year following the determination that our voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates is more than $250 million measured on the last business day of our second fiscal quarter, or our annual revenues are less than $100 million during the most recently completed fiscal year and our voting and non-voting common stock held by non-affiliates is more than $700 million measured on the last business day of our second fiscal quarter.

 

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THE OFFERING

 

Common stock offered by us

9,000,000 shares.

 

Option to purchase additional shares

We have granted the underwriters an option to purchase up to 1,350,000 additional shares of common stock from us. The underwriters can exercise this option at any time within 30 days from the date of this prospectus.

 

Common stock to be outstanding immediately after this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement


34,201,346 shares (or 35,551,346 shares if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional shares in full).

 

Use of proceeds

We estimate that we will receive net proceeds from the sale of our common stock in this offering of approximately $129.0 million, or $149.1 million if the underwriters exercise in full their option to purchase additional shares, based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share, and after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us. In addition, we expect to receive net proceeds of $10.0 million from the sale of shares of our common stock to Novartis in the Concurrent Private Placement. We intend to use the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement to fund the clinical development of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, the preclinical development of our programs in oncology and muscular dystrophy, and the remainder, if any, for additional early-stage research and development activities, for business development activities, working capital and other general corporate purposes. See the section entitled “Use of Proceeds” for additional information.

 

Concurrent Private Placement

Novartis, our strategic partner and one of our existing stockholders, has agreed to purchase $10.0 million in shares of our common stock at the initial public offering price per share (or 625,000 shares based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share), in the Concurrent Private Placement that would close concurrently with, and be contingent and conditioned upon consummation of, this offering. The sale of such shares to Novartis will not be registered under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and these shares will be subject to certain restrictions on transfer pursuant to applicable securities laws and these shares are subject to a 180-day lock-up agreement with the underwriters in this offering. The closing of this offering is not conditioned upon the closing of the Concurrent Private Placement.

 

Risk factors

You should read carefully the section entitled “Risk Factors” and other information included in this prospectus for a discussion of factors that you should consider before deciding to invest in our common stock.

 

Nasdaq Global Select Market symbol

“PLRX”

 

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The number of shares of our common stock to be outstanding after this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement is based on 24,576,346 shares of common stock (including our redeemable convertible preferred stock on an as-converted basis) outstanding as of March 31, 2020, and excludes:

 

   

2,607,939 shares of our common stock issuable upon the exercise of options outstanding as of March 31, 2020, under the 2015 Equity Incentive Plan, or the 2015 Plan, at a weighted-average exercise price of $4.69 per share, or pursuant to rights to purchase restricted stock at a weighted-average purchase price of $0.08 per share;

 

   

1,047,247 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under the 2015 Plan as of March 31, 2020, which shares will no longer be reserved upon the effectiveness of our 2020 Stock Option and Incentive Plan as described below;

 

   

4,200,000 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2020 Stock Option and Incentive Plan, or the 2020 Plan, which became effective in connection with this offering; and

 

   

700,000 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2020 Employee Stock Purchase Plan, or the 2020 ESPP, which became effective in connection with this offering.

Our 2020 Plan and 2020 ESPP each provide for annual automatic increases in the number of shares of our common stock reserved thereunder and our 2020 Plan also provides for increases to the number of shares of common stock that may be granted thereunder based on shares underlying any awards under our 2020 Plan and 2015 Plan that expire, are forfeited or are otherwise terminated, as more fully described in the section titled “Executive Compensation—Employee Benefits and Equity Compensation Plans.”

Unless otherwise indicated, this prospectus reflects and assumes the following:

 

   

a 1-for-7.15 reverse stock split of our common stock that was effected on May 22, 2020;

 

   

the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our redeemable convertible preferred stock into an aggregate of 22,432,029 shares of our common stock immediately prior to the completion of this offering;

 

   

the issuance of 625,000 shares of our common stock (based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share) in the Concurrent Private Placement, which is to be completed concurrently with, and be contingent and conditioned upon consummation of, the closing of this offering;

 

   

no exercise of the outstanding options or purchase rights described above;

 

   

no exercise by the underwriters of their option to purchase up to 1,350,000 additional shares of our common stock in this offering; and

 

   

the filing and effectiveness of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and the adoption of our amended and restated bylaws, which will occur immediately prior to the completion of this offering.

Unless otherwise indicated, the number of shares of common stock outstanding includes 237,997 unvested restricted shares of common stock subject to repurchase as of March 31, 2020.

 

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Summary Financial Data

The following tables present summary financial data for our business. We have derived the summary statements of operations data for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2019 from our audited financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. We have derived the summary statements of operations data for the three months ended March 31, 2019 and 2020, and the summary balance sheet data as of March 31, 2020, from our unaudited condensed financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. We have prepared the unaudited condensed financial statements on the same basis as the audited financial statements. We have included all adjustments consisting only of normal recurring adjustments that we consider necessary for a fair presentation of the financial information set forth in those unaudited condensed financial statements. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected in the future and our operating results for the three months ended March 31, 2020 are not necessarily indicative of the actual or expected results for the full year ending December 31, 2020 or any other interim periods or any future period. You should read this data together with our financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus and the information in the sections entitled “Selected Financial Data” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

(In thousands, except share and per share amounts)

  Years Ended
December 31,
    Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
    2018     2019     2019     2020  

Statements of Operations Data:

       

Revenue—related party

  $ —     $ 57,052     $ —     $ 28,938  

Operating expenses:

       

Research and development

    (24,415     (47,353     (11,749     (13,919

General and administrative

    (6,500     (10,930     (2,601     (4,011
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

    (30,915     (58,283     (14,350     (17,930
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

(Loss) income from operations

    (30,915     (1,231     (14,350     11,008  

Interest income

    688       816       313       209  

Other (expense) income, net

    (49     (216     14       (188
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net (loss) income

  $ (30,276   $ (631   $ (14,023   $ 11,029  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Accretion to redemption value and cumulative dividends on redeemable convertible preferred stock

    (4,876     (6,225     (1,344     —    

Less: Undistributed earnings to preferred shareholders

    —         —         —         (11,029
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net (loss) income attributable to common stockholders

  $ (35,152   $ (6,856   $ (15,367   $ —    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net (loss) income per share attributable to common stockholders:

       

Basic(1)

  $ (30.16   $ (4.22   $ (10.90   $ —    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted(1)

  $ (30.16   $ (4.22   $ (10.90   $ —    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Weighted-average shares used in computing net (loss) income per share attributable to common stockholders:

       

Basic(1)

    1,165,454       1,623,358       1,409,697       1,897,669  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted(1)

   
1,165,454
 
    1,623,358       1,409,697       1,897,669  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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(In thousands, except share and per share amounts)

  Year Ended
December 31,
    Three
Months Ended

March 31,
 
    2019     2020  

Pro forma net (loss) income per share attributable to common stockholders:

   

Basic(1)

  $ (0.04   $ 0.51  
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted(1)

  $ (0.04   $ 0.48  
 

 

 

   

 

 

 

Weighted-average shares outstanding used in computing pro forma net income per share attributable to common stockholders:

   

Basic(1)

    16,510,084       21,829,723  

Diluted(1)

    16,510,084       22,861,086  

 

(1)   See Notes 2 and 16 to our audited financial statements and our condensed financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus for an explanation of the calculations of our basic and diluted net (loss) income per share, pro forma net (loss) income per share and the weighted-average number of shares used in the computation of the per share amounts.

 

(In thousands)    As of March 31, 2020  
     Actual     Pro Forma(1)     Pro Forma
As Adjusted(2)
 

Balance Sheet Data:

      

Cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments

   $ 141,431     $ 169,254     $ 310,840  

Working capital(3)

     166,515       166,515       306,189  

Total assets

     184,057       184,057       322,247  

Redeemable convertible preferred stock

     238,313       —         —    

Accumulated deficit

     (65,266     (65,266     (67,970

Total stockholders’ (deficit) equity

     (64,751     173,562       309,841  

 

(1)   The pro forma column in the balance sheet data table above gives effect to (i) the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our redeemable convertible preferred stock as of March 31, 2020 into an aggregate of 22,432,029 shares of our common stock immediately prior to the completion of this offering as if such conversion had occurred as of March 31, 2020; (ii) the filing and effectiveness of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation, which will occur immediately prior to the completion of this offering; and (iii) the receipt of $27.8 million in payments under the Novartis Agreement in the second quarter of 2020.
(2)   The pro forma as adjusted column in the balance sheet data table above gives effect to (i) the pro forma adjustments set forth in footnote (1) above; (ii) the issuance and sale of 9,000,000 shares of common stock in this offering at the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us and (iii) our sale of $10.0 million of our common stock in a Concurrent Private Placement to Novartis at the initial public offering price per share (or 625,000 shares based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share); and (iv) the payment of the milestone payment of $2.6 million in the second quarter of 2020 to the UC Regents, calculated using a price per share of $16.00, multiplied by 162,738, an amount determined by calculating 2.0% of the Company’s fully diluted outstanding shares as of a date defined in the license agreement with UCSF. See Note 7 to our condensed financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus for additional information.
(3)   We define working capital as current assets less current liabilities. See our condensed financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus for details regarding our current assets and current liabilities.

 

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RISK FACTORS

Investing in our common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the risks described below, as well as the other information in this prospectus, including our financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus and in the section entitled “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations,” before deciding whether to invest in our common stock. The occurrence of any of the events or developments described below could harm our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects. In such an event, the market price of our common stock could decline and you may lose all or part of your investment. Additional risks and uncertainties not presently known to us or that we currently deem immaterial also may impair our business operations.

Risks Related to Our Financial Position and Need for Additional Capital

We have incurred significant net losses since inception and we expect to continue to incur significant net losses for the foreseeable future.

We have incurred significant net losses since our inception and have financed our operations principally through equity financing. We continue to incur significant research and development and other expenses related to our ongoing operations. For the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2019, we reported a net loss of $30.3 million and $0.6 million, respectively, and for the three months ended March 31, 2019 and 2020, we reported a net loss of $14.0 million and net income of $11.0 million, respectively. As of December 31, 2019 and March 31, 2020, we had an accumulated deficit of $76.3 million and $65.3 million, respectively. We have devoted substantially all of our resources and efforts to research and development and we expect that it will be several years, if ever, before we generate revenue from product sales. Even if we receive marketing approval for and commercialize one or more of our product candidates, we expect that we will continue to incur substantial research and development and other expenses in order to develop and market additional potential product candidates.

We expect to continue to incur significant losses for the foreseeable future, and we anticipate that our expenses will increase substantially if, and as, we:

 

   

advance the development of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, and our second product candidate, PLN 1474, and our other product candidates through clinical development, and, if successful, later-stage clinical trials;

 

   

discover and develop new product candidates;

 

   

advance our preclinical development programs into clinical development;

 

   

experience delays or interruptions to preclinical studies, clinical trials, our receipt of services from our third-party service providers on whom we rely, or our supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

 

   

seek regulatory approvals for any product candidates that successfully complete clinical trials;

 

   

commercialize PLN-74809, our other product candidates and any future product candidates, if approved;

 

   

increase the amount of research and development activities to identify and develop product candidates;

 

   

hire additional clinical development, quality control, scientific and management personnel;

 

   

expand our operational, financial and management systems and increase personnel, including personnel to support our clinical development and manufacturing efforts and our operations as a public company;

 

   

establish a sales, marketing, medical affairs and distribution infrastructure to commercialize any products for which we may obtain marketing approval and intend to commercialize on our own or jointly with third parties;

 

   

maintain, expand and protect our intellectual property portfolio; and

 

   

invest in or in-license other technologies or product candidates.

 

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To become and remain profitable, we must develop and eventually commercialize products with significant market potential. This will require us to be successful in a range of challenging activities, including completing preclinical studies and clinical trials, obtaining marketing approval for product candidates, manufacturing, marketing and selling products for which we may obtain marketing approval and satisfying any post-marketing requirements. We may never succeed in any or all of these activities and, even if we do, we may never generate revenue that is significant enough to achieve profitability. If we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our failure to become and remain profitable would decrease the value of our company and could impair our ability to raise capital, maintain our research and development efforts, expand our business or continue our operations.

Even if this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement are successful, we will require substantial additional capital to finance our operations. If we are unable to raise such capital when needed, or on acceptable terms, we may be forced to delay, reduce and/or eliminate one or more of our research and drug development programs, future commercialization efforts or other operations.

Developing biopharmaceutical products, including conducting preclinical studies and clinical trials, is a very time-consuming, expensive and uncertain process that takes years to complete. Our operations have consumed substantial amounts of cash since inception. We expect our expenses to increase in connection with our ongoing activities, particularly as we conduct our planned clinical trials of PLN-74809 and PLN-1474 and any future product candidates that we may develop, seek regulatory approvals for our product candidates and to launch and commercialize any products for which we receive regulatory approval. Following this offering, we also expect to incur additional costs associated with operating as a public company. Accordingly, we will need to obtain substantial additional funding in order to maintain our continuing operations. If we are unable to raise capital when needed or on acceptable terms, we may be forced to delay, reduce or eliminate one or more of our research and drug development programs or future commercialization efforts.

As of March 31, 2020, we had approximately $141.4 million in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments. Based on our current operating plan, we believe that the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, together with existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments, will be sufficient to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements into 2023. However, our future capital requirements and the period for which our existing resources will support our operations may vary significantly from what we expect, and we will in any event require additional capital in order to complete clinical development of any of our current programs. Our monthly spending levels will vary based on new and ongoing development and corporate activities. Because the length of time and activities associated with development of our product candidates is highly uncertain, we are unable to estimate the actual funds we will require for development, marketing and commercialization activities. Our future funding requirements, both near and long-term, will depend on many factors, including, but not limited to:

 

   

the initiation, progress, timing, costs and results of preclinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidates;

 

   

the clinical development plans we establish for these product candidates;

 

   

the timelines of our clinical trials and the overall costs to finish the clinical trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

 

   

the number and characteristics of product candidates that we develop;

 

   

the outcome, timing and cost of meeting regulatory requirements established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and other comparable foreign regulatory authorities;

 

   

whether we are able to maintain our existing collaboration with Novartis and enter into additional collaboration agreements and the terms of any such agreements;

 

   

the cost of filing, prosecuting, defending and enforcing our patent claims and other intellectual property rights;

 

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the cost of defending intellectual property disputes, including patent infringement actions brought by third parties against us or our product candidates;

 

   

the effect of competing technological and market developments;

 

   

the cost and timing of completion of commercial-scale outsourced manufacturing activities; and

 

   

the cost of establishing sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for any product candidates for which we may receive regulatory approval in regions where we choose to commercialize our products on our own.

We do not have any committed external source of funds or other support for our development efforts and we cannot be certain that additional funding will be available on acceptable terms, or at all. Until we can generate sufficient revenue to finance our cash requirements, which we may never do, we expect to finance our future cash needs through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, strategic alliances, licensing arrangements and other marketing or distribution arrangements. If we raise additional funds through public or private equity offerings, the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely the rights of our common stockholders. Further, to the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of common stock or securities convertible or exchangeable into common stock, your ownership interest will be diluted. In addition, any debt financing may subject us to fixed payment obligations and covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends. If we raise additional capital through marketing and distribution arrangements or other collaborations, strategic alliances or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish certain valuable intellectual property or other rights to our product candidates, technologies, future revenue streams or research programs or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. We also may be required to seek collaborators for any of our product candidates at an earlier stage than otherwise would be desirable or relinquish our rights to product candidates or technologies that we otherwise would seek to develop or commercialize ourselves. Market volatility resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic or other factors could also adversely impact our ability to access capital as and when needed. If we are unable to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts or on terms acceptable to us, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue the development or commercialization of one or more of our product candidates or one or more of our other research and development initiatives. Any of the above events could significantly harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations and cause the price of our common stock to decline.

The amount of our future losses is uncertain and our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly or may fall below the expectations of investors or securities analysts, each of which may cause our stock price to fluctuate or decline.

Our quarterly and annual operating results may fluctuate significantly in the future due to a variety of factors, many of which are outside of our control and may be difficult to predict, including the following:

 

   

the timing and success or failure of clinical trials for our product candidates or competing product candidates, or any other change in the competitive landscape of our industry, including consolidation among our competitors or partners;

 

   

our ability to successfully recruit and retain subjects for clinical trials, and any delays caused by difficulties in such efforts;

 

   

our ability to obtain marketing approval for our product candidates, and the timing and scope of any such approvals we may receive;

 

   

the timing and cost of, and level of investment in, research and development activities relating to our product candidates, which may change from time to time;

 

   

the cost of manufacturing our product candidates, which may vary depending on the quantity of production and the terms of our agreements with manufacturers;

 

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our ability to attract, hire and retain qualified personnel;

 

   

expenditures that we will or may incur to develop additional product candidates;

 

   

the level of demand for our product candidates should they receive approval, which may vary significantly;

 

   

the risk/benefit profile, cost and reimbursement policies with respect to our product candidates, if approved, and existing and potential future therapeutics that compete with our product candidates;

 

   

general market conditions or extraordinary external events, such as recessions or the COVID-19 pandemic;

 

   

the changing and volatile U.S. and global economic environments; and

 

   

future accounting pronouncements or changes in our accounting policies.

The cumulative effects of these factors could result in large fluctuations and unpredictability in our quarterly and annual operating results. As a result, comparing our operating results on a period-to-period basis may not be meaningful. This variability and unpredictability could also result in our failing to meet the expectations of industry or financial analysts or investors for any period. If our revenue or operating results fall below the expectations of analysts or investors or below any forecasts we may provide to the market, or if the forecasts we provide to the market are below the expectations of analysts or investors, the price of our common stock could decline substantially. Such a stock price decline could occur even when we have met any previously publicly stated guidance we may provide.

Risks Related to Research and Development and the Biopharmaceutical Industry

We have a limited operating history, which may make it difficult to evaluate our prospects and likelihood of success.

We are a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company with a limited operating history. We were incorporated in 2015, have no products approved for commercial sale and have not generated any revenue. Our operations to date have been limited to organizing and staffing our company, business planning, raising capital, establishing our intellectual property portfolio and performing research and development of our product candidates and our technology related to transforming growth factor beta, or TGF-ß, signaling and integrin biology, medicinal chemistry, translational screening technologies, and clinical insights to discover and develop novel therapies for the treatment of fibrosis. Our approach to the discovery and development of product candidates is unproven, and we do not know whether we will be able to develop any products of commercial value. In addition, our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, is in early clinical development for the treatment of IPF and preclinical development for the treatment of PSC, and our second product candidate, PLN-1474, is in early clinical development. Both programs will require substantial additional development and clinical research time and resources before we would be able to apply for or receive regulatory approvals and begin generating revenue from product sales. We have not yet demonstrated the ability to progress any product candidate through clinical trials. We are still in preclinical and early clinical development and may be unable to obtain regulatory approval, manufacture a commercial scale product, or arrange for a third party to do so on our behalf, or conduct sales and marketing activities necessary for successful product commercialization. Investment in biopharmaceutical product development is highly speculative because it entails substantial upfront capital expenditures and significant risk that any potential product candidate will fail to demonstrate adequate efficacy or an acceptable safety profile, gain regulatory approval and become commercially viable. In addition, as a business with a limited operating history, we may encounter unforeseen expenses, difficulties, complications, delays and other known and unknown factors and risks frequently experienced by early-stage biopharmaceutical companies in rapidly evolving fields. Consequently, we have no meaningful history of operations upon which to evaluate our business, and predictions about our future success or viability may not be as accurate as they could be if we had a longer operating history or a history of successfully developing and commercializing drug products.

 

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Our business is highly dependent on the success of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, as well as PLN-1474 and any other product candidates that we advance into the clinic. All of our product candidates will require significant additional preclinical and clinical development before we may be able to seek regulatory approval for and launch a product commercially.

We currently have no products that are approved for commercial sale and may never be able to develop marketable products. We are very early in our development efforts and have only one product candidate, PLN-74809, in early clinical development. Because PLN-74809 is our lead product candidate, if PLN-74809 encounters safety or efficacy problems, development delays, regulatory issues or other problems, our development plans and business would be significantly harmed. We have completed a Phase 1a SAD/MAD trial and a Phase 1b proof-of-mechanism trial of PLN-74809 in IPF and are recruiting two Phase 2a trials in IPF. We submitted an IND for PLN-74809 for the treatment of primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC, in March 2020, and plan to initiate a Phase 2a PSC trial in the second half of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are also collaborating with Novartis to develop PLN-1474 for liver fibrosis associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH, and are currently evaluating PLN-1474 in Phase 1a SAD/MAD testing.

Before we can generate any revenue from sales of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, or any of our other product candidates, we must undergo additional preclinical and clinical development, regulatory review and approval in one or more jurisdictions. In addition, if one or more of our product candidates are approved, we must ensure access to sufficient commercial manufacturing capacity and conduct significant marketing efforts in connection with any commercial launch. These efforts will require substantial investment, and we may not have the financial resources to continue development of our product candidates.

We may experience setbacks that could delay or prevent regulatory approval of, or our ability to commercialize, our product candidates, including:

 

   

negative or inconclusive results from our preclinical studies or clinical trials or the clinical trials of others for product candidates similar to ours, leading to a decision or requirement to conduct additional preclinical testing or clinical trials or abandon a program;

 

   

product-related side effects experienced by subjects in our clinical trials or by individuals using drugs or therapeutics similar to our product candidates;

 

   

delays in submitting INDs or comparable foreign applications or delays or failure in obtaining the necessary approvals from regulators to commence a clinical trial, or a suspension or termination of a clinical trial once commenced;

 

   

conditions imposed by the FDA or comparable foreign authorities regarding the scope or design of our clinical trials;

 

   

delays in enrolling subjects in clinical trials, including due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

 

   

high drop-out rates of subjects from clinical trials; inadequate supply or quality of product candidates or other materials necessary for the conduct of our clinical trials;

 

   

greater than anticipated clinical trial costs;

 

   

inability to compete with other therapies;

 

   

poor efficacy of our product candidates during clinical trials;

 

   

unfavorable FDA or other regulatory agency inspection and review of a clinical trial site;

 

   

failure of our third-party contractors or investigators to comply with regulatory requirements or otherwise meet their contractual obligations in a timely manner, or at all;

 

   

delays related to the impact of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the impact of COVID-19 on the FDA’s ability to continue its normal operations;

 

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delays and changes in regulatory requirements, policy and guidelines, including the imposition of additional regulatory oversight around clinical testing generally or with respect to our technology in particular; or

 

   

varying interpretations of data by the FDA and similar foreign regulatory agencies.

We do not have complete control over many of these factors, including certain aspects of clinical development and the regulatory submission process, potential threats to our intellectual property rights and our manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales efforts or that of any future collaborator.

Our approach to drug discovery and development in the area of fibrotic diseases, with an initial focus on tissue-specific integrin modulation and TGF-ß signaling inhibition, is unproven and may not result in marketable products.

Our approach is designed to discover and develop targeted treatments for fibrosis with an initial focus on the antagonism of tissue-specific TGF-ß signaling through the inhibition of integrins known to mediate the release of activated TGF-ß in fibrotic tissue. However, although multiple studies are currently underway, to date, this mechanism has not been definitively proven to successfully treat fibrosis. Targeting integrins to treat fibrosis is a novel approach in a rapidly developing field, and there can be no assurance that we will not experience currently unknown problems or delays in developing our product candidates, that such problems or delays will not result in unanticipated costs, or that any such development problems can be solved. We have only tested our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, in healthy volunteers. Therefore, we may ultimately discover that our approach and any product candidates resulting therefrom do not possess properties required for therapeutic effectiveness. As a result, we may never succeed in developing a marketable product.

In addition, while we have developed an extensive panel of cell assays and precision cut tissue assays and have utilized animal models to uncover biological pathways, understood gene expression changes and optimized the potency and selectivity of our potential product candidates, there can be no assurance that our technology will yield their intended benefits. While we believe our assays represent a differentiator in our approach to drug development, our approach has not yet been clinically proven to yield results. Our practice of evaluating our product candidates in live human fibrotic tissue samples before advancing them into the clinic is intended to serve as a bridge between animal models and clinical proof-of-concept. However, there can be no assurance that positive results observed from preclinical animal testing and human fibrotic tissue models will be replicated when a program is advanced into clinical development. In addition, our practice of utilizing live human fibrotic tissue as part of our development efforts may become more widespread in the future, and this approach may be adopted and replicated by others, including our competitors.

Studies involving human tissue samples may also be subject to institutional and government human subject privacy policies that may vary by territory. We or our partners who provide us with human tissue samples, or conduct tissue and/or animal studies on our behalf, may be found to be in violation of one or more of these regulations or policies and may be subject to closure, censure or other penalties. In some cases, these penalties could materially impact the performance, availability, or validity of studies conducted by us on our behalf. Even in the absence of violations resulting in penalties, regulatory and other authorities may refuse to authorize the conduct or to accept the results of studies for regulatory or ethical reasons.

Clinical development involves a lengthy, complex and expensive process, with an uncertain outcome.

To obtain the requisite regulatory approvals to commercialize any product candidates, we must demonstrate through extensive preclinical studies and clinical trials that our product candidates are safe and effective in humans. Clinical testing is expensive and can take many years to complete, and its outcome is inherently uncertain. In particular, the general approach for FDA approval of a new drug is dispositive data from two well-controlled, Phase 3 clinical trials of the relevant drug in the relevant patient population. Phase 3 clinical trials

 

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typically involve hundreds of patients, have significant costs and take years to complete. A product candidate can fail at any stage of testing, even after observing promising signals of activity in earlier preclinical studies or clinical trials. The results of preclinical studies and early clinical trials of our product candidates may not be predictive of the results of later-stage clinical trials. In addition, initial success in clinical trials may not be indicative of results obtained when such trials are completed. There is typically an extremely high rate of attrition from the failure of product candidates proceeding through clinical trials. Product candidates in later stages of clinical trials may fail to show the desired safety and efficacy profile despite having progressed through preclinical studies and initial clinical trials. A number of companies in the biopharmaceutical industry have suffered significant setbacks in advanced clinical trials due to lack of efficacy or unacceptable safety issues, notwithstanding promising results in earlier trials. Most product candidates that commence clinical trials are never approved as products and there can be no assurance that any of our future clinical trials will ultimately be successful or support further clinical development of PLN-74809 or any of our other product candidates. Product candidates that appear promising in the early phases of development may fail to reach the market for several reasons, including:

 

   

preclinical studies or clinical trials may show the product candidates to be less effective than expected (e.g., a clinical trial could fail to meet its primary endpoint(s)) or to have unacceptable side effects or toxicities;

 

   

failure to establish clinical endpoints that applicable regulatory authorities would consider clinically meaningful;

 

   

failure to receive the necessary regulatory approvals;

 

   

manufacturing costs, formulation issues, pricing or reimbursement issues, or other factors that make a product candidate uneconomical; and

 

   

the proprietary rights of others and their competing products and technologies that may prevent one of our product candidates from being commercialized.

In addition, differences in trial design between early-stage clinical trials and later-stage clinical trials make it difficult to extrapolate the results of earlier clinical trials to later clinical trials. Moreover, clinical data are often susceptible to varying interpretations and analyses, and many companies that have believed their product candidates performed satisfactorily in clinical trials have nonetheless failed to obtain marketing approval of their products. Additionally, some of our trials may be open-label studies, where both the patient and investigator know whether the patient is receiving the investigational product candidate or either an existing approved drug or placebo. Most typically, open-label clinical trials test only the investigational product candidate and sometimes do so at different dose levels. Open-label clinical trials are subject to various limitations that may exaggerate any therapeutic effect as patients in open-label clinical trials are aware when they are receiving treatment. In addition, open-label clinical trials may be subject to an “investigator bias” where those assessing and reviewing the physiological outcomes of the clinical trials are aware of which patients have received treatment and may interpret the information of the treated group more favorably given this knowledge. Therefore, it is possible that positive results observed in open-label trials will not be replicated in later placebo-controlled trials.

In addition, the standards that the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities use when regulating us require judgment and can change, which makes it difficult to predict with certainty how they will be applied. Although we are initially focusing our efforts on development of small molecule drug products, we may in the future pursue development of biological products, including a potential candidate for muscular dystrophies, which could make us subject to additional regulatory requirements. Any analysis we perform of data from preclinical and clinical activities is subject to confirmation and interpretation by regulatory authorities, which could delay, limit or prevent regulatory approval. We may also encounter unexpected delays or increased costs due to new government regulations. Examples of such regulations include future legislation or administrative action, or changes in FDA policy during the period of product development and FDA regulatory review. It is impossible to predict whether legislative changes will be enacted, or whether FDA or foreign regulations,

 

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guidance or interpretations will be changed, or what the impact of such changes, if any, may be. The FDA may also require a panel of experts, referred to as an Advisory Committee, to deliberate on the adequacy of the safety and efficacy data to support approval. The opinion of the Advisory Committee, although not binding, may have a significant impact on our ability to obtain approval of any product candidates that we develop.

If we seek to conduct clinical trials in foreign countries or pursue marketing approvals in foreign jurisdictions, we must comply with numerous foreign regulatory requirements governing, among other things, the conduct of clinical trials, manufacturing and marketing authorization, pricing and third-party reimbursement. The foreign regulatory approval process varies among countries and may include all of the risks associated with FDA approval described above as well as risks attributable to the satisfaction of local regulations in foreign jurisdictions. Moreover, the time required to obtain approval may differ from that required to obtain FDA approval. Approval by the FDA does not ensure approval by regulatory authorities outside the United States and vice versa.

Successful completion of clinical trials is a prerequisite to submitting a marketing application to the FDA and similar marketing applications to comparable foreign regulatory authorities, for each product candidate and, consequently, the ultimate approval and commercial marketing of any product candidates. We may experience negative or inconclusive results, which may result in our deciding, or our being required by regulators, to conduct additional clinical studies or trials or abandon some or all of our product development programs, which could have a material adverse effect on our business.

We may incur additional costs or experience delays in completing, or ultimately be unable to complete, the development and commercialization of PLN-74809 or any other product candidates.

We may experience delays in initiating or completing clinical trials. We also may experience numerous unforeseen events during, or as a result of, any future clinical trials that could delay or prevent our ability to receive marketing approval or commercialize PLN-74809 or any other product candidates, including:

 

   

regulators or institutional review boards, or IRBs, or ethics committees may not authorize us or our investigators to commence a clinical trial or conduct a clinical trial at a prospective trial site;

 

   

the FDA or other comparable regulatory authorities may disagree with our clinical trial design, including with respect to dosing levels administered in our planned clinical trials, which may delay or prevent us from initiating our clinical trials with our originally intended trial design;

 

   

we may experience delays in reaching, or fail to reach, agreement on acceptable terms with prospective trial sites and prospective contract research organizations, or CROs, which can be subject to extensive negotiation and may vary significantly among different CROs and trial sites;

 

   

the number of subjects required for clinical trials of any product candidates may be larger than we anticipate or subjects may drop out of these clinical trials or fail to return for post-treatment follow-up at a higher rate than we anticipate;

 

   

our third-party contractors may fail to comply with regulatory requirements or meet their contractual obligations to us in a timely manner, or at all, or may deviate from the clinical trial protocol or drop out of the trial, which may require that we add new clinical trial sites or investigators;

 

   

due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced, and may continue to experience, delays and interruptions to our preclinical studies and clinical trials, we may experience delays or interruptions to our manufacturing supply chain, or we could suffer delays in reaching, or we may fail to reach, agreement on acceptable terms with third-party service providers on whom we rely;

 

   

additional delays and interruptions to our clinical trials could extend the duration of the trials and increase the overall costs to finish the trials as our fixed costs are not substantially reduced during delays;

 

   

we may elect to, or regulators, IRBs, Data Safety Monitoring Boards, or DSMBs, or ethics committees may require that we or our investigators, suspend or terminate clinical research or trials for various

 

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reasons, including noncompliance with regulatory requirements or a finding that the participants are being exposed to unacceptable health risks;

 

   

we may not have the financial resources available to begin and complete the planned trials, or the cost of clinical trials of any product candidates may be greater than we anticipate;

 

   

the supply or quality of our product candidates or other materials necessary to conduct clinical trials of our product candidates may be insufficient or inadequate to initiate or complete a given clinical trial; and

 

   

the FDA or other comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to submit additional data such as long-term toxicology studies, or impose other requirements before permitting us to initiate a clinical trial.

Our product development costs will increase if we experience additional delays in clinical testing or in obtaining marketing approvals. We do not know whether any of our clinical trials will begin as planned, will need to be restructured or will be completed on schedule, or at all. If we do not achieve our product development goals in the time frames we announce and expect, the approval and commercialization of our product candidates may be delayed or prevented entirely. Significant clinical trial delays also could shorten any periods during which we may have the exclusive right to commercialize our product candidates and may allow our competitors to bring products to market before we do, potentially impairing our ability to successfully commercialize our product candidates and harming our business and results of operations. Any delays in our clinical development programs may harm our business, financial condition and results of operations significantly.

Our ongoing and future clinical trials may reveal significant adverse events or unexpected drug-drug interactions not seen in our preclinical studies and may result in a safety profile that could delay or prevent regulatory approval or market acceptance of any of our product candidates.

We completed our Phase 1a clinical trial of our lead product candidate PLN-74809 in healthy volunteers, and, with the exception of a number of reported minor adverse events, the product candidate was observed to be generally well-tolerated across all doses in 71 trial participants. However, if significant adverse events or other side effects are observed in any of our ongoing or future clinical trials, we may have difficulty recruiting patients to our clinical trials, patients may drop out of our trials, or we may be required to abandon the trials or our development efforts altogether. In addition, in our planned Phase 2a clinical trials, we expect to evaluate PLN-74809 administered with approved IPF agents. As a result, we may encounter unexpected drug-drug interactions in our planned trials, and may be required to further test these candidates, including in drug-drug interaction studies, which may be expensive, time-consuming and result in delays to our programs. Some potential therapeutics developed in the biopharmaceutical industry that initially showed therapeutic promise in early-stage trials have later been found to cause side effects that prevented their further development. Even if the side effects do not preclude the product candidate from obtaining or maintaining marketing approval, undesirable side effects may inhibit market acceptance of the approved product due to its tolerability versus other therapies.

If we encounter difficulties enrolling patients in our clinical trials, our clinical development activities could be delayed or otherwise adversely affected.

We may experience difficulties in patient enrollment in our clinical trials for a variety of reasons. The timely completion of clinical trials in accordance with their protocols depends, among other things, on our ability to enroll a sufficient number of patients who remain in the trial until its conclusion. The enrollment of patients depends on many factors, including:

 

   

the patient eligibility and exclusion criteria defined in the protocol;

 

   

the size of the patient population required for analysis of the trial’s primary endpoints and the process for identifying patients;

 

   

the willingness or availability (including legality under applicable COVID-19 shelter-in-place regulations) of patients to participate in our trials (including due to fears of contracting COVID-19);

 

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the proximity of patients to trial sites;

 

   

the design of the trial;

 

   

our ability to recruit clinical trial investigators with the appropriate competencies and experience;

 

   

clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions as to the potential advantages and risks of the product candidate being studied in relation to other available therapies, including any new products that may be approved for the indications we are investigating;

 

   

the availability of competing commercially available therapies and other competing product candidates’ clinical trials;

 

   

our ability to obtain and maintain patient informed consents; and

 

   

the risk that patients enrolled in clinical trials will drop out of the trials before completion.

For example, we are initially developing PLN-74809 for the treatment of IPF and PSC, each of which is an orphan indication. In the United States, IPF is estimated to affect approximately 140,000 patients, while PSC is estimated to affect approximately 30,000 to 45,000 patients. As a result, we may encounter difficulties enrolling subjects in our clinical trials of PLN-74809 due, in part, to the small size of these patient populations. In addition, our clinical trials will compete with other clinical trials for product candidates that are in the same therapeutic areas as our product candidates, and this competition will reduce the number and types of patients available to us, because 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. Since the number of qualified clinical investigators is limited, we expect to conduct some of our clinical trials at the same clinical trial sites that some of our competitors use, which will reduce the number of patients who are available for our clinical trials in such clinical trial site. Certain of our planned clinical trials may also involve invasive procedures such as bronchoscopy and broncho-alveolar lavage, or BAL, procedure, which may lead some patients to drop out of trials to avoid these follow-up procedures.

Further, timely enrollment in clinical trials is reliant on clinical trial sites which may be adversely affected by global health matters, including, among other things, pandemics. For example, our clinical trial sites have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Commencement of enrollment of our clinical trials of PLN-74809 in IPF and PSC has been delayed. We anticipate delays in site start-up activities of one to two quarters for both the PLN-74809 IPF and PSC Phase 2a trials, and we could experience slower than expected enrollment. In addition, after enrollment in these trials, if patients contract COVID-19 during participation in our trials or are subject to isolation or shelter-in-place restrictions, this may cause them to drop out of our trials, miss scheduled doses or follow-up visits or otherwise fail to follow trial protocols. If patients are unable to follow the trial protocols or if our trial results are otherwise disputed due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic or actions taken to mitigate its spread, the integrity of data from our trials may be compromised or not accepted by the FDA or other regulatory authorities, which would represent a significant setback for the applicable program.

Some factors from the COVID-19 pandemic that we believe may adversely affect enrollment in our trials include:

 

   

the diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trial matters to focus on pandemic concerns, including the attention of infectious disease physicians serving as our clinical trial investigators, hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials;

 

   

given that our clinical trials target respiratory indications, patients who would otherwise be candidates for enrollment in our clinical trials, may become infected with coronavirus, which may kill some patients and render others too ill to participate, limiting the available pool of participants for our trials;

 

   

the inability of patients to come to hospitals and universities to participate in our trial, which may force us to conduct our trials in patients’ homes, rendering the trials more difficult and costly to conduct;

 

   

limitations on travel that interrupt key trial activities, such as clinical trial site initiations and monitoring;

 

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interruption in global shipping affecting the transport of clinical trial materials, such as investigational drug product and comparator drugs used in our trials; and

 

   

employee furlough days that delay necessary interactions with local regulators, ethics committees and other important agencies and contractors.

These and other factors arising from the COVID-19 pandemic could worsen in countries that are already afflicted with the virus or could continue to spread to additional countries, each of which may further adversely impact our clinical trials. The global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve and the conduct of our trials may continue to be adversely affected, despite efforts to mitigate this impact.

The design or execution of our ongoing and future clinical trials may not support marketing approval.

The design or execution of a clinical trial can determine whether its results will support marketing approval, and flaws in the design or execution of a clinical trial may not become apparent until the clinical trial is well advanced. We are currently recruiting two Phase 2a trials of PLN-74809 in IPF, subject to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first of these trials, we plan to enroll IPF patients and utilize a positron emission tomography, or PET, ligand to measure avß6 target engagement by PLN-74809 in the lungs post-treatment. The second trial is a 12-week double blind placebo-controlled trial recruiting IPF patients across up to four cohorts consisting of up to three doses of PLN-74809 and one placebo and will evaluate safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics, or PK. It is possible that we may need to amend our clinical trial, which would require us to resubmit our clinical trial protocols to IRBs for reexamination, and may impact the costs, timing or successful completion of such clinical trial. In addition, we may desire to test PLN-74809 at doses exceeding those evaluated in the Phase 1a trial, and may not be able to do so.

Additionally, in some instances, there can be significant variability in safety or efficacy results between different trials with the same product candidate due to numerous factors, including differences in trial protocols, size and type of the patient populations, variable adherence to the dosing regimen or other protocol requirements and the rate of dropout among clinical trial participants. We do not know whether any clinical trials we conduct will demonstrate consistent or adequate efficacy and safety to obtain marketing approval to market our product candidates.

Further, the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities have substantial discretion in the approval process and in determining when or whether marketing approval will be obtained for any of our product candidates. Our product candidates may not be approved even if they achieve their primary endpoints in future Phase 3 clinical trials or registrational trials. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may disagree with our trial designs and our interpretation of data from preclinical studies or clinical trials. In addition, any of these regulatory authorities may change requirements for the approval of a product candidate even after reviewing and providing comments or advice on a protocol for a pivotal Phase 3 or registrational clinical trial. In addition, any of these regulatory authorities may also approve a product candidate for fewer or more limited indications than we request or may grant approval contingent on the performance of costly post-marketing clinical trials. The FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may not approve the labeling claims that we believe would be necessary or desirable for the successful commercialization of our product candidates, if approved.

Delays in patient enrollment may result in increased costs or may affect the timing or outcome of our future clinical trials, which could prevent completion of these trials and adversely affect our ability to advance the development of our product candidates.

 

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Although we have received U.S. orphan drug designation for PLN-74809 for IPF and PSC indications, we may be unable to obtain and maintain orphan drug designation for our other product candidates and, even if we obtain such designation, we may not be able to realize the benefits of such designation, including potential marketing exclusivity of our product candidates, if approved.

Regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the United States and other major markets, may designate drugs intended to treat conditions or diseases affecting relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act of 1983, the FDA may designate a product candidate as an orphan drug if it is intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally defined as having a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, or a patient population greater than 200,000 in the United States where there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing the drug will be recovered from sales in the United States.

Although we have received U.S. orphan drug designation for PLN-74809 for IPF and PSC indications, the designation of any of our product candidates as an orphan drug does not mean that any regulatory agency will accelerate regulatory review of, or ultimately approve, that product candidate, nor does it limit the ability of any regulatory agency to grant orphan drug designation to product candidates of other companies that treat the same indications as our product candidates.

Generally, if a product candidate with an orphan drug designation receives the first marketing approval for the indication for which it has such designation, the product is entitled to a period of marketing exclusivity, which precludes the FDA or foreign regulatory authorities from approving another marketing application for a product that constitutes the same drug treating the same indication for that marketing exclusivity period, except in limited circumstances. The applicable period is seven years in the United States. Orphan drug exclusivity may be revoked if any regulatory agency determines that the request for designation was materially defective or if the manufacturer is unable to assure sufficient quantity of the product to meet the needs of patients with the rare disease or condition.

Even if we obtain orphan drug exclusivity for a product candidate, that exclusivity may not effectively protect the product candidate from competition because different drugs can be approved for the same condition in the United States. Even after an orphan drug is approved, the FDA may subsequently approve another drug for the same condition if the FDA concludes that the latter drug is not the same drug or is clinically superior in that it is shown to be safer, more effective or makes a major contribution to patient care.

Changes in methods of product candidate manufacturing or formulation may result in additional costs or delay.

As product candidates progress through preclinical to late stage clinical trials to marketing approval and commercialization, it is common that various aspects of the development program, such as manufacturing methods and formulation, are altered along the way in an effort to optimize yield, manufacturing batch size, minimize costs and achieve consistent quality and results. Such changes carry the risk that they will not achieve these intended objectives. Any of these changes could cause our product candidates to perform differently and affect the results of planned clinical trials or other future clinical trials conducted with the altered materials. This could delay completion of clinical trials, require the conduct of bridging clinical trials or the repetition of one or more clinical trials, increase clinical trial costs, delay approval of our product candidates and jeopardize our ability to commercialize our product candidates and generate revenue.

In addition, there are risks associated with large scale manufacturing for clinical trials or commercial scale including, among others, cost overruns, potential problems with process scale-up, process reproducibility, stability issues, compliance with good manufacturing practices, lot consistency and timely availability of raw materials. Even if we obtain marketing approval for any of our product candidates, there is no assurance that our manufacturers will be able to manufacture the approved product to specifications acceptable to the FDA or other

 

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comparable foreign regulatory authorities, to produce it in sufficient quantities to meet the requirements for the potential commercial launch of the product or to meet potential future demand. Additionally, if we advance a biological candidate into IND-enabling studies, the manufacturing processes for biological products is more complex and expensive than with small molecule products and additional manufacturing suppliers may be needed to manufacture clinical supplies for these programs. If our manufacturers are unable to produce sufficient quantities for clinical trials or for commercialization, our development and commercialization efforts would be impaired, which would have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects.

We may not be successful in our efforts to identify or discover additional product candidates in the future.

Our research programs may initially show promise in identifying potential product candidates, yet fail to yield product candidates for clinical development for a number of reasons, including:

 

   

our inability to design such product candidates with the pharmacological properties that we desire or attractive pharmacokinetics; or

 

   

potential product candidates may, on further study, be shown to have harmful side effects or other characteristics that indicate that they are unlikely to be medicines that will receive marketing approval and achieve market acceptance.

Research programs to identify new product candidates require substantial technical, financial and human resources. If we are unable to identify suitable compounds for preclinical and clinical development, we will not be able to obtain product revenue in future periods, which likely would result in significant harm to our financial position and adversely impact our stock price.

Due to our limited resources and access to capital, we must make decisions on the allocation of resources to certain programs and product candidates; these decisions may prove to be wrong and may adversely affect our business.

We have limited financial and human resources and intend to initially focus on research programs and product candidates for a limited set of indications. As a result, we may forgo or delay pursuit of opportunities with other product candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential or a greater likelihood of success. In addition, we seek to accelerate our development timelines, including by initiating certain clinical trials of our product candidates before earlier-stage studies have been completed. This approach may cause us to commit significant resources to prepare for and conduct later-stage trials for one or more product candidates that subsequently fail earlier-stage clinical testing. Therefore, our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial products or profitable market opportunities, or expend resources on product candidates that are not viable.

There can be no assurance that we will ever be able to identify additional therapeutic opportunities for our product candidates or to develop suitable potential product candidates through internal research programs, which could materially adversely affect our future growth and prospects. We may focus our efforts and resources on potential product candidates or other potential programs that ultimately prove to be unsuccessful.

If product liability lawsuits are brought against us, we may incur substantial financial or other liabilities and may be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates.

We face an inherent risk of product liability as a result of testing PLN-74809 and any of our other product candidates in clinical trials, and will face an even greater risk if we commercialize any products. For example, we may be sued if our product candidates cause or are perceived to cause injury or are found to be otherwise unsuitable during clinical trials, manufacturing, marketing or sale. Any such product liability claims may include

 

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allegations of defects in manufacturing, defects in design, a failure to warn of dangers inherent in the product, negligence, strict liability or a breach of warranties. Claims could also be asserted under state consumer protection acts. If we cannot successfully defend ourselves against product liability claims, we may incur substantial liabilities or be required to limit commercialization of our product candidates. Even successful defense would require significant financial and management resources. Regardless of the merits or eventual outcome, liability claims may result in:

 

   

inability to bring a product candidate to the market;

 

   

decreased demand for our products;

 

   

injury to our reputation;

 

   

withdrawal of clinical trial participants and inability to continue clinical trials;

 

   

initiation of investigations by regulators;

 

   

fines, injunctions or criminal penalties;

 

   

costs to defend the related litigation;

 

   

diversion of management’s time and our resources;

 

   

substantial monetary awards to trial participants;

 

   

product recalls, withdrawals or labeling, marketing or promotional restrictions;

 

   

loss of revenue;

 

   

exhaustion of any available insurance and our capital resources;

 

   

the inability to commercialize any product candidate, if approved; and

 

   

decline in our share price.

Our inability to obtain sufficient product liability insurance at an acceptable cost to protect against potential product liability claims could prevent or inhibit the commercialization of products we develop. We will need to obtain additional insurance for clinical trials as PLN-74809 and PLN-1474 continue clinical development and as additional product candidates enter the clinic. However, we may be unable to obtain, or may obtain on unfavorable terms, clinical trial insurance in amounts adequate to cover any liabilities from any of our clinical trials. Our insurance policies may also have various exclusions, and we may be subject to a product liability claim for which we have no coverage. We may have to pay any amounts awarded by a court or negotiated in a settlement that exceed our coverage limitations or that are not covered by our insurance, and we may not have, or be able to obtain, sufficient capital to pay such amounts. Even if our agreements with any future corporate collaborators entitle us to indemnification against losses, such indemnification may not be available or adequate should any claim arise.

We face substantial competition, which may result in others discovering, developing or commercializing products before or more successfully than us.

The development and commercialization of new drug products is highly competitive. We may face competition with respect to any product candidates that we seek to develop or commercialize in the future from major biopharmaceutical companies, specialty biopharmaceutical companies, and biotechnology companies worldwide. Potential competitors also include academic institutions, government agencies, and other public and private research organizations that conduct research, seek patent protection, and establish collaborative arrangements for research, development, manufacturing, and commercialization.

There are a number of large biopharmaceutical and biotechnology companies that are currently pursuing the development of products for the treatment of fibrosis. Companies that we are aware of that are targeting the

 

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treatment of various fibrosis indications through inhibiting various parts of the TGF-ß pathway include large companies with significant financial resources such as Biogen, Inc., AbbVie Inc., Gilead Sciences, Inc., Indalo Therapeutics, Inc., FibroGen, Inc., Galapagos NV, Bristol Myers Squibb Co., and Novartis AG. However, we know of no other companies currently in clinical development with an orally bioavailable small-molecule, selective integrin inhibitor. For additional information regarding our competition, see “Business—Competition.”

Many of our current or potential competitors, either alone or with their strategic partners, have significantly greater financial resources and expertise in research and development, manufacturing, preclinical testing, conducting clinical trials, obtaining regulatory approvals, and marketing approved products than we do.

Mergers and acquisitions in the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industries may result in even more resources being concentrated among a smaller number of our competitors. Smaller or early-stage companies may also prove to be significant competitors, particularly through collaborative arrangements with large and established companies. These competitors also compete with us in recruiting and retaining qualified scientific and management personnel and establishing clinical trial sites and patient registration for clinical trials, as well as in acquiring technologies complementary to, or necessary for, our programs. Our commercial opportunity could be reduced or eliminated if our competitors develop and commercialize products that are safer, more effective, more convenient, or less expensive than any products that we may develop. Furthermore, products currently approved for other indications could be discovered to be effective treatments of fibrosis as well, which could give such products significant regulatory and market timing advantages over PLN-74809 or other product candidates that we may identify. Our competitors also may obtain FDA or other regulatory approval for their products more rapidly than we may obtain approval for ours and may do, which could result in our competitors establishing a strong market position before we are able to enter the market. Additionally, products or technologies developed by our competitors may render our potential product candidates uneconomical or obsolete and we may not be successful in marketing any product candidates we may develop against competitors. The availability of competitive products could limit the demand, and the price we are able to charge, for any products that we may develop and commercialize.

Risks Related to Marketing, Reimbursement, Healthcare Regulations and Ongoing Regulatory Compliance

Even if a product candidate we develop receives marketing approval, it may fail to achieve the degree of market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors and others in the medical community necessary for commercial success.

Even if PLN-74809 or any other product candidate we develop receives marketing approval, it may nonetheless fail to gain sufficient market acceptance by physicians, patients, third-party payors, such as Medicare and Medicaid programs and managed care organizations, and others in the medical community. In addition, the availability of coverage by third-party payors may be affected by existing and future health care reform measures designed to reduce the cost of health care. If the product candidates we develop do not achieve an adequate level of acceptance, we may not generate significant product revenues and we may not become profitable.

The degree of market acceptance of any product candidate, if approved for commercial sale, will depend on a number of factors, including:

 

   

efficacy and potential advantages compared to alternative treatments;

 

   

the ability to offer our products, if approved, for sale at competitive prices;

 

   

convenience and ease of administration compared to alternative treatments;

 

   

the willingness of the target patient population to try new therapies and of physicians to prescribe these therapies;

 

   

the recommendations with respect to our product candidates in guidelines published by various scientific organizations applicable to us and our product candidates;

 

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the strength of marketing and distribution support;

 

   

the ability to obtain sufficient third-party coverage and adequate reimbursement; and

 

   

the prevalence and severity of any side effects.

If government and other third-party payors do not provide coverage and adequate reimbursement levels for any products we commercialize, market acceptance and commercial success would be reduced.

Coverage and reimbursement may be limited or unavailable in certain market segments for our product candidates, if approved, which could make it difficult for us to sell any product candidates profitably.

Significant uncertainty exists as to the coverage and reimbursement status of any products for which we may obtain regulatory approval. In the U.S., sales of any products for which we may receive regulatory marketing approval will depend, in part, on the availability of coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors. Third-party payors include government authorities such as Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and the Veterans Administration, managed care providers, private health insurers, and other organizations. Patients who are provided medical treatment for their conditions generally rely on third-party payors to reimburse all or part of the costs associated with their treatment. Coverage and adequate reimbursement from governmental healthcare programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, and commercial payors is critical to new product acceptance. Patients are unlikely to use our product candidates unless coverage is provided and reimbursement is adequate to cover a significant portion of the cost. We cannot be sure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for, or accurately estimate the potential revenue from, our product candidates or assure that coverage and reimbursement will be available for any product that we may develop.

Government authorities and other third-party payors decide which drugs and treatments they will cover and the amount of reimbursement. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend upon a number of factors, including the third-party payor’s determination that use of a product is:

 

   

a covered benefit under its health plan;

 

   

safe, effective and medically necessary;

 

   

appropriate for the specific patient;

 

   

cost-effective; and

 

   

neither experimental nor investigational.

In the United States, no uniform policy of coverage and reimbursement for products exists among third-party payors. As a result, obtaining coverage and reimbursement approval of a product from a government or other third-party payor is a time-consuming and costly process that could require us to provide to each payor supporting scientific, clinical and cost-effectiveness data for the use of our products on a payor-by-payor basis, with no assurance that coverage and adequate reimbursement will be obtained. Even if we obtain coverage for a given product, the resulting reimbursement payment rates might not be adequate for us to achieve or sustain profitability or may require co-payments that patients find unacceptably high. Additionally, third-party payors may not cover, or provide adequate reimbursement for, long-term follow-up evaluations required following the use of product candidates, once approved. It is difficult to predict at this time what third-party payors will decide with respect to the coverage and reimbursement for our product candidates, if approved.

The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003, also called the Medicare Modernization Act, or the MMA, established the Medicare Part D program to provide a voluntary prescription drug and biologic benefit to Medicare beneficiaries. Under Part D, Medicare beneficiaries may enroll in prescription drug plans offered by private entities that provide coverage of outpatient prescription drugs and biologics. Unlike Medicare Parts A and B, Part D coverage is not standardized. Part D prescription drug plan

 

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sponsors are not required to pay for all covered Part D drugs and biologics, and each drug plan can develop its own formulary that identifies which drugs and biologics it will cover, and at what tier or level. However, Part D prescription drug formularies must include products within each therapeutic category and class of covered Part D drugs, though not necessarily all the drugs and biologics in each category or class. Any formulary used by a Part D prescription drug plan must be developed and reviewed by a pharmacy and therapeutic committee. Government payment for some of the costs of prescription drugs and biologics may increase demand for products for which we obtain marketing approval. Any negotiated prices for any of our products covered by a Part D prescription drug plan will likely be lower than the prices we might otherwise obtain. Moreover, while the MMA applies only to drug benefits for Medicare beneficiaries, private payors often follow Medicare coverage policy and payment limitations in setting their own payment rates. Any reduction in payment that results from the MMA may result in a similar reduction in payments from non-governmental payors.

For a drug or biologic product to receive federal reimbursement under the Medicaid or Medicare Part B programs or to be sold directly to U.S. government agencies, the manufacturer must extend discounts to entities eligible to participate in the 340B drug pricing program. The required 340B discount on a given product is calculated based on the average manufacturer price, or AMP, and Medicaid rebate amounts reported by the manufacturer. As of 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, or collectively the ACA, expanded the types of entities eligible to receive discounted 340B pricing, although under the current state of the law these newly eligible entities (with the exception of children’s hospitals) will not be eligible to receive discounted 340B pricing on orphan drugs. As 340B drug pricing is determined based on AMP and Medicaid rebate data, the revisions to the Medicaid rebate formula and AMP definition described above could cause the required 340B discount to increase. Further, on December 27, 2018, the District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated a reimbursement formula change instituted by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, under the 340B program. For the 2019 and 2018 fiscal years, CMS altered the reimbursement formula. The court ruled this change was not an “adjustment” that was within the Secretary’s discretion to make but was instead a fundamental change in the reimbursement calculation, and such a dramatic change was beyond the scope of the Secretary’s authority. On May 6, 2019, the district court reiterated that the rate reduction exceeded the Secretary’s authority and declared that the rate reduction for 2019 also exceeded the Secretary’s authority and remanded the issue to HHS to devise an appropriate remedy. On July 10, 2019, the district court entered its final judgment and CMS has filed an appeal and a decision by the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is pending. However, subsequently, hospitals have filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for D.C. to enjoin the reimbursement cuts for 2020. It is unclear how such litigation could affect covered hospitals who might purchase our products in the future, and affect the rates we may charge such facilities for our approved products.

Changes to these current laws and state and federal healthcare reform measures that may be adopted in the future may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding and otherwise affect the prices we may obtain for any product candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval or the frequency with which any such product candidate is prescribed or used.

Even if we obtain FDA approval of any of our product candidates, we may never obtain approval or commercialize such products outside of the United States, which would limit our ability to realize their full market potential.

In order to market any products outside of the United States, we must establish and comply with numerous and varying regulatory requirements of other countries regarding safety and efficacy. Clinical trials conducted in one country may not be accepted by regulatory authorities in other countries, and regulatory approval in one country does not mean that regulatory approval will be obtained in any other country. Approval procedures vary among countries and can involve additional product testing and validation and additional administrative review periods. Seeking foreign regulatory approvals could result in significant delays, difficulties and costs for us and may require additional preclinical studies or clinical trials which would be costly and time consuming. Regulatory requirements can vary widely from country to country and could delay or prevent the introduction of

 

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our products in those countries. Satisfying these and other regulatory requirements is costly, time consuming, uncertain and subject to unanticipated delays. In addition, our failure to obtain regulatory approval in any country may delay or have negative effects on the process for regulatory approval in other countries. We do not have any product candidates approved for sale in any jurisdiction, including international markets, and we do not have experience in obtaining regulatory approval in international markets. If we fail to comply with regulatory requirements in international markets or to obtain and maintain required approvals, our ability to realize the full market potential of our products will be harmed.

We currently have no marketing and sales organization and have no experience as a company in commercializing products, and we may have to invest significant resources to develop these capabilities. If we are unable to establish marketing and sales capabilities or enter into agreements with third parties to market and sell our products, we may not be able to generate product revenue.

We have no internal sales, marketing or distribution capabilities, nor have we commercialized a product. If any of our product candidates ultimately receives regulatory approval, we expect to establish a marketing and sales organization with technical expertise and supporting distribution capabilities to commercialize each such product in major markets, which will be expensive and time consuming. We have no prior experience as a company in the marketing, sale and distribution of pharmaceutical products and there are significant risks involved in building and managing a sales organization, including our ability to hire, retain and incentivize qualified individuals, generate sufficient sales leads, provide adequate training to sales and marketing personnel and effectively manage a geographically dispersed sales and marketing team. Any failure or delay in the development of our internal sales, marketing and distribution capabilities would adversely impact the commercialization of these products. We may also choose to collaborate with third parties that have direct sales forces and established distribution systems, either to augment our own sales force and distribution systems or in lieu of our own sales force and distribution systems. We may not be able to enter into collaborations or hire consultants or external service providers to assist us in sales, marketing and distribution functions on acceptable financial terms, or at all. In addition, our product revenues and our profitability, if any, may be lower if we rely on third parties for these functions than if we were to market, sell and distribute any products that we develop ourselves. We likely will have little control over such third parties, and any of them may fail to devote the necessary resources and attention to sell and market our products effectively. If we are not successful in commercializing our products, either on our own or through arrangements with one or more third parties, we may not be able to generate any future product revenue and we would incur significant additional losses.

Our relationships with healthcare providers and physicians and third-party payors will be subject to applicable anti-kickback, fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations, which could expose us to criminal sanctions, civil penalties, contractual damages, reputational harm and diminished profits and future earnings.

Healthcare providers, physicians and third-party payors in the United States and elsewhere play a primary role in the recommendation and prescription of biopharmaceutical products. Arrangements with third-party payors and customers can expose biopharmaceutical manufacturers to broadly applicable fraud and abuse and other healthcare laws and regulations, including, without limitation, the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and the federal False Claims Act, or FCA, which may constrain the business or financial arrangements and relationships through which such companies sell, market and distribute biopharmaceutical products. In particular, the research of our product candidates, as well as the promotion, sales and marketing of healthcare items and services, as well as certain business arrangements in the healthcare industry, are subject to extensive laws designed to prevent fraud, kickbacks, self-dealing and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, structuring and commission(s), certain customer incentive programs and other business arrangements generally. Activities subject to these laws also involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of patient recruitment for clinical trials. The applicable

 

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federal, state and foreign healthcare laws and regulations laws that may affect our ability to operate include, but are not limited to:

 

   

the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, knowingly and willfully soliciting, receiving, offering or paying any remuneration (including any kickback, bribe, or rebate), directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, to induce or reward, or in return for, either the referral of an individual, or the purchase, lease, order or recommendation of any good, facility, item or service for which payment may be made, in whole or in part, under a federal healthcare program, such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs. A person or entity can be found guilty of violating the statute without actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it. In addition, a claim submitted for payment to any federal health care program that includes items or services that were made as a result of a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the FCA. The Anti-Kickback Statute has been interpreted to apply to arrangements between biopharmaceutical manufacturers on the one hand and prescribers, purchasers, and formulary managers, among others, on the other. There are a number of statutory exceptions and regulatory safe harbors protecting some common activities from prosecution;

 

   

the federal civil and criminal false claims laws, including the FCA, and civil monetary penalty laws which prohibit, among other things, individuals or entities from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, false, fictitious or fraudulent claims for payment to, or approval by Medicare, Medicaid, or other federal healthcare programs; knowingly making, using or causing to be made or used a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim or an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the federal government; or knowingly concealing or knowingly and improperly avoiding or decreasing or concealing an obligation to pay money to the federal government. A claim that includes items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim under the FCA. Manufacturers can be held liable under the FCA even when they do not submit claims directly to government payors if they are deemed to “cause” the submission of false or fraudulent claims. The FCA also permits a private individual acting as a “whistleblower” to bring qui tam actions on behalf of the federal government alleging violations of the FCA and to share in any monetary recovery;

 

   

the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, or HIPAA, which created additional federal criminal statutes that prohibit knowingly and willfully executing, or attempting to execute, a scheme to defraud any healthcare benefit program or obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, any of the money or property owned by, or under the custody or control of, any healthcare benefit program, regardless of the payor (e.g., public or private) and knowingly and willfully falsifying, concealing or covering up by any trick or device a material fact or making any materially false statements in connection with the delivery of, or payment for, healthcare benefits, items or services relating to healthcare matters. Similar to the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, a person or entity can be found guilty of violating HIPAA without actual knowledge of the statute or specific intent to violate it;

 

   

HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, or HITECH, and their respective implementing regulations, which impose, among other things, requirements relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information on certain covered healthcare providers, health plans, and healthcare clearinghouses, known as covered entities, as well as their respective “business associates,” those independent contractors or agents of covered entities that perform services for covered entities that involve the creation, use, receipt, maintenance or disclosure of individually identifiable health information. HITECH also created new tiers of civil monetary penalties, amended HIPAA to make civil and criminal penalties directly applicable to business associates, and gave state attorneys general new authority to file civil actions for damages or injunctions in federal courts to enforce the federal HIPAA laws and seek attorneys’ fees and costs associated with pursuing federal civil actions;

 

   

the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, created under the ACA, and its implementing regulations, which require some manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies for which payment is

 

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available under Medicare, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (with certain exceptions) to report annually to CMS information related to payments or other transfers of value made to physicians (defined to include doctors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and chiropractors) and teaching hospitals, as well as ownership and investment interests held by physicians and their immediate family members. Effective January 1, 2022, these reporting obligations will extend to include transfers of value made in the previous year to certain non-physician providers such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners;

 

   

federal consumer protection and unfair competition laws, which broadly regulate marketplace activities and activities that potentially harm consumers; and

 

   

analogous state and foreign laws and regulations, such as state anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to sales or marketing arrangements and claims involving healthcare items or services reimbursed by third-party payors, including private insurers, and may be broader in scope than their federal equivalents; state and foreign laws that require biopharmaceutical companies to comply with the biopharmaceutical industry’s voluntary compliance guidelines and the relevant compliance guidance promulgated by the federal government or otherwise restrict payments that may be made to healthcare providers and other potential referral sources; state and foreign laws that require drug manufacturers to report information related to payments and other transfers of value to physicians and other healthcare providers, marketing expenditures or drug pricing; state and local laws that require the registration of biopharmaceutical sales representatives; and state and foreign laws governing the privacy and security of health information in certain circumstances, many of which differ from each other in significant ways and often are not preempted by HIPAA, thus complicating compliance efforts.

The distribution of biopharmaceutical products is subject to additional requirements and regulations, including extensive record-keeping, licensing, storage and security requirements intended to prevent the unauthorized sale of biopharmaceutical products.

The scope and enforcement of each of these laws is uncertain and subject to rapid change in the current environment of healthcare reform, especially in light of the lack of applicable precedent and regulations. Ensuring business arrangements comply with applicable healthcare laws, as well as responding to possible investigations by government authorities, can be time- and resource-consuming and can divert a company’s attention from the business.

It is possible that governmental and enforcement authorities will conclude that our business practices may not comply with current or future statutes, regulations or case law interpreting applicable fraud and abuse or other healthcare laws and regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could have a significant impact on our business, including the imposition of significant civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, fines, disgorgement, imprisonment, reputational harm, possible exclusion from participation in federal and state funded healthcare programs, contractual damages and the curtailment or restricting of our operations, as well as additional reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or other agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws. Further, if any of the physicians or other healthcare providers or entities with whom we expect to do business is found to be not in compliance with applicable laws, they may be subject to significant criminal, civil or administrative sanctions, including exclusions from government funded healthcare programs. Any action for violation of these laws, even if successfully defended, could cause a biopharmaceutical manufacturer to incur significant legal expenses and divert management’s attention from the operation of the business. Prohibitions or restrictions on sales or withdrawal of future marketed products could materially affect business in an adverse way.

 

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Even if we receive regulatory approval of any product candidates, we will be subject to ongoing regulatory obligations and continued regulatory review, which may result in significant additional expense and we may be subject to penalties if we fail to comply with regulatory requirements or experience unanticipated problems with our product candidates.

If any of our product candidates are approved, they will be subject to ongoing regulatory requirements for manufacturing, labeling, packaging, storage, advertising, promotion, sampling, record-keeping, conduct of post-marketing studies and submission of safety, efficacy and other post-market information, including both federal and state requirements in the United States and requirements of comparable foreign regulatory authorities. In addition, we will be subject to continued compliance with cGMP and GCP requirements for any clinical trials that we conduct post-approval.

Manufacturers and their facilities are required to comply with extensive FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authority requirements, including ensuring that quality control and manufacturing procedures conform to cGMP regulations. As such, we and our contract manufacturers will be subject to continual review and inspections to assess compliance with cGMP and adherence to commitments made in any marketing application, and previous responses to inspection observations. Accordingly, we and others with whom we work must continue to expend time, money, and effort in all areas of regulatory compliance, including manufacturing, production and quality control.

Any regulatory approvals that we receive for our product candidates may be subject to limitations on the approved indicated uses for which the product may be marketed or to the conditions of approval, or contain requirements for potentially costly post-marketing testing, including Phase 4 clinical trials and surveillance to monitor the safety and efficacy of the product candidate. The FDA may also require a risk evaluation and mitigation strategies, or REMS, program as a condition of approval of our product candidates, which could entail requirements for long-term patient follow-up, a medication guide, physician communication plans or additional elements to ensure safe use, such as restricted distribution methods, patient registries and other risk minimization tools. In addition, if the FDA or a comparable foreign regulatory authority approves our product candidates, we will have to comply with requirements including submissions of safety and other post-marketing information and reports and registration.

The FDA may impose consent decrees or 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 our product candidates, including adverse events of unanticipated severity or frequency, or with our third-party manufacturers or 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 trials 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 our products, withdrawal of the product from the market or voluntary or mandatory product recalls;

 

   

fines, warning letters or holds on clinical trials;

 

   

refusal by the FDA to approve pending applications or supplements to approved applications filed by us or suspension or revocation of license approvals;

 

   

product seizure or detention or refusal to permit the import or export of our product candidates; and

 

   

injunctions or the imposition of civil or criminal penalties.

The FDA strictly regulates marketing, labeling, advertising, and promotion of products that are placed on the market. Products may be promoted only for the approved indications and in accordance with the provisions of the approved label. However companies may share truthful and not misleading information that is not

 

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inconsistent with the labeling. The FDA and other agencies actively enforce the laws and regulations prohibiting the promotion of off-label uses and a company that is found to have improperly promoted off-label uses may be subject to significant liability. The policies of the FDA and of other regulatory authorities may change and additional government regulations may be enacted that could prevent, limit or delay regulatory approval of our product candidates. We cannot predict the likelihood, nature or extent of government regulation that may arise from future legislation or administrative action, either in the United States or abroad. If we are slow or unable to adapt to changes in existing requirements or the adoption of new requirements or policies, or if we are not able to maintain regulatory compliance, we may lose any marketing approval that we may have obtained and we may not achieve or sustain profitability.

Ongoing healthcare legislative and regulatory reform measures may have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.

Changes in regulations, statutes or the interpretation of existing regulations could impact our business in the future by requiring, for example: (i) changes to our manufacturing arrangements; (ii) additions or modifications to product labeling; (iii) the recall or discontinuation of our products; or (iv) additional record-keeping requirements. If any such changes were to be imposed, they could adversely affect the operation of our business.

In the United States, there have been and continue to be a number of legislative initiatives to contain healthcare costs. For example, in March 2010, the ACA was passed, which substantially changed the way health care is financed by both governmental and private insurers, and significantly impacted the U.S. biopharmaceutical industry. The ACA, among other things, addressed a new methodology by which rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program are calculated for drugs that are inhaled, infused, instilled, implanted or injected, increased the minimum Medicaid rebates owed by manufacturers under the Medicaid Drug Rebate Program and extended the rebate program to individuals enrolled in Medicaid managed care organizations, established annual fees and taxes on manufacturers of certain branded prescription drugs, and created a new Medicare Part D coverage gap discount program, in which manufacturers must agree to offer 70% (increased pursuant to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, effective as of 2019) 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.

Since its enactment, there have been numerous judicial, administrative, executive, and legislative challenges to certain aspects of the ACA, and we expect there will be additional challenges and amendments to the ACA in the future. On December 14, 2018, a Texas U.S. District Court Judge ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional in its entirety because the “individual mandate” was repealed by Congress as part of the Tax Act. Additionally, on December 18, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit upheld the District Court ruling that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and remanded the case back to the District Court to determine whether the remaining provisions of the ACA are invalid as well. On March 2, 2020, the United States Supreme Court granted the petitions for writs of certiorari to review this case, and has allotted one hour for oral arguments, which are expected to occur in the fall. It is unclear how such litigation and other efforts to repeal and replace the ACA will impact the ACA and our business. In addition, the Trump Administration has issued various Executive Orders which eliminated cost sharing subsidies and various provisions that would impose a fiscal burden on states or a cost, fee, tax, penalty or regulatory burden on individuals, healthcare providers, health insurers, or manufacturers of pharmaceuticals or medical devices. Additionally, Congress has introduced several pieces of legislation aimed at significantly revising or repealing the ACA. It is unclear whether the ACA will be overturned, repealed, replaced, or further amended. We cannot predict what affect further changes to the ACA would have on our business.

Other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted in the United States since the ACA was enacted. The Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created measures for spending reductions by Congress. A Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, tasked with recommending a targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, was unable to reach required goals, thereby triggering the

 

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legislation’s automatic reduction to several government programs, including aggregate reductions of Medicare payments to providers of 2% per fiscal year. These reductions went into effect on April 1, 2013 and, due to subsequent legislative amendments to the statute, including the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, or BBA, will remain in effect through 2030, unless additional congressional action is taken. However, these Medicare sequester reductions will be suspended from May 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The BBA also amended the ACA, effective January 1, 2019, by increasing the point-of-sale discount that is owed by pharmaceutical manufacturers who participate in Medicare Part D and closing the coverage gap in most Medicare drug plans, commonly referred to as the “donut hole”. On January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 was signed into law, which, among other things, further reduced Medicare payments to several types of providers, including hospitals, imaging centers and cancer treatment centers, and increased the statute of limitations period for the government to recover overpayments to providers from three to five years.

Moreover, increasing efforts by governmental and third-party payors in the United States and abroad to cap or reduce healthcare costs may cause such organizations to limit both coverage and the level of reimbursement for newly approved products and, as a result, they may not cover or provide adequate payment for our product candidates. There has been increasing legislative and enforcement interest in the United States with respect to specialty drug pricing practices. Specifically, there have been several recent U.S. Congressional inquiries and proposed and enacted federal and state legislation designed to, among other things, bring more transparency to drug pricing, reduce the cost of prescription drugs under Medicare, review the relationship between pricing and manufacturer patient programs, and reform government program reimbursement methodologies for drugs.

At the federal level, the Trump administration’s budget for fiscal year 2021 includes a $135 billion allowance to support legislative proposals seeking to reduce drug prices, increase competition, lower out-of-pocket drug costs for patients, and increase patient access to lower-cost generic and biosimilar drugs. On March 10, 2020, the Trump administration sent “principles” for drug pricing to Congress, calling for legislation that would, among other things, cap Medicare Part D beneficiary out-of-pocket pharmacy expenses, provide an option to cap Medicare Part D beneficiary monthly out-of-pocket expenses, and place limits on pharmaceutical price increases. The Trump administration previously released a “Blueprint” to lower drug prices and reduce out of pocket costs of drugs that contained proposals to increase manufacturer competition, increase the negotiating power of certain federal healthcare programs, incentivize manufacturers to lower the list price of their products and reduce the out of pocket costs of drug products paid by consumers. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, has solicited feedback on some of these measures and has implemented others under its existing authority. For example, in May 2019, CMS issued a final rule that would allow Medicare Advantage Plans the option of using step therapy, a type of prior authorization, for Part B drugs beginning January 1, 2020. This final rule codified CMS’s policy change that was effective January 1, 2019. Although a number of these and other measures may require additional authorization to become effective, Congress and the Trump administration have each indicated that it will continue to seek new legislative and/or administrative measures to control drug costs. Any reduction in reimbursement from Medicare and other government programs may result in a similar reduction in payments from private payers. In addition, individual states in the United States have also increasingly passed legislation and implemented 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.

At the state level, legislatures are increasingly passing legislation and implementing regulations designed to control biopharmaceutical and biologic 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.

These laws, and future state and federal healthcare reform measures may be adopted in the future, any of which may result in additional reductions in Medicare and other healthcare funding and otherwise affect the prices we may

 

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obtain for any of our product candidates for which we may obtain regulatory approval or the frequency with which any such product candidate is prescribed or used. Additionally, we expect to experience pricing pressures in connection with the sale of any future approved product candidates due to the trend toward managed healthcare, the increasing influence of health maintenance organizations, cost containment initiatives and additional legislative changes.

Inadequate funding for the FDA, the SEC and other government agencies could hinder their ability to hire and retain key leadership and other personnel, prevent new products and services from being developed or commercialized in a timely manner or otherwise prevent those agencies from performing normal business functions on which the operation of our business may rely, which could negatively impact our business.

The ability of the FDA to review and approve new products can be affected by a variety of factors, including government budget and funding levels, ability to hire and retain key personnel and accept the payment of user fees, and statutory, regulatory, and policy changes. Average review times at the agency have fluctuated in recent years as a result. In addition, government funding of the SEC and other government agencies on which our operations may rely, including those that fund research and development activities, is subject to the political process, which is inherently fluid and unpredictable.

Disruptions at the FDA and other agencies may also slow the time necessary for new drugs to be reviewed and/or approved by necessary government agencies, which would adversely affect our business. For example, over the last several years, the U.S. government has shut down several times and certain regulatory agencies, such as the FDA and the SEC, have had to furlough critical employees and stop critical activities. Separately, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 10, 2020 the FDA announced its intention to temporarily postpone most inspections of foreign manufacturing facilities and products. On March 18, 2020, the FDA announced its intention to temporarily postpone routine surveillance inspections of domestic manufacturing facilities and provided guidance regarding the conduct of clinical trials, which has since been further updated. In April 2020, the FDA stated that its New Drug Program was continuing to meet program user fee performance goals, but due to many agency staff working on COVID-19 activities, it was possible that the FDA would not be able to sustain that level of performance indefinitely. Regulatory authorities outside the United States may adopt similar restrictions or other policy measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. If a prolonged government shutdown occurs, or if global health concerns continue to prevent the FDA or other regulatory authorities from conducting their regular inspections, reviews, or other regulatory activities, it could significantly impact the ability of the FDA to timely review and process our regulatory submissions, which could have a material adverse effect on our business. Further, upon completion of this offering and in our operations as a public company, future government shutdowns could impact our ability to access the public markets and obtain necessary capital in order to properly capitalize and continue our operations.

EU drug marketing and reimbursement regulations may materially affect our ability to market and receive coverage for our products in the European member states.

We intend to seek approval to market our product candidates in both the United States and in selected foreign jurisdictions. If we obtain approval in one or more foreign jurisdictions for our product candidates, we will be subject to rules and regulations in those jurisdictions. In some foreign countries, particularly those in the EU, the pricing of drugs is subject to governmental control and other market regulations which could put pressure on the pricing and usage of our product candidates. In these countries, pricing negotiations with governmental authorities can take considerable time after obtaining marketing approval of a product candidate. In addition, market acceptance and sales of our product candidates will depend significantly on the availability of adequate coverage and reimbursement from third-party payors for our product candidates and may be affected by existing and future health care reform measures.

Much like the federal Anti-Kickback Statute prohibition in the United States, the provision of benefits or advantages to physicians to induce or encourage the prescription, recommendation, endorsement, purchase, supply, order or use of medicinal products is also prohibited in the EU. The provision of benefits or advantages to

 

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physicians is governed by the national anti-bribery laws of EU Member States, and in respect of the U.K. (which is longer a member of the EU), the U.K. Bribery Act 2010. Infringement of these laws could result in substantial fines and imprisonment.

Payments made to physicians in certain EU Member States must be publicly disclosed. Moreover, agreements with physicians often must be the subject of prior notification and approval by the physician’s employer, his or her competent professional organization and/or the regulatory authorities of the individual EU Member States. These requirements are provided in the national laws, industry codes or professional codes of conduct, applicable in the EU Member States. Failure to comply with these requirements could result in reputational risk, public reprimands, administrative penalties, fines or imprisonment.

In addition, in most foreign countries, including the European Economic Area, or EEA, the proposed pricing for a drug must be approved before it may be lawfully marketed. The requirements governing drug pricing and reimbursement vary widely from country to country. For example, the EU provides options for its member states to restrict the range of medicinal products for which their national health insurance systems provide reimbursement and to control the prices of medicinal products for human use. Reference pricing used by various EU member states and parallel distribution, or arbitrage between low-priced and high-priced member states, can further reduce prices. A member state may approve a specific price for the medicinal product or it may instead adopt a system of direct or indirect controls on the profitability of the company placing the medicinal product on the market. In some countries, we may be required to conduct a clinical study or other studies that compare the cost-effectiveness of any of our product candidates to other available therapies in order to obtain or maintain reimbursement or pricing approval. There can be no assurance that any country that has price controls or reimbursement limitations for biopharmaceutical products will allow favorable reimbursement and pricing arrangements for any of our products. Historically, products launched in the EU do not follow price structures of the United States and generally prices tend to be significantly lower. Publication of discounts by third-party payors or authorities may lead to further pressure on the prices or reimbursement levels within the country of publication and other countries. If pricing is set at unsatisfactory levels or if reimbursement of our products is unavailable or limited in scope or amount, our revenues from sales and the potential profitability of any of our product candidates in those countries would be negatively affected.

We may incur substantial costs in our efforts to comply with evolving global data protection laws and regulations, and any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with such laws and regulations may harm our business and operations.

The global data protection landscape is rapidly evolving, and we may be or become subject to or affected by numerous federal, state and foreign laws and regulations, as well as regulatory guidance, governing the collection, use, disclosure, transfer, security and processing of personal data, such as information that we collect about participants and healthcare providers in connection with clinical trials. Implementation standards and enforcement practices are likely to remain uncertain for the foreseeable future, which may create uncertainty in our business, affect our or our service providers’ ability to operate in certain jurisdictions or to collect, store, transfer use and share personal data, result in liability or impose additional compliance or other costs on us. Any failure or perceived failure by us to comply with federal, state, or foreign laws or self-regulatory standards could result in negative publicity, diversion of management time and effort and proceedings against us by governmental entities or others. Recently, California passed the California Data Privacy Protection Act of 2018, or the CCPA, which went into effect in January 2020 and provides new data privacy rights for consumers and new operational requirements for companies, which may increase our compliance costs and potential liability. The CCPA gives California residents expanded rights to access and delete their personal information, opt out of certain personal information sharing, and receive detailed information about how their personal information is used. The CCPA provides for civil penalties for violations, as well as a private right of action for data breaches that is expected to increase data breach litigation. While there is currently an exception for protected health information that is subject to HIPAA and

 

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clinical trial regulations, as currently written, the CCPA may impact certain of our business activities. The new California law may lead to similar laws in other U.S. states or at a national level, which could increase our potential liability and adversely affect our business.

In addition to our operations in the United States, which may be subject to healthcare and other laws relating to the privacy and security of health information and other personal information, may seek to conduct clinical trials in EEA and may become subject to additional European data privacy laws, regulations and guidelines. The General Data Protection Regulation, (EU) 2016/679, or GDPR, became effective on May 25, 2018, and deals with the collection, use, storage, disclosure, transfer, or other processing of personal data, including personal health data, regarding individuals in the EEA. The GDPR imposes a broad range of strict requirements on companies subject to the GDPR, including requirements relating to having legal bases for processing personal information relating to identifiable individuals and transferring such information outside the EEA, including to the United States, providing details to those individuals regarding the processing of their personal health and other sensitive data, obtaining consent of the individuals to whom the personal data relates, keeping personal information secure, having data processing agreements with third parties who process personal information, responding to individuals’ requests to exercise their rights in respect of their personal information, reporting security breaches involving personal data to the competent national data protection authority and affected individuals, appointing data protection officers, conducting data protection impact assessments, and record-keeping. The GDPR increases substantially the penalties to which we could be subject in the event of any non-compliance, including fines of up to 10,000,000 Euros or up to 2% of our total worldwide annual turnover for certain comparatively minor offenses, or up to 20,000,000 Euros or up to 4% of our total worldwide annual turnover, whichever is greater, for more serious offenses. The GDPR also confers a private right of action on data subjects and consumer associations to lodge complaints with supervisory authorities, seek judicial remedies, and obtain compensation for damages resulting from violations of the GDPR. In addition, the GDPR includes restrictions on cross-border data transfers.

Further, national laws of member states of the EU are in the process of being adapted to the requirements under the GDPR, thereby implementing national laws which may partially deviate from the GDPR and impose different obligations from country to country, so that we do not expect to operate in a uniform legal landscape in the EEA. Also, as it relates to processing and transfer of genetic data, the GDPR specifically allows national laws to impose additional and more specific requirements or restrictions, and European laws have historically differed quite substantially in this field, leading to additional uncertainty. The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, often referred to as Brexit, has created uncertainty with regard to data protection regulation in the United Kingdom. In particular, it is unclear how data transfers to and from the United Kingdom will be regulated now that the United Kingdom has left the EU.

In the event we commence clinical trials in the EEA, the GDPR may increase our responsibility and liability in relation to personal data that we process where such processing is subject to the GDPR, and we may be required to put in place additional mechanisms and safeguards to ensure compliance with the GDPR, including as implemented by individual countries. Compliance with the GDPR will be a rigorous and time-intensive process that may increase our cost of doing business or require us to change our business practices, and despite those efforts, there is a risk that we may be subject to fines and penalties, litigation, and reputational harm in connection with our European activities. We expect that we will continue to face uncertainty as to whether our efforts to comply with any obligations under European privacy laws will be sufficient. If we are investigated by a European data protection authority, we may face fines and other penalties. Any such investigation or charges by European data protection authorities could have a negative effect on our existing business and on our ability to attract and retain new clients or biopharmaceutical partners. We may also experience hesitancy, reluctance, or refusal by European or multi-national clients or biopharmaceutical partners to continue to use our products and solutions due to the potential risk exposure as a result of the current (and, in particular, future) data protection obligations imposed on them by certain data protection authorities in interpretation of current law, including the GDPR. Such clients or biopharmaceutical partners may also view any alternative approaches to compliance as being too costly, too burdensome, too legally uncertain, or otherwise objectionable and therefore decide not to do

 

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business with us. Any of the forgoing could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.

Legal, political and economic uncertainty surrounding the exit of the U.K. from the EU may be a source of instability in international markets, create significant currency fluctuations, adversely affect our operations in the U.K. and pose additional risks to our business, revenue, financial condition, and results of operations.

On June 23, 2016, the U.K. held a referendum in which a majority of the eligible members of the electorate voted to leave the EU, commonly referred to as Brexit. Pursuant to Article 50 of the Treaty on EU, the U.K. ceased being a Member State of the EU on January 31, 2020. However, the terms of the withdrawal have yet to be fully negotiated. The implementation period began February 1, 2020 and will continue until December 31, 2020. During this 11-month period, the U.K. will continue to follow all of the EU’s rules, the EU’s pharmaceutical law remains applicable to the U.K. and the U.K.’s trading relationship will remain the same. However, regulations (including financial laws and regulations, tax and free trade agreements, intellectual property rights, data protection laws, supply chain logistics, environmental, health and safety laws and regulations medicine licensing and regulations, immigration laws and employment laws), have yet to be addressed. This lack of clarity on future U.K. laws and regulations and their interaction with the EU laws and regulations may negatively impact foreign direct investment in the U.K., increase costs, depress economic activity and restrict access to capital.

The uncertainty concerning the U.K.’s legal, political and economic relationship with the EU after Brexit may be a source of instability in the international markets, create significant currency fluctuations, and/or otherwise adversely affect trading agreements or similar cross-border co-operation arrangements (whether economic, tax, fiscal, legal, regulatory or otherwise) beyond the date of Brexit.

These developments, or the perception that any of them could occur, may have a significant adverse effect on global economic conditions and the stability of global financial markets, and could significantly reduce global market liquidity and limit the ability of key market participants to operate in certain financial markets. In particular, it could also lead to a period of considerable uncertainty in relation to the U.K. financial and banking markets, as well as on the regulatory process in Europe. Asset valuations, currency exchange rates and credit ratings may also be subject to increased market volatility.

If the U.K. and the EU are unable to negotiate acceptable agreements or if other EU member states pursue withdrawal, barrier-free access between the U.K. and other EU member states or among the European Economic Area overall could be diminished or eliminated. The long-term effects of Brexit will depend on any agreements (or lack thereof) between the U.K. and the EU and, in particular, any arrangements for the U.K. to retain access to EU markets either during a transitional period from January 1, 2021 or more permanently.

Such a withdrawal from the EU is unprecedented, and it is unclear how the U.K.’s access to the European single market for goods, capital, services and labor within the EU, or single market, and the wider commercial, legal and regulatory environment, will impact our current and future operations (including business activities conducted by third parties and contract manufacturers on our behalf) and clinical activities in the U.K. In addition to the foregoing, our U.K. operations support our current and future operations and clinical activities in the EU and European Economic Area, or EEA, and these operations and clinical activities could be disrupted by Brexit.

We may also face new regulatory costs and challenges that could have an adverse effect on our operations. Depending on the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU, the U.K. could lose the benefits of global trade agreements negotiated by the EU on behalf of its members, which may result in increased trade barriers that could make our doing business in the EU and the EEA more difficult. Since the regulatory framework in the U.K. covering quality, safety and efficacy of pharmaceutical products, clinical trials, marketing authorization,

 

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commercial sales and distribution of pharmaceutical products is derived from EU directives and regulations, Brexit could materially impact the future regulatory regime with respect to the approval of our product candidates in the U.K. For instance, in November 2017, EU member states voted to move the EMA, the EU’s regulatory body, from London to Amsterdam. Operations in Amsterdam commenced in March 2019, and the move itself may cause significant disruption to the regulatory approval process in Europe. It remains to be seen how, if at all, Brexit will impact regulatory requirements for product candidates and products in the U.K. Any delay in obtaining, or an inability to obtain, any regulatory approvals, as a result of Brexit or otherwise, would prevent us from commercializing our product candidates in the U.K. and/or the EU and restrict our ability to generate revenue and achieve and sustain profitability. If any of these outcomes occur, we may be forced to restrict or delay efforts to seek regulatory approval in the U.K. and/or EU for our product candidates, which could significantly and materially harm our business. Even prior to any change to the U.K.’s relationship with the EU, the announcement of Brexit has created economic uncertainty surrounding the terms of Brexit and its consequences could adversely impact customer confidence resulting in customers reducing their spending budgets on our product candidates, if approved, which could adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and could adversely affect the market price of our common stock.

Additional laws and regulations governing international operations could negatively impact or restrict our operations.

If we expand our operations outside of the United States, we must dedicate additional resources to comply with numerous laws and regulations in each jurisdiction in which we plan to operate. The U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or the FCPA, prohibits any U.S. individual or business entity from paying, offering, authorizing payment or offering of anything of value, directly or indirectly, to any foreign official, political party or candidate for the purpose of influencing any act or decision of the foreign entity in order to assist the individual or business in obtaining or retaining business. The FCPA also obligates companies whose securities are listed in the United States to comply with certain accounting provisions requiring the company to maintain books and records that accurately and fairly reflect all transactions of the corporation, including international subsidiaries, and to devise and maintain an adequate system of internal accounting controls for international operations.

Compliance with the FCPA is expensive and difficult, particularly in countries in which corruption is a recognized problem. In addition, the FCPA presents particular challenges in the biopharmaceutical industry, because, in many countries, hospitals are operated by the government, and doctors and other hospital employees are considered foreign officials. Certain payments to hospitals and healthcare providers in connection with clinical trials and other work have been deemed to be improper payments to government officials and have led to FCPA enforcement actions.

Various laws, regulations and executive orders also restrict the use and dissemination outside of the United States, or the sharing with certain non-U.S. nationals, of information products classified for national security purposes, as well as certain products, technology and technical data relating to those products. If we expand our presence outside of the United States, it will require us to dedicate additional resources to comply with these laws, and these laws may preclude us from developing, manufacturing, or selling certain products and product candidates outside of the United States, which could limit our growth potential and increase our development costs.

The failure to comply with laws governing international business practices may result in substantial civil and criminal penalties and suspension or debarment from government contracting. The Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, also may suspend or bar issuers from trading securities on U.S. exchanges for violations of the FCPA’s accounting provisions.

 

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We are subject to certain U.S. and foreign anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, export control, sanctions, and other trade laws and regulations. We can face serious consequences for violations.

Among other matters, U.S. and foreign anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, export control, sanctions, and other trade laws and regulations, which are collectively referred to as Trade Laws, prohibit companies and their employees, agents, clinical research organizations, legal counsel, accountants, consultants, contractors, and other partners from authorizing, promising, offering, providing, soliciting, or receiving directly or indirectly, corrupt or improper payments or anything else of value to or from recipients in the public or private sector. Violations of Trade Laws can result in substantial criminal fines and civil penalties, imprisonment, the loss of trade privileges, debarment, tax reassessments, breach of contract and fraud litigation, reputational harm, and other consequences. We have direct or indirect interactions with officials and employees of government agencies or government-affiliated hospitals, universities, and other organizations. We also expect our non-U.S. activities to increase in time. We plan to engage third parties for clinical trials and/or to obtain necessary permits, licenses, patent registrations, and other regulatory approvals and we can be held liable for the corrupt or other illegal activities of our personnel, agents, or partners, even if we do not explicitly authorize or have prior knowledge of such activities.

Risks Related to Our Intellectual Property

Our success depends in part on our ability to protect our intellectual property. It is difficult and costly to protect our proprietary rights and technology, and we may not be able to ensure their protection.

Our business will depend in large part on obtaining and maintaining patent, trademark and trade secret protection of our proprietary technologies and our product candidates, their respective components, synthetic intermediates, formulations, combination therapies, methods used to manufacture them and methods of treatment, as well as successfully defending these patents against third-party challenges. Our ability to stop unauthorized third parties from making, using, selling, offering to sell or importing our product candidates is dependent upon the extent to which we have rights under valid and enforceable patents that cover these activities and whether a court would issue an injunctive remedy. If we are unable to secure and maintain patent protection for any product or technology we develop, or if the scope of the patent protection secured is not sufficiently broad, our competitors could develop and commercialize products and technology similar or identical to ours, and our ability to commercialize any product candidates we may develop may be adversely affected.

The patenting process is expensive and time-consuming, and we may not be able to file and prosecute all necessary or desirable patent applications at a reasonable cost or in a timely manner. In addition, we may not pursue, obtain, or maintain patent protection in all relevant markets. It is also possible that we will fail to identify patentable aspects of our research and development output before it is too late to obtain patent protection. Moreover, in some circumstances, we may not have the right to control the preparation, filing and prosecution of patent applications, or to maintain the patents, covering technology that we license from or license to third parties and are reliant on our licensors or licensees.

The strength of patents in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical field involves complex legal and scientific questions and can be uncertain. The patent applications that we own or in-license may fail to result in issued patents with claims that cover our product candidates or uses thereof in the United States or in other foreign countries. Even if the patents do successfully issue, third parties may challenge the validity, enforceability or scope thereof, which may result in such patents being narrowed, invalidated or held unenforceable. Furthermore, even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications may not adequately protect our technology, including our product candidates, or prevent others from designing around our claims. If the breadth or strength of protection provided by the patent applications we hold with respect to our product candidates is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to develop, and threaten our ability to commercialize, our product candidates. Further, if we encounter delays in our clinical trials, the period of time during which we could market our product candidates under patent protection would be reduced.

 

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We cannot be certain that we were the first to file any patent application related to our technology, including our product candidates, and, if we were not, we may be precluded from obtaining patent protection for our technology, including our product candidates.

We cannot be certain that we are the first to invent the inventions covered by pending patent applications and, if we are not, we may be subject to priority disputes. Furthermore, for United States applications in which all claims are entitled to a priority date before March 16, 2013, an interference proceeding can be provoked by a third-party or instituted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, to determine who was the first to invent any of the subject matter covered by the patent claims of our applications. Similarly, for United States applications in which at least one claim is not entitled to a priority date before March 16, 2013, derivation proceedings can be instituted to determine whether the subject matter of a patent claim was derived from a prior inventor’s disclosure.

We may be required to disclaim part or all of the term of certain patents or all of the term of certain patent applications. There may be prior art of which we are not aware that may affect the validity or enforceability of a patent or patent application claim. There also may be prior art of which we are aware, but which we do not believe affects the validity or enforceability of a claim, which may, nonetheless, ultimately be found to affect the validity or enforceability of a claim. No assurance can be given that if challenged, our patents would be declared by a court to be valid or enforceable or that even if found valid and enforceable, would adequately protect our product candidates, or would be found by a court to be infringed by a competitor’s technology or product. We may analyze patents or patent applications of our competitors that we believe are relevant to our activities, and consider that we are free to operate in relation to our product candidates, but our competitors may achieve issued claims, including in patents we consider to be unrelated, which block our efforts or may potentially result in our product candidates or our activities infringing such claims. The possibility exists that others will develop products which have the same effect as our products on an independent basis which do not infringe our patents or other intellectual property rights, or will design around the claims of patents that may issue that cover our products.

Recent or future patent reform legislation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents. Under the enacted Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or America Invents Act, enacted in 2013, the United States moved from a “first to invent” to a “first-to-file” system. Under a “first-to-file” system, assuming the other requirements for patentability are met, the first inventor to file a patent application generally will be entitled to a patent on the invention regardless of whether another inventor had made the invention earlier. The America Invents Act includes a number of other significant changes to U.S. patent law, including provisions that affect the way patent applications are prosecuted, redefine prior art and establish a new post-grant review system. The effects of these changes are currently unclear as the USPTO only recently developed new regulations and procedures in connection with the America Invents Act and many of the substantive changes to patent law, including the “first-to-file” provisions, only became effective in March 2013. In addition, the courts have yet to address many of these provisions and the applicability of the act and new regulations on specific patents discussed herein have not been determined and would need to be reviewed. However, the America Invents Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business and financial condition.

The degree of future protection for our proprietary rights is uncertain because legal means afford only limited protection and may not adequately protect our rights or permit us to gain or keep our competitive advantage. For example:

 

   

others may be able to make or use compounds that are similar to the compositions of our product candidates but that are not covered by the claims of our patents or those of our licensors;

 

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we or our licensors, as the case may be, may fail to meet our obligations to the U.S. government in regards to any in-licensed patents and patent applications funded by U.S. government grants, leading to the loss of patent rights;

 

   

we or our licensors, as the case may be, might not have been the first to file patent applications for these inventions;

 

   

others may independently develop similar or alternative technologies or duplicate any of our technologies;

 

   

it is possible that our pending patent applications will not result in issued patents;

 

   

it is possible that there are prior public disclosures that could invalidate our or our licensors’ patents, as the case may be, or parts of our or their patents;

 

   

it is possible that others may circumvent our owned or in-licensed patents;

 

   

it is possible that there are unpublished applications or patent applications maintained in secrecy that may later issue with claims covering our products or technology similar to ours;

 

   

the laws of foreign countries may not protect our or our licensors’, as the case may be, proprietary rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States;

 

   

the claims of our owned or in-licensed issued patents or patent applications, if and when issued, may not cover our product candidates;

 

   

our owned or in-licensed issued patents may not provide us with any competitive advantages, may be narrowed in scope, or be held invalid or unenforceable as a result of legal challenges by third parties;

 

   

the inventors of our owned or in-licensed patents or patent applications may become involved with competitors, develop products or processes which design around our patents, or become hostile to us or the patents or patent applications on which they are named as inventors;

 

   

it is possible that our owned or in-licensed patents or patent applications omit individual(s) that should be listed as inventor(s) or include individual(s) that should not be listed as inventor(s), which may cause these patents or patents issuing from these patent applications to be held invalid or unenforceable;

 

   

we have engaged in scientific collaborations in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. Such collaborators may develop adjacent or competing products to ours that are outside the scope of our patents;

 

   

we may not develop additional proprietary technologies for which we can obtain patent protection;

 

   

it is possible that product candidates or diagnostic tests we develop may be covered by third parties’ patents or other exclusive rights; or

 

   

the patents of others may have an adverse effect on our business.

We may enter into license or other collaboration agreements in the future that may impose certain obligations on us. If we fail to comply with our obligations under such future agreements with third parties, we could lose license rights that may be important to our future business.

In connection with our efforts to expand our pipeline of product candidates, we may enter into certain licenses or other collaboration agreements in the future pertaining to the in-license of rights to additional candidates. Such agreements may impose various diligence, milestone payment, royalty, insurance or other obligations on us. If we fail to comply with these obligations, our licensor or collaboration partners may have the right to terminate the relevant agreement, in which event we would not be able to develop or market the products covered by such licensed intellectual property.

 

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Moreover, disputes may arise regarding intellectual property subject to a licensing agreement, including:

 

   

the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation-related issues;

 

   

the extent to which our product candidates, technology and processes infringe on intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the licensing agreement;

 

   

the sublicensing of patent and other rights under our collaborative development relationships;

 

   

our diligence obligations under the license agreement and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations;

 

   

the inventorship and ownership of inventions and know-how resulting from the joint creation or use of intellectual property by our licensors and us and our partners; and

 

   

the priority of invention of patented technology.

In addition, the agreements under which we currently license intellectual property or technology from third parties are complex, and certain provisions in such agreements may be susceptible to multiple interpretations. The resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement that may arise could narrow what we believe to be the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property or technology, or increase what we believe to be our financial or other obligations under the relevant agreement, either of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects. Moreover, if disputes over intellectual property that we have licensed prevent or impair our ability to maintain our current licensing arrangements on commercially acceptable terms, we may be unable to successfully develop and commercialize the affected product candidates, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial conditions, results of operations, and prospects.

In addition, we may have limited control over the maintenance and prosecution of these in-licensed patents and patent applications, or any other intellectual property that may be related to our in-licensed intellectual property. For example, we cannot be certain that such activities by any future licensors have been or will be conducted in compliance with applicable laws and regulations or will result in valid and enforceable patents and other intellectual property rights. We have limited control over the manner in which our licensors initiate an infringement proceeding against a third-party infringer of the intellectual property rights, or defend certain of the intellectual property that is licensed to us. It is possible that the licensors’ infringement proceeding or defense activities may be less vigorous than had we conducted them ourselves.

If we are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, our business and competitive position would be harmed.

In addition to patent protection, we rely heavily upon know-how and trade secret protection, as well as non-disclosure agreements and invention assignment agreements with our employees, consultants and third-parties, to protect our confidential and proprietary information, especially where we do not believe patent protection is appropriate or obtainable. In addition to contractual measures, we try to protect the confidential nature of our proprietary information using physical and technological security measures. Such measures may not, for example, in the case of misappropriation of a trade secret by an employee or third-party with authorized access, provide adequate protection for our proprietary information. Our security measures may not prevent an employee or consultant from misappropriating our trade secrets and providing them to a competitor, and recourse we take against such misconduct may not provide an adequate remedy to protect our interests fully. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated a trade secret can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. In addition, trade secrets may be independently developed by others in a manner that could prevent legal recourse by us. For example, our clinical development strategy includes the testing of live tissue samples, and our techniques for preserving and testing these samples are proprietary and confidential. If one or more third parties obtain or are otherwise able to replicate these techniques, an important feature and differentiator of our clinical development strategy will become available to

 

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potential competitors. If any of our confidential or proprietary information, such as our trade secrets, were to be disclosed or misappropriated, or if any such information was independently developed by a competitor, our competitive position could be harmed.

In addition, courts outside the United States are sometimes less willing to protect trade secrets. If we choose to go to court to stop a third-party from using any of our trade secrets, we may incur substantial costs. These lawsuits may consume our time and other resources even if we are successful. Although we take steps to protect our proprietary information and trade secrets, including through contractual means with our employees and consultants, third parties may independently develop substantially equivalent proprietary information and techniques or otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or disclose our technology.

Thus, we may not be able to meaningfully protect our trade secrets. It is our policy to require our employees, consultants, outside scientific collaborators, sponsored researchers and other advisors to execute confidentiality agreements upon the commencement of employment or consulting relationships with us. These agreements provide that all confidential information concerning our business or financial affairs developed or made known to the individual or entity during the course of the party’s relationship with us is to be kept confidential and not disclosed to third parties except in specific circumstances. In the case of employees, the agreements provide that all inventions conceived by the individual, and which are related to our current or planned business or research and development or made during normal working hours, on our premises or using our equipment or proprietary information, are our exclusive property. In addition, we take other appropriate precautions, such as physical and technological security measures, to guard against misappropriation of our proprietary technology by third parties. We have also adopted policies and conduct training that provides guidance on our expectations, and our advice for best practices, in protecting our trade secrets.

Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may prevent or delay our product discovery and development efforts.

Our commercial success depends in part on our ability to develop, manufacture, market and sell our product candidates and use our proprietary technologies without infringing the proprietary rights of third parties. There is a substantial amount of litigation involving patents and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries, as well as administrative proceedings for challenging patents, including interference, derivation, inter partes review, post grant review, and reexamination proceedings before the USPTO or oppositions and other comparable proceedings in foreign jurisdictions. We may be exposed to, or threatened with, future litigation by third parties having patent or other intellectual property rights alleging that our product candidates and/or proprietary technologies infringe their intellectual property rights. Numerous U.S. and foreign issued patents and pending patent applications, which are owned by third parties, exist in the fields in which we are developing our product candidates. As the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our product candidates may give rise to claims of infringement of the patent rights of others. Moreover, it is not always clear to industry participants, including us, which patents cover various types of drugs, products or their methods of use or manufacture. Thus, because of the large number of patents issued and patent applications filed in our fields, there may be a risk that third parties may allege they have patent rights encompassing our product candidates, technologies or methods.

If a third-party claims that we infringe its intellectual property rights, we may face a number of issues, including, but not limited to:

 

   

infringement and other intellectual property claims which, regardless of merit, may be expensive and time-consuming to litigate and may divert our management’s attention from our core business;

 

   

substantial damages for infringement, which we may have to pay if a court decides that the product candidate or technology at issue infringes on or violates the third-party’s rights, and, if the court finds that the infringement was willful, we could be ordered to pay treble damages and the patent owner’s attorneys’ fees;

 

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a court prohibiting us from developing, manufacturing, marketing or selling our product candidates, or from using our proprietary technologies, unless the third-party licenses its product rights to us, which it is not required to do;

 

   

if a license is available from a third-party, we may have to pay substantial royalties, upfront fees and other amounts, and/or grant cross-licenses to intellectual property rights for our products and any license that is available may be non-exclusive, which could result in our competitors gaining access to the same intellectual property; and

 

   

redesigning our product candidates or processes so they do not infringe, which may not be possible or may require substantial monetary expenditures and time.

Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of complex patent litigation more effectively than we can because they have substantially greater resources. In addition, any uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of any litigation could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise the funds necessary to continue our operations or could otherwise have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation or administrative proceedings, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure.

Our collaborators may assert ownership or commercial rights to inventions they develop from research we support or that we develop from our use of the tissue samples or other biological materials, which they provide to us, or otherwise arising from the collaboration.

We collaborate with several institutions, universities, medical centers, physicians and researchers in scientific matters and expect to continue to enter into additional collaboration agreements. In certain cases, we do not have written agreements with these collaborators, or the written agreements we have do not cover intellectual property rights. Also, we rely on numerous third parties to provide us with tissue samples and biological materials that we use to conduct our research activities and develop our product candidates. If we cannot successfully negotiate sufficient ownership and commercial rights to any inventions that result from our use of a third-party collaborator’s materials, or if disputes arise with respect to the intellectual property developed with the use of a collaborator’s samples, or data developed in a collaborator’s study, we may be limited in our ability to capitalize on the market potential of these inventions or developments.

Third parties may assert that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization.

There may be third-party patents of which we are currently unaware with claims to compositions of matter, materials, formulations, methods of manufacture or methods for treatment that encompass the composition, use or manufacture of our product candidates. There may be currently pending patent applications of which we are currently unaware which may later result in issued patents that our product candidates or their use or manufacture may infringe. In addition, third parties may obtain patents in the future and claim that use of our technologies infringes upon these patents. If any third-party patent were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover our product candidates, intermediates used in the manufacture of our product candidates or our materials generally, aspects of our formulations or methods of use, the holders of any such patent may be able to block our ability to develop and commercialize the product candidate unless we obtained a license or until such patent expires or is finally determined to be held invalid or unenforceable. In either case, such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all. If we are unable to obtain a necessary license to a third-party patent on commercially reasonable terms, or at all, our ability to commercialize our product candidates may be impaired or delayed, which could in turn significantly harm our business. Even if we obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us. In addition, if the breadth or strength of protection provided by our patents and patent applications is threatened, it could dissuade companies from collaborating with us to license, develop or commercialize current or future product candidates.

 

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Parties making claims against us may seek and obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could effectively block our ability to further develop and commercialize our product candidates. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business. In the event of a successful claim of infringement against us, we may have to pay substantial damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees for willful infringement, obtain one or more licenses from third parties, pay royalties or redesign our infringing products, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure. We cannot predict whether any such license would be available at all or whether it would be available on commercially reasonable terms. Furthermore, even in the absence of litigation, we may need to obtain licenses from third parties to advance our research or allow commercialization of our product candidates. We may fail to obtain any of these licenses at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, if at all. In that event, we would be unable to further develop and commercialize our product candidates, which could harm our business significantly.

Third parties may assert that our employees or consultants have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information or misappropriated trade secrets.

As is common in the biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries, we employ individuals who were previously employed at universities or other biotechnology or biopharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Although no claims against us are currently pending, and although we try to ensure that our employees and consultants do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, we may be subject to claims that we or our employees, consultants or independent contractors have inadvertently or otherwise used or disclosed intellectual property, including trade secrets or other proprietary information, of a former employer or other third parties. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these claims. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights or personnel. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation or other legal proceedings relating to intellectual property claims may cause us to incur significant expenses, and could distract our technical and management personnel from their normal responsibilities. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments, and, if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock. This type of litigation or proceeding could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce our resources available for development activities. We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to adequately conduct such litigation or proceedings. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their substantially greater financial resources. Uncertainties resulting from the initiation and continuation of patent litigation or other intellectual property related proceedings could adversely affect our ability to compete in the marketplace.

We may not be successful in obtaining or maintaining necessary rights to develop any future product candidates on acceptable terms.

Because our programs may involve additional product candidates that may require the use of proprietary rights held by third parties, the growth of our business may depend in part on our ability to acquire, in-license or use these proprietary rights.

Our product candidates may also require specific formulations to work effectively and efficiently and these rights may be held by others. We may develop products containing our compounds and pre-existing biopharmaceutical compounds. We may be unable to acquire or in-license any compositions, methods of use, processes or other third-party intellectual property rights from third parties that we identify as necessary or important to our business operations. We may fail to obtain any of these licenses at a reasonable cost or on reasonable terms, if at all, which would harm our business. We may need to cease use of the compositions or methods covered by such third-party intellectual property rights, and may need to seek to develop alternative approaches that do not infringe on such intellectual property rights which may entail additional costs and

 

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development delays, even if we were able to develop such alternatives, which may not be feasible. Even if we are able to obtain a license, it may be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors access to the same technologies licensed to us. In that event, we may be required to expend significant time and resources to develop or license replacement technology.

Additionally, we sometimes collaborate with academic institutions to accelerate our preclinical research or development under written agreements with these institutions. In certain cases, these institutions provide us with an option to negotiate a license to any of the institution’s rights in technology resulting from the collaboration. Regardless of such option, we may be unable to negotiate a license within the specified timeframe or under terms that are acceptable to us. If we are unable to do so, the institution may offer the intellectual property rights to others, potentially blocking our ability to pursue our program. If we are unable to successfully obtain rights to required third-party intellectual property or to maintain the existing intellectual property rights we have, we may have to abandon development of such program and our business and financial condition could suffer.

The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and companies, which may be more established, or have greater resources than we do, may also be pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider necessary or attractive in order to commercialize our product candidates. More established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, cash resources and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. There can be no assurance that we will be able to successfully complete such negotiations and ultimately acquire the rights to the intellectual property surrounding the additional product candidates that we may seek to acquire.

We may be involved in lawsuits to protect or enforce our patents or the patents of our licensors, which could be expensive, time-consuming and unsuccessful.

Competitors may infringe our patents or the patents of our current or future licensors. To counter infringement or unauthorized use, we may be required to file infringement claims, which can be expensive and time-consuming. In addition, in an infringement proceeding, a court may decide that one or more of our patents is not valid or is unenforceable, or may refuse to stop the other party from using the technology at issue on the grounds that our patents do not cover the technology in question or for other reasons. An adverse result in any litigation or defense proceedings could put one or more of our patents at risk of being invalidated, held unenforceable, or interpreted narrowly and could put our patent applications at risk of not issuing. Defense of these claims, regardless of their merit, would involve substantial litigation expense and would be a substantial diversion of employee resources from our business.

We may choose to challenge the patentability of claims in a third-party’s U.S. patent by requesting that the USPTO review the patent claims in an ex-parte re-examination, inter partes review or post-grant review proceedings. These proceedings are expensive and may consume our time or other resources. We may choose to challenge a third-party’s patent in patent opposition proceedings in the European Patent Office, or EPO, or other foreign patent office. The costs of these opposition proceedings could be substantial, and may consume our time or other resources. If we fail to obtain a favorable result at the USPTO, EPO or other patent office then we may be exposed to litigation by a third-party alleging that the patent may be infringed by our product candidates or proprietary technologies.

In addition, because some patent applications in the United States may be maintained in secrecy until the patents are issued, patent applications in the United States and many foreign jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, and publications in the scientific literature often lag behind actual discoveries, we cannot be certain that others have not filed patent applications for technology covered by our owned and in-licensed issued patents or our pending applications, or that we or, if applicable, a licensor were the first to invent the technology. Our competitors may have filed, and may in the future file, patent applications covering our products or technology similar to ours. Any such patent application may have priority over our owned and in-licensed patent applications or patents, which could require us to obtain rights to issued patents

 

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covering such technologies. If another party has filed a U.S. patent application on inventions similar to those owned by or in-licensed to us, we or, in the case of in-licensed technology, the licensor may have to participate in an interference or derivation proceeding declared by the USPTO to determine priority of invention in the United States. If we or one of our licensors is a party to an interference or derivation proceeding involving a U.S. patent application on inventions owned by or in-licensed to us, we may incur substantial costs, divert management’s time and expend other resources, even if we are successful.

Interference or derivation proceedings provoked by third parties or brought by us or declared by the USPTO may be necessary to determine the priority of inventions with respect to our patents or patent applications or those of our licensors. An unfavorable outcome could result in a loss of our current patent rights and could require us to cease using the related technology or to attempt to license rights to it from the prevailing party. Our business could be harmed if the prevailing party does not offer us a license on commercially reasonable terms or at all, or if a non-exclusive license is offered and our competitors gain access to the same technology. Litigation or interference proceedings may result in a decision adverse to our interests and, even if we are successful, may result in substantial costs and distract our management and other employees. We may not be able to prevent, alone or with our licensors, misappropriation of our trade secrets or confidential information, particularly in countries where the laws may not protect those rights as fully as in the United States.

Furthermore, because of the substantial amount of discovery required in connection with intellectual property litigation, there is a risk that some of our confidential information could be compromised by disclosure during this type of litigation. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common stock.

Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment and other requirements imposed by governmental patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for non-compliance with these requirements.

Periodic maintenance fees on any issued patent are due to be paid to the USPTO and foreign patent agencies in several stages over the lifetime of the patent. The USPTO and various foreign governmental patent agencies require compliance with a number of procedural, documentary, fee payment and other provisions during the patent application process and following the issuance of a patent. While an inadvertent lapse can in many cases be cured by payment of a late fee or by other means in accordance with the applicable rules, there are situations in which noncompliance can result in abandonment or lapse of the patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. Noncompliance events that could result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application include, but are not limited to, failure to respond to official actions within prescribed time limits, non-payment of fees and failure to properly legalize and submit formal documents. In certain circumstances, even inadvertent noncompliance events may permanently and irrevocably jeopardize patent rights. In such an event, our competitors might be able to enter the market, which would have a material adverse effect on our business.

Any patents, if issued patents covering our product candidates could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged in court or the USPTO.

If we or one of our licensors initiate legal proceedings against a third-party to enforce a patent covering one of our product candidates, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product candidate, as applicable, is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace, and there are numerous grounds upon which a third-party can assert invalidity or unenforceability of a patent. Third parties may also raise similar claims before administrative bodies in the United States or abroad, even outside the context of litigation. Such mechanisms include re-examination, inter partes review, post grant review, and equivalent proceedings in foreign jurisdictions (e.g., opposition proceedings). Such proceedings could result in revocation or amendment to our patents in such a

 

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way that they no longer cover our product candidates. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art, of which we, our patent counsel and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution. If a defendant were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity and/or unenforceability, or if we are otherwise unable to adequately protect our rights, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our product candidates. Such a loss of patent protection could have a material adverse impact on our business and our ability to commercialize or license our technology and product candidates.

Likewise, our current licensed patents covering our companion technologies, licensed from UCSF are expected to expire in 2036, without taking into account any possible patent term adjustments or extensions. Our earliest patents may expire before, or soon after, our first product achieves marketing approval in the United States or foreign jurisdictions. Upon the expiration of our current patents, we may lose the right to exclude others from practicing these inventions. The expiration of these patents could also have a similar material adverse effect on our business, results of operations, financial condition and prospects. We own pending patent applications covering our proprietary technologies or our product candidates that if issued as patents are expected to expire from 2037 through 2040, without taking into account any possible patent term adjustments or extensions. However, we cannot be assured that the USPTO or relevant foreign patent offices will grant any of these patent applications.

Changes in patent law in the U.S. and in foreign jurisdictions could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products.

Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of patent applications and the enforcement or defense of issued patents. Assuming that other requirements for patentability are met, prior to March 16, 2013, in the United States, the first to invent the claimed invention was entitled to the patent, while outside the United States, the first to file a patent application was entitled to the patent. On March 16, 2013, under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the America Invents Act, enacted in September 2011, the United States transitioned to a first inventor to file system in which, assuming that other requirements for patentability are met, the first inventor to file a patent application will be entitled to the patent on an invention regardless of whether a third party was the first to invent the claimed invention. A third party that files a patent application in the USPTO on or after March 16, 2013, but before us could therefore be awarded a patent covering an invention of ours even if we had made the invention before it was made by such third party. This will require us to be cognizant of the time from invention to filing of a patent application. Since patent applications in the United States and most other countries are confidential for a period of time after filing or until issuance, we cannot be certain that we or our licensors were the first to either (i) file any patent application related to our product candidates or (ii) invent any of the inventions claimed in our or our licensor’s patents or patent applications.

The America Invents Act also includes a number of significant changes that affect the way patent applications will be prosecuted and also may affect patent litigation. These include allowing third party submission of prior art to the USPTO during patent prosecution and additional procedures to attack the validity of a patent by USPTO administered post-grant proceedings, including post-grant review, inter-partes review, and derivation proceedings. Because of a lower evidentiary standard in USPTO proceedings compared to the evidentiary standard in United States federal courts necessary to invalidate a patent claim, a third party could potentially provide evidence in a USPTO proceeding sufficient for the USPTO to hold a claim invalid even though the same evidence would be insufficient to invalidate the claim if first presented in a district court action. Accordingly, a third party may attempt to use the USPTO procedures to invalidate our patent claims that would not have been invalidated if first challenged by the third party as a defendant in a district court action. Therefore, the America Invents Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our owned or in-licensed patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our owned or in-licensed issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.

 

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In addition, the patent positions of companies in the development and commercialization of biopharmaceuticals are particularly uncertain. Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have narrowed the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances and weakened the rights of patent owners in certain situations. This combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the validity and enforceability of patents, once obtained. Depending on future actions by the U.S. Congress, the federal courts, and the USPTO, the laws and regulations governing patents could change in unpredictable ways that could have a material adverse effect on our existing patent portfolio and our ability to protect and enforce our intellectual property in the future.

We have limited foreign intellectual property rights and may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.

We have limited intellectual property rights outside the United States. Filing, prosecuting and defending patents on product candidates in all countries throughout the world would be prohibitively expensive, and our intellectual property rights in some countries outside the United States can be less extensive than those in the United States. In addition, the laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as federal and state laws in the United States. Consequently, we may not be able to prevent third parties from practicing our inventions in all countries outside the United States, or from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and into the United States or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories where we have patent protection but where enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our products in jurisdictions where we do not have any issued patents and our patent claims or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing.

Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of, and may require a compulsory license to, patents, trade secrets and other intellectual property protection, particularly those relating to biopharmaceutical products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products against third parties in violation of our proprietary rights generally. The initiation of proceedings by third parties to challenge the scope or validity of our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial cost and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in foreign jurisdictions could result in substantial costs and divert our efforts and attention from other aspects of our business, could put our patents at risk of being invalidated or interpreted narrowly and our patent applications at risk of not issuing and could provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop or license.

Patent terms may be inadequate to protect our competitive position on our product candidates for an adequate amount of time.

Patents have a limited lifespan. In the United States, if all maintenance fees are timely paid, the natural expiration of a patent is generally 20 years from its earliest U.S. non-provisional filing date. Various extensions such as patent term adjustments and/or extensions, may be available, but the life of a patent, and the protection it affords, is limited. Even if patents covering our product candidates are obtained, once the patent life has expired, we may be open to competition from competitive products. Given the amount of time required for the development, testing and regulatory review of new product candidates, patents protecting such candidates might expire before or shortly after such candidates are commercialized. As a result, our owned and licensed patent portfolio may not provide us with sufficient rights to exclude others from commercializing products similar or identical to ours.

 

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If we do not obtain patent term extension and data exclusivity for any product candidates we may develop, our business may be materially harmed.

Depending upon the timing, duration and specifics of any FDA marketing approval of any product candidates we may develop, one or more of our U.S. patents may be eligible for limited patent term extension under the Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Action of 1984 Hatch-Waxman Amendments. The Hatch-Waxman Amendments permit a patent extension term of up to five years as compensation for patent term lost during the FDA regulatory review process. A patent term extension cannot extend the remaining term of a patent beyond a total of 14 years from the date of product approval, only one patent may be extended and only those claims covering the approved drug, a method for using it, or a method for manufacturing it may be extended. However, we may not be granted an extension because of, for example, failing to exercise due diligence during the testing phase or regulatory review process, failing to apply within applicable deadlines, failing to apply prior to expiration of relevant patents, or otherwise failing to satisfy applicable requirements. Moreover, the applicable time period or the scope of patent protection afforded could be less than we request. If we are unable to obtain patent term extension or the term of any such extension is less than we request, our competitors may obtain approval of competing products following our patent expiration, and our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects could be materially harmed.

If our trademarks and trade names are not adequately protected, then we may not be able to build name recognition in our markets of interest and our business may be adversely affected.

Our trademarks or trade names may be challenged, infringed, circumvented or declared generic or determined to be infringing on other marks. We may not be able to protect our rights to these trademarks and trade names or may be forced to stop using these names, which we need for name recognition by potential partners or customers in our markets of interest. If we are unable to establish name recognition based on our trademarks and trade names, we may not be able to compete effectively and our business may be adversely affected.

Risks Related to Our Reliance on Third Parties

We have entered into a collaboration agreement with Novartis for the development of PLN-1474, and may in the future seek to enter into collaborations with third parties for the development and commercialization of other product candidates. If we fail to enter into such collaborations, or our collaborations are not successful, we may be unable to continue development of such product candidates, we would not receive any contemplated milestone payments or royalties, and we could fail to capitalize on the market potential of such product candidates.

In October 2019, we entered into a license and collaboration agreement with Novartis for the development and commercialization of our then preclinical product candidate, PLN-1474 and up to three integrin research targets. In December 2019, we received an upfront license payment of $50.0 million for the worldwide exclusive license to PLN-1474. Pursuant to the Novartis Agreement, we expect to receive research and development funding totaling $19.6 million for PLN-1474 development services and funding of up to $13.4 million for option research and development services on the integrin research targets. Additionally, we are eligible to receive developmental, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to $416.0 million if defined development, regulatory and commercialization milestones are achieved and tiered royalties, on a product-by-product basis based on annual nets sales of products, at percentages ranging from high-single digits to low teens of the applicable licensed products and mid-single digits to high-single digits for any products resulting from the research programs. If we are unable to successfully advance the development of our product candidates or achieve milestones, revenue and cash resources from milestone payments under our collaboration agreements will be substantially less than expected.

In addition, to the extent that any of our existing or future collaborators were to terminate a collaboration agreement, we may be forced to independently develop these product candidates, including funding preclinical or

 

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clinical trials, assuming marketing and distribution costs and defending intellectual property rights, or, in certain instances, abandon product candidates altogether, any of which could result in a change to our business plan and a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

We rely on third parties to conduct certain aspects of our preclinical studies and clinical trials. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties, meet expected deadlines or comply with regulatory requirements, we may not be able to obtain regulatory approval of or commercialize any potential product candidates.

We depend upon third parties to conduct certain aspects of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, under agreements with universities, medical institutions, CROs, strategic collaborators and others. We expect to have to negotiate budgets and contracts with such third parties, which may result in delays to our development timelines and increased costs.

We will rely especially heavily on third parties over the course of our clinical trials, and, as a result, will have limited control over the clinical investigators and limited visibility into their day-to-day activities, including with respect to their compliance with the approved clinical protocol. Nevertheless, we are responsible for ensuring that each of our trials is conducted in accordance with the applicable protocol, legal and regulatory requirements and scientific standards, and our reliance on third parties does not relieve us of our regulatory responsibilities. We and these third parties are required to comply with GCP requirements, which are regulations and guidelines enforced by the FDA and comparable foreign regulatory authorities for product candidates in clinical development. Regulatory authorities enforce these GCP requirements through periodic inspections of trial sponsors, clinical investigators and trial sites. If we or any of these third parties fail to comply with applicable GCP requirements, the clinical data generated in our clinical trials may be deemed unreliable and the FDA or comparable foreign regulatory authorities may require us to suspend or terminate these trials or perform additional preclinical studies or clinical trials before approving our marketing applications. We cannot be certain that, upon inspection, such regulatory authorities will determine that any of our clinical trials comply with the GCP requirements.

Our failure or any failure by these third parties to comply with these regulations or to recruit a sufficient number of patients may require us to repeat clinical trials, which would delay the regulatory approval process. Moreover, our business may be implicated if any of these third parties violates federal or state fraud and abuse or false claims laws and regulations or healthcare privacy and security laws.

Any third parties conducting aspects of our preclinical studies or clinical trials will not be our employees and, except for remedies that may be available to us under our agreements with such third parties, we cannot control whether or not they devote sufficient time and resources to our preclinical studies and clinical programs. These third parties may also have relationships with other commercial entities, including our competitors, for whom they may also be conducting clinical trials or other product development activities, which could affect their performance on our behalf. If these third parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, if they need to be replaced or if the quality or accuracy of the preclinical or clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our protocols or regulatory requirements or for other reasons or if due to federal or state orders or absenteeism due to the COVID-19 pandemic they are unable to meet their contractual and regulatory obligations, our development timelines, including clinical development timelines, may be extended, delayed or terminated and we may not be able to complete development of, obtain regulatory approval of or successfully commercialize our product candidates. As a result, our financial results and the commercial prospects for our product candidates would be harmed, our costs could increase and our ability to generate revenue could be delayed.

If any of our relationships with these third-party CROs or others terminate, we may not be able to enter into arrangements with alternative CROs or other third parties or to do so on commercially reasonable terms.

 

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Switching or adding additional CROs involves additional cost and requires management time and focus. In addition, there is a natural transition period when a new CRO begins work. As a result, delays may occur, which can materially impact our ability to meet our desired development timelines. Though we carefully manage our relationships with our CROs, there can be no assurance that we will not encounter similar challenges or delays in the future or that these delays or challenges will not have a material adverse impact on our business, financial condition and prospects.

We rely on third parties for tissue samples and other materials required for our research and development activities, and if we are unable to reach agreements with these third parties our research and development activities would be delayed.

We rely on third parties, primarily hospitals, health clinics and academic institutions, for the provision of tissue samples and other materials required in our research and development activities. Obtaining these materials requires various approvals as well as reaching a commercial agreement on acceptable terms with the hospital or other provider of the materials. While we currently have agreements in place with the institutions from which we receive our tissue samples, we do not have any exclusive arrangements with such sources and there is no guarantee that we will be able to maintain or renew such agreements on commercially reasonable terms, if at all. If we were unable to maintain or renew such agreements we would be forced to seek new arrangements with new hospitals, clinics or health institutions. If so, we may not be able to reach agreements with alternative partners or do so on terms acceptable to us. If we are unable to enter into such agreements, our research and development activities will be delayed and our ability to implement a key part of our development strategy will be compromised.

Because we rely on third-party manufacturing and supply vendors, our supply of research and development, preclinical and clinical development materials may become limited or interrupted or may not be of satisfactory quantity or quality.

We rely on third-party contract manufacturers to manufacture our product candidates for preclinical studies and clinical trials. We do not own manufacturing facilities for producing any clinical trial product supplies. There can be no assurance that our preclinical and clinical development product supplies will not be limited, interrupted, or of satisfactory quality or continue to be available at acceptable prices. For example, the extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts our ability to procure sufficient supplies for the development of our product candidates will depend on the severity and duration of the spread of the virus, and the actions undertaken to contain COVID-19 or treat its effects. In particular, any replacement of our manufacturer could require significant effort and expertise because there may be a limited number of qualified replacements.

The manufacturing process for a product candidate is subject to FDA and foreign regulatory authority review. Suppliers and manufacturers must meet applicable manufacturing requirements and undergo rigorous facility and process validation tests required by regulatory authorities in order to comply with regulatory standards, such as cGMPs. In the event that any of our manufacturers fails to comply with such requirements or to perform its obligations to us in relation to quality, timing or otherwise, or if our supply of components or other materials becomes limited or interrupted for other reasons, we may be forced to manufacture the materials ourselves, for which we currently do not have the capabilities or resources, or enter into an agreement with another third-party, which we may not be able to do on reasonable terms, if at all. In some cases, the technical skills or technology required to manufacture our product candidates may be unique or proprietary to the original manufacturer and we may have difficulty transferring such skills or technology to another third-party and a feasible alternative may not exist. These factors would increase our reliance on such manufacturer or require us to obtain a license from such manufacturer in order to have another third-party manufacture our product candidates. If we are required to change manufacturers for any reason, we will be required to verify that the new manufacturer maintains facilities and procedures that comply with quality standards and with all applicable regulations and guidelines. The delays associated with the verification of a new manufacturer could negatively affect our ability to develop product candidates in a timely manner or within budget.

 

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We expect to continue to rely on third-party manufacturers if we receive regulatory approval for PLN-74809 or any other product candidate. To the extent that we have existing, or enter into future, manufacturing arrangements with third parties, we will depend on these third parties to perform their obligations in a timely manner consistent with contractual and regulatory requirements, including those related to quality control and assurance. If we are unable to obtain or maintain third-party manufacturing for product candidates, or to do so on commercially reasonable terms, we may not be able to develop and commercialize our product candidates successfully. Our or a third-party’s failure to execute on our manufacturing requirements and comply with cGMP could adversely affect our business in a number of ways, including:

 

   

an inability to initiate or continue clinical trials of product candidates under development;

 

   

delay in submitting regulatory applications, or receiving regulatory approvals, for product candidates;

 

   

loss of the cooperation of an existing or future collaborator;

 

   

subjecting third-party manufacturing facilities or our manufacturing facilities to additional inspections by regulatory authorities;

 

   

requirements to cease distribution or to recall batches of our product candidates; and

 

   

in the event of approval to market and commercialize a product candidate, an inability to meet commercial demands for our products.

We rely on a sole supplier for the manufacture of PLN-74809. If this sole supplier is unable to supply to us in the quantities we require, or at all, or otherwise defaults on its supply obligations to us, we may not be able to obtain alternative supplies from other suppliers on acceptable terms, in a timely manner, or at all. We also do not have long-term supply agreements with any of our suppliers. Our current contracts with certain suppliers may be canceled or not extended by such suppliers and, therefore, do not afford us with protection against a reduction or interruption in supplies. Moreover, in the event any of these suppliers breach their contracts with us, our legal remedies associated with such a breach may be insufficient to compensate us for any damages we may suffer.

In addition, we contract with fill and finishing providers with the appropriate expertise, facilities and scale to meet our needs. Failure to maintain cGMP can result in a contractor receiving FDA sanctions, which can impact our ability to operate or lead to delays in any clinical development programs. We believe that our current fill and finish contractor is operating in accordance with cGMP, but we can give no assurance that FDA or other regulatory agencies will not conclude that a lack of compliance exists. In addition, any delay in contracting for fill and finish services, or failure of the contract manufacturer to perform the services as needed, may delay any clinical trials, registration and launches, which could negatively affect our business. In the future, if we advance a biological product candidate into IND-enabling studies, we will need to identify and contract with suppliers who are able to produce biological product candidates and adhere to additional cGMP compliance obligations required for biologicals.

Our existing collaborations and future collaborations are and will be important to our business. If we are unable to enter into new collaborations, or if these collaborations are not successful, our business could be adversely affected.

A part of our strategy is to selectively evaluate partnerships in indications and geographies where we believe partners can add significant commercial and/or development capabilities. Further, we have limited capabilities for product development and do not yet have any capability for commercialization. Accordingly, we have and may in the future enter into collaborations with other companies to provide us with important technologies and funding for our programs and technology.

Our existing collaborations and any future collaborations we enter into may pose a number of risks, including the following:

 

   

collaborators have significant discretion in determining the efforts and resources that they will apply;

 

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collaborators may not perform their obligations as expected;

 

   

collaborators may not pursue development and commercialization of any product candidates that achieve regulatory approval or may elect not to continue or renew development or commercialization programs or license arrangements based on clinical trial results, changes in the collaborators’ strategic focus or available funding, or external factors, such as a strategic transaction that may divert resources or create competing priorities;

 

   

collaborators may delay clinical trials, provide insufficient funding for a clinical trial program, 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;

 

   

collaborators could independently develop, or develop with third parties, products that compete directly or indirectly with our products and product candidates if the collaborators believe that the competitive products are more likely to be successfully developed or can be commercialized under terms that are more economically attractive than ours;

 

   

product candidates discovered in collaboration with us may be viewed by our collaborators as competitive with their own product candidates or products, which may cause collaborators to cease to devote resources to the commercialization of our product candidates;

 

   

collaborators may fail to comply with applicable regulatory requirements regarding the development, manufacture, distribution or marketing of a product candidate or product;

 

   

collaborators with marketing and distribution rights to one or more of our product candidates that achieve regulatory approval may not commit sufficient resources to the marketing and distribution of such product or products;

 

   

collaborators may not provide us with timely and accurate information regarding development progress and activity under any future license agreement, which could adversely impact our ability to report progress to our investors and otherwise plan development of our product candidates;

 

   

disagreements with collaborators, including disagreements over proprietary rights, contract interpretation or the preferred course of development, might cause delays or terminations of the research, development or commercialization of product candidates, might lead to additional responsibilities for us with respect to product candidates, or might result in litigation or arbitration, any of which would be time-consuming and expensive;

 

   

collaborators may not properly maintain or defend our intellectual property rights or may use our proprietary information in such a way as to invite litigation that could jeopardize or invalidate our intellectual property or proprietary information or expose us to potential litigation;

 

   

collaborators may infringe the intellectual property rights of third parties, which may expose us to litigation and potential liability;

 

   

if a collaborator of ours is involved in a business combination, the collaborator might deemphasize or terminate the development or commercialization of any product candidate licensed to it by us; and

 

   

collaborations may be terminated by the collaborator, and, if terminated, we could be required to raise additional capital to pursue further development or commercialization of the applicable product candidates.

If our existing collaborations and any future collaborations we enter into do not result in the successful discovery, 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 such collaboration. All of the risks relating to product development, regulatory approval and commercialization described in this prospectus also apply to the activities of our therapeutic collaborators.

 

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Additionally, if one of our existing or future collaborators terminates its agreement with us, we may find it more difficult to attract new collaborators and our perception in the business and financial communities could be adversely affected.

We face significant competition in seeking appropriate collaborators for our product candidates, and the negotiation process is time-consuming and complex. In order for us to successfully establish a collaboration for one or more of our product candidates, potential collaborators must view these product candidates as economically valuable in markets they determine to be attractive in light of the terms that we are seeking and other available products for licensing by other companies. Collaborations are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. In addition, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large biopharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future collaborators. 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 a number of factors. If we are unable to reach agreements with suitable collaborators on a timely basis, on acceptable terms, or at all, we may have to curtail the development of a product candidate, reduce or delay its development program or one or more of our other development programs, delay its potential commercialization or reduce the scope of any 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 expertise and additional capital, which may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. If we fail to enter into future collaborations or do not have sufficient funds or expertise to undertake the necessary development and commercialization activities, we may not be able to further develop our product candidates, bring them to market and generate revenue from sales of drugs or continue to develop our technology, and our business may be materially and adversely affected. Even if we are successful in our efforts to establish new strategic collaborations, the terms that we agree upon may not be favorable to us, and we may not be able to maintain such strategic collaborations if, for example, development or approval of a product candidate is delayed or sales of an approved product are disappointing. Any delay in entering into new strategic collaboration agreements related to our product candidates could delay the development and commercialization of our product candidates and reduce their competitiveness even if they reach the market.

Risks Related to Managing Our Business and Operations

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, could adversely impact our business, including our preclinical studies and clinical trials.

In December 2019, a novel strain of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, was identified in Wuhan, China. This virus continues to spread globally and, as of May 2020, has spread to a number countries globally, including the United States. The outbreak and government measures taken in response have also had a significant impact, both direct and indirect, on businesses and commerce, as worker shortages have occurred; supply chains have been disrupted; facilities and production have been suspended; and demand for certain goods and services, such as medical services and supplies, has spiked, while demand for other goods and services, such as travel, has fallen. In response to the spread of COVID-19, we have closed our executive offices with our administrative employees continuing their work outside of our offices and limited the number of staff in any given research and development laboratory. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have experienced disruptions and may continue to experience disruptions that could severely impact our business, preclinical studies and clinical trials, including:

 

   

delays or difficulties in commencing enrollment of patients in our clinical trials, including our Phase 2a clinical trials of PLN-74809 in IPF and PSC and our Phase 1 clinical trial of PLN-1474;

 

   

the impact from potential delays, including potential difficulties in clinical site initiation, including difficulties in recruiting clinical site investigators and clinical site staff;

 

   

diversion of healthcare resources away from the conduct of clinical trials, including the diversion of hospitals serving as our clinical trial sites and hospital staff supporting the conduct of our clinical trials;

 

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interruption of key clinical trial activities, such as clinical trial site data monitoring, due to limitations on travel imposed or recommended by federal or state governments, employers and others or interruption of clinical trial subject visits and study procedures that are deemed non-essential, which may impact the integrity of subject data and clinical study endpoints;

 

   

interruption or delays in the operations of the FDA or other regulatory authorities, which may impact review and approval timelines;

 

   

interruption of, or delays in receiving, supplies of our product candidates from our contract manufacturing organizations due to staffing shortages, production slowdowns or stoppages and disruptions in delivery systems;

 

   

interruptions in preclinical studies due to restricted or limited operations at our laboratory facility;

 

   

limitations on employee resources that would otherwise be focused on the conduct of our preclinical studies and clinical trials, including because of sickness of employees or their families or the desire of employees to avoid contact with large groups of people; and

 

   

interruption or delays to our sourced discovery and clinical activities.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rapidly evolve. The extent to which the outbreak impacts our business, preclinical studies and clinical trials will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, such as the ultimate geographic spread of the disease, the duration of the pandemic, travel restrictions and social distancing in the United States and other countries, business closures or business disruptions and the effectiveness of actions taken in the United States and other countries to contain and treat the disease.

We may encounter difficulties in managing our growth, which could adversely affect our operations.

As of December 31, 2019, we had 62 full-time employees. As our clinical development and commercialization plans and strategies develop, and as we transition into operating as a public company, we will need to expand our managerial, clinical, regulatory, sales, marketing, financial, development, manufacturing and legal capabilities or contract with third parties to provide these capabilities for us. As our operations expand, we expect that we will need to manage additional relationships with various strategic collaborators, suppliers and other third parties. Our future growth would impose significant added responsibilities on members of management, including:

 

   

identifying, recruiting, integrating, maintaining and motivating additional employees;

 

   

managing our development and commercialization efforts effectively, including the clinical and FDA review process for PLN-74809 and any other product candidates, while complying with our contractual obligations to contractors and other third parties; and

 

   

improving our operational, financial and management controls, reporting systems and procedures.

Our ability to continue to develop and, if approved, commercialize our product candidates will depend, in part, on our ability to effectively manage any future growth. Our management may also have to divert a disproportionate amount of its attention away from day-to-day activities in order to devote a substantial amount of time to managing these growth activities.

We currently rely, and for the foreseeable future will continue to rely, in substantial part on certain independent organizations, advisors and consultants to provide certain services, including contract manufacturers and companies focused on research and development and discovery activities. There can be no assurance that the services of independent organizations, advisors and consultants will continue to be available to us on a timely basis when needed, or that we can find qualified replacements. In addition, if we are unable to effectively manage our outsourced activities or if the quality, accuracy or quantity of the services provided is compromised for any

 

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reason, our clinical trials may be extended, delayed or terminated, and we may not be able to obtain, or may be substantially delayed in obtaining, regulatory approval of our product candidates or otherwise advance our business. There can be no assurance that we will be able to manage our existing consultants or find other competent outside contractors and consultants on economically reasonable terms, or at all.

If we are not able to effectively expand our organization by hiring new employees and expanding our groups of consultants and contractors, we may not be able to successfully implement the tasks necessary to further develop and commercialize PLN-74809 or any other product candidates and, accordingly, may not achieve our research, development and commercialization goals.

We may acquire additional technology and complementary businesses in the future. Acquisitions involve many risks, any of which could materially harm our business, including the diversion of management’s attention from core business concerns, failure to effectively exploit acquired technologies, failure to successfully integrate the acquired business or realize expected synergies or the loss of key employees from either our business or the acquired businesses.

If we lose key management personnel, or if we fail to recruit additional highly skilled personnel, our ability to develop current product candidates or identify and develop new product candidates will be impaired, could result in loss of markets or market share and could make us less competitive.

Our ability to compete in the highly competitive biotechnology and biopharmaceutical industries depends upon our ability to attract and retain highly qualified managerial, scientific and medical personnel. We are highly dependent on our management, scientific and medical personnel, including Bernard Coulie, M.D., Ph.D., our Chief Executive Officer and President, Keith Cummings, M.D., our Chief Financial Officer, Barbara Howes, our Chief Human Resources Officer, Johannes (Hans) Hull, J.D., our Chief Business Officer and Éric Lefebvre, M.D., our Chief Medical Officer. The loss of the services of any of our executive officers, other key employees, and other scientific and medical advisors, and our inability to find suitable replacements could result in delays in product development and harm our business.

We conduct our operations at our facility in South San Francisco, California. This region is headquarters to many other biopharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies and research institutions. Competition for skilled personnel in our market is intense and may limit our ability to hire and retain highly qualified personnel on acceptable terms or at all.

To induce valuable employees to remain at our company, in addition to salary and cash incentives, we have provided restricted stock awards and stock options that vest over time. The value to employees of restricted stock awards and stock options that vest over time may be significantly affected by movements in our stock price that are beyond our control, and may at any time be insufficient to counteract more lucrative offers from other companies. Despite our efforts to retain valuable employees, members of our management, scientific and development teams may terminate their employment with us on short notice. Our key employees are at-will employees, which means that any of our employees could leave our employment at any time, with or without notice. We do not maintain “key person” insurance policies on the lives of these individuals or the lives of any of our other employees. Our success also depends on our ability to continue to attract, retain and motivate highly skilled junior, mid-level and senior scientific and medical personnel.

Our internal computer systems, or those of our collaborators or other contractors or consultants, may fail or suffer security breaches, which could result in a material disruption of our product development programs.

Our internal computer systems and those of our current and any future collaborators and other contractors or consultants are vulnerable to damage from computer viruses, unauthorized access, natural disasters, terrorism, war and telecommunication and electrical failures. While we have not experienced any such material system

 

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failure, accident or security breach to date, if such an event were to occur and cause interruptions in our operations, it could result in a disruption of our development programs and our business operations, whether due to a loss of our trade secrets or other proprietary information or other similar disruptions. For example, the loss of clinical trial data from future clinical trials could result in delays in our regulatory approval efforts and significantly increase our costs to recover or reproduce the data. To the extent that any disruption or security breach were to result in a loss of, or damage to, our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we could incur liability, our competitive position could be harmed and the further development and commercialization of our product candidates could be delayed.

We could be subject to risks caused by misappropriation, misuse, leakage, falsification or intentional or accidental release or loss of information maintained in the information systems and networks of our company and our vendors, including personal information of our employees and study subjects, and company and vendor confidential data. In addition, outside parties may attempt to penetrate our systems or those of our vendors or fraudulently induce our personnel or the personnel of our vendors to disclose sensitive information in order to gain access to our data and/or systems. We may experience threats to our data and systems, including malicious codes and viruses, phishing and other cyberattack. The number and complexity of these threats continue to increase over time. If a material breach of, or accidental or intentional loss of data from, our information technology systems or those of our vendors occurs, the market perception of the effectiveness of our security measures could be harmed and our reputation and credibility could be damaged. We could be required to expend significant amounts of money and other resources to repair or replace information systems or networks. In addition, we could be subject to regulatory actions and/or claims made by individuals and groups in private litigation involving privacy issues related to data collection and use practices and other data privacy laws and regulations, including claims for misuse or inappropriate disclosure of data, as well as unfair or deceptive practices. Although we develop and maintain systems and controls designed to prevent these events from occurring, and we have a process to identify and mitigate threats, the development and maintenance of these systems, controls and processes is costly and requires ongoing monitoring and updating as technologies change and efforts to overcome security measures become increasingly sophisticated. Moreover, despite our efforts, the possibility of these events occurring cannot be eliminated entirely. As we outsource more of our information systems to vendors, engage in more electronic transactions with payors and patients, and rely more on cloud-based information systems, the related security risks will increase and we will need to expend additional resources to protect our technology and information systems. In addition, there can be no assurance that our internal information technology systems or those of our third-party contractors, or our consultants’ efforts to implement adequate security and control measures, will be sufficient to protect us against breakdowns, service disruption, data deterioration or loss in the event of a system malfunction, or prevent data from being stolen or corrupted in the event of a cyberattack, security breach, industrial espionage attacks or insider threat attacks which could result in financial, legal, business or reputational harm.

Our current operations are concentrated in one location, and we or the third parties upon whom we depend may be adversely affected by earthquakes or other natural disasters, as well as occurrences of civil unrest, and our business continuity and disaster recovery plans may not adequately protect us from a serious disaster, including earthquakes, outbreak of disease or other natural disasters and civil unrest.

Our current operations are located in our facilities in South San Francisco, California. Any unplanned event, such as flood, fire, explosion, earthquake, extreme weather condition, medical epidemics, power shortage, telecommunication failure or other natural or manmade accidents or incidents, including events of civil unrest, that result in us being unable to fully utilize our facilities, or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, may have a material and adverse effect on our ability to operate our business, particularly on a daily basis, and have significant negative consequences on our financial and operating conditions. Loss of access to these facilities may result in increased costs, delays in the development of our product candidates or interruption of our business operations. Earthquakes or other natural disasters could further disrupt our operations, and have a material and adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects. If a natural disaster, power outage or other event occurred that prevented us from using all or a

 

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significant portion of our headquarters, that damaged critical infrastructure, such as our research facilities or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, or that otherwise disrupted operations, it may be difficult or, in certain cases, impossible, for us to continue our business for a substantial period of time.

The disaster recovery and business continuity plans we have in place may prove inadequate in the event of a serious disaster or similar event. We may incur substantial expenses as a result of the limited nature of our disaster recovery and business continuity plans, which, could have a material adverse effect on our business. As part of our risk management policy, we maintain insurance coverage at levels that we believe are appropriate for our business. However, in the event of an accident or incident at these facilities, we cannot assure you that the amounts of insurance will be sufficient to satisfy any damages and losses. If our facilities, or the manufacturing facilities of our third-party contract manufacturers, are unable to operate because of an accident or incident or for any other reason, even for a short period of time, any or all of our research and development programs may be harmed.

Unfavorable global economic conditions could adversely affect our business, financial condition or results of operations.

Our results of operations could be adversely affected by general conditions in the global economy and in the global financial markets. Portions of our future clinical trials may be conducted outside of the United States and unfavorable economic conditions resulting in the weakening of the U.S. dollar would make those clinical trials more costly to operate. Furthermore, the most recent global financial crisis caused extreme volatility and disruptions in the capital and credit markets. A severe or prolonged economic downturn, including due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, could result in a variety of risks to our business, including a reduced ability to raise additional capital when needed on acceptable terms, if at all. A weak or declining economy or international trade disputes could also strain our suppliers, some of which are located outside of the United States, possibly resulting in supply disruption. Any of the foregoing could harm our business and we cannot anticipate all of the ways in which the current economic climate and financial market conditions could adversely impact our business.

The increasing use of social media platforms presents new risks and challenges.

Social media is increasingly being used to communicate about our clinical development programs and the diseases our therapeutics are being developed to treat, and we intend to utilize appropriate social media in connection with our commercialization efforts following approval of our product candidates, if any. Social media practices in the biopharmaceutical industry continue to evolve and regulations and regulatory guidance relating to such use are evolving and not always clear. This evolution creates uncertainty and risk of noncompliance with regulations applicable to our business, resulting in potential regulatory actions against us, along with the potential for litigation related to off-label marketing or other prohibited activities. For example, patients may use social media channels to comment on their experience in an ongoing blinded clinical trial or to report an alleged adverse event. When such disclosures occur, there is a risk that trial enrollment may be adversely impacted, we fail to monitor and comply with applicable adverse event reporting obligations or that we may not be able to defend our business or the public’s legitimate interests in the face of the political and market pressures generated by social media due to restrictions on what we may say about our product candidates. There is also a risk of inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information or negative or inaccurate posts or comments about us on any social networking website. If any of these events were to occur or we otherwise fail to comply with applicable regulations, we could incur liability, face regulatory actions or incur other harm to our business.

The estimates of market opportunity and forecasts of market growth included in this prospectus may prove to be inaccurate, and even if the markets in which we compete achieve the forecasted growth, our business may not grow at similar rates, or at all.

Market opportunity estimates and growth forecasts included in this prospectus are subject to significant uncertainty and are based on assumptions and estimates which may not prove to be accurate. The estimates and

 

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forecasts included in this prospectus relating to size and expected growth of our target market may prove to be inaccurate. Even if the markets in which we compete meet the size estimates and growth forecasts included in this prospectus, our business may not grow at similar rates, or at all. Our growth is subject to many factors, including our success in implementing our business strategy, which is subject to many risks and uncertainties.

Our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners, collaborators and vendors may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements.

We are exposed to the risk of employee fraud or other illegal activity by our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners, collaborators and vendors. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional, reckless and/or negligent conduct that fails to comply with the laws of the FDA and other similar foreign regulatory bodies, provide true, complete and accurate information to the FDA and other similar foreign regulatory bodies, comply with manufacturing standards we have established, comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws in the United States and similar foreign fraudulent misconduct laws, or report financial information or data accurately or to disclose unauthorized activities to us. If we obtain FDA approval of any of our product candidates and begin commercializing those products in the United States, our potential exposure under such laws will increase significantly, and our costs associated with compliance with such laws will also increase. These laws may impact, among other things, our current activities with principal investigators and research patients, as well as proposed and future sales, marketing and education programs. In connection with this offering, we will adopt a code of business conduct and ethics, but it is not always possible to identify and deter misconduct by our employees, independent contractors, consultants, commercial partners and vendors, and the precautions we take to detect and prevent this activity may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with these laws or regulations. If any actions are instituted against us and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could result in the imposition of civil, criminal and administrative penalties, damages, monetary fines, imprisonment, disgorgement, possible exclusion from participation in government healthcare programs, additional reporting obligations and oversight if we become subject to a corporate integrity agreement or other agreement to resolve allegations of non-compliance with these laws, contractual damages, reputational harm, diminished profits and future earnings and the curtailment of our operations.

We use and generate materials that may expose us to material liability.

Our research programs involve the use of hazardous materials and chemicals, which are currently only handled by third parties. We are subject to foreign, federal, state and local environmental and health and safety laws and regulations governing, among other matters, the use, manufacture, handling, storage and disposal of hazardous materials and waste products such as human tissue samples that may have the potential to transmit diseases. We may incur significant costs to comply with these current or future environmental and health and safety laws and regulations. In addition, we cannot completely eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from hazardous materials and may incur material liability as a result of such contamination or injury. In the event of an accident, an injured party may seek to hold us liable for any damages that result. Any liability could exceed the limits or fall outside the coverage of our workers’ compensation, property and business interruption insurance and we may not be able to maintain insurance on acceptable terms, if at all. We currently carry no insurance specifically covering environmental claims.

If we fail to comply with environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, we could become subject to fines or penalties or incur costs that could have a material adverse effect on the success of our business.

We are subject to numerous environmental, health and safety laws and regulations, including those governing laboratory procedures and the handling, use, storage, treatment and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Our research and development activities involve the use of biological and hazardous materials and

 

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produce hazardous waste products. We generally contract with third parties for the disposal of these materials and wastes. We cannot eliminate the risk of contamination or injury from these materials, which could cause an interruption of our commercialization efforts, research and development efforts and business operations, environmental damage resulting in costly clean-up and liabilities under applicable laws and regulations governing the use, storage, handling and disposal of these materials and specified waste products. Although we believe that the safety procedures utilized by our third-party manufacturers for handling and disposing of these materials generally comply with the standards prescribed by these laws and regulations, we cannot guarantee that this is the case or eliminate the risk of accidental contamination or injury from these materials. In such an event, we may be held liable for any resulting damages and such liability could exceed our resources and state or federal or other applicable authorities may curtail our use of certain materials and/or interrupt our business operations. Furthermore, environmental laws and regulations are complex, change frequently and have tended to become more stringent. We cannot predict the impact of such changes and cannot be certain of our future compliance. In addition, we may incur substantial costs in order to comply with current or future environmental, health and safety laws and regulations. These current or future laws and regulations may impair our research, development or production efforts. Failure to comply with these laws and regulations also may result in substantial fines, penalties or other sanctions.

Although we maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover us for costs and expenses we may incur due to injuries to our employees resulting from the use of hazardous materials or other work-related injuries, this insurance may not provide adequate coverage against potential liabilities. We do not carry specific biological waste or hazardous waste insurance coverage, workers compensation or property and casualty and general liability insurance policies that include coverage for damages and fines arising from biological or hazardous waste exposure or contamination.

Compliance with governmental regulations regarding the treatment of animals used in research could increase our operating costs, which would adversely affect the commercialization of our products.

The Animal Welfare Act, or AWA, is the federal law that covers the treatment of certain animals used in research. Currently, the AWA imposes a wide variety of specific regulations that govern the humane handling, care, treatment and transportation of certain animals by producers and users of research animals, most notably relating to personnel, facilities, sanitation, cage size, and feeding, watering and shipping conditions. Third parties with whom we contract are subject to registration, inspections and reporting requirements under the AWA. Furthermore, some states have their own regulations, including general anti-cruelty legislation, which establish certain standards in handling animals. Comparable rules, regulations, and or obligations exist in many foreign jurisdictions. If we or our contractors fail to comply with regulations concerning the treatment of animals used in research, we may be subject to fines and penalties and adverse publicity, and our operations could be adversely affected.

Changes in U.S. tax law could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

The rules dealing with U.S. federal, state, and local income taxation are constantly under review by persons involved in the legislative process and by the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Treasury Department. Changes to tax laws (which changes may have retroactive application) could adversely affect us or holders of our common stock. In recent years, many such changes have been made and changes are likely to continue to occur in the future. Future changes in U.S. tax laws could have a material adverse effect on our business, cash flow, financial condition or results of operations. We urge investors to consult with their legal and tax advisors regarding the implications of potential changes in U.S. tax laws on an investment in our common stock.

Our ability to use our net operating loss carryforwards and certain tax credit carryforwards may be subject to limitation.

As of December 31, 2019, we had net operating loss carryforwards for U.S. federal and state income tax purposes of $58.7 million and $60.7 million, respectively, some of which will begin to expire in 2035. As of

 

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December 31, 2019, we also had available tax credit carryforwards for U.S. federal income tax purposes of $4.7 million, which begin to expire in 2036, and state income tax purposes of $2.1 million. Under Section 382 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code, changes in our ownership may limit the amount of our net operating loss carryforwards and tax credit carryforwards that could be utilized annually to offset our future taxable income, if any. This limitation would generally apply in the event of a cumulative change in ownership of our company of more than 50 percentage points within a three-year period. Any such limitation may significantly reduce our ability to utilize our net operating loss carryforwards and tax credit carryforwards before they expire. Private placements and other transactions that have occurred since our inception, as well as this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, may trigger such an ownership change pursuant to Section 382. Any such limitation, whether as the result of this offering, the Concurrent Private Placement, prior private placements, sales of our common stock by our existing stockholders or additional sales of our common stock by us, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations in future years. Our ability to utilize those net operating loss carryforwards could be limited by an “ownership change” as described above, which could result in increased tax liability to us. Net operating losses generated after December 31, 2017 are not subject to expiration, but may not be carried back to prior taxable years, except that net operating losses generated in 2018, 2019 and 2020 may be carried back five taxable years. Additionally, the deductibility of such U.S. federal net operating losses is limited to 80% of our taxable income in any taxable year beginning after December 31, 2020.

Risks Related to Our Common Stock and this Offering

There has been no prior public market for our common stock, the stock price of our common stock may be volatile or may decline regardless of our operating performance and you may not be able to resell your shares at or above the initial public offering price.

Prior to this offering there has been no public market for shares of our common stock. You may not be able to sell your shares quickly or at the market price if trading in shares of our common stock is not active. The initial public offering price for our common stock will be determined through negotiations with the underwriters, and the negotiated price may not be indicative of the market price of the common stock after the offering. An active or liquid market in our common stock may not develop upon the completion of this offering or, if it does develop, it may not be sustainable. As a result of these and other factors, you may be unable to resell your shares of our common stock at or above the initial public offering price.

Further, an inactive market may also impair our ability to raise capital by selling shares of our common stock and may impair our ability to enter into strategic collaborations or acquire companies or products by using our shares of common stock as consideration.

The price of our stock may be volatile, and you could lose all or part of your investment.

The trading price of our common stock following this offering is likely to be highly volatile and could be subject to wide fluctuations in response to various factors, some of which are beyond our control, including limited trading volume. In addition to the factors discussed in this “Risk Factors” section and elsewhere in this prospectus, these factors include:

 

   

the commencement, enrollment or results of our current Phase 2a clinical trials of PLN-74809;

 

   

any delay in identifying and advancing a clinical candidate for our other development programs;

 

   

any delay in our regulatory filings for PLN-74809 or our other product candidates and any adverse development or perceived adverse development with respect to the applicable regulatory authority’s review of such filings, including without limitation the FDA’s issuance of a “refusal to file” letter or a request for additional information;

 

   

adverse results or delays in future clinical trials;

 

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our decision to initiate a clinical trial, not to initiate a clinical trial or to terminate an existing clinical trial;

 

   

adverse regulatory decisions, including failure to receive regulatory approval of PLN-74809 or any other product candidate;

 

   

changes in laws or regulations applicable to PLN-74809 or any other product candidate, including but not limited to clinical trial requirements for approvals;

 

   

adverse developments concerning our manufacturers;

 

   

our inability to obtain adequate product supply for any approved product or inability to do so at acceptable prices;

 

   

our inability to establish collaborations, if needed;

 

   

our failure to commercialize our product candidates, if approved;

 

   

additions or departures of key scientific or management personnel;

 

   

unanticipated serious safety concerns related to the use of PLN-74809 or any other product candidate;

 

   

introduction of new products or services offered by us or our competitors;

 

   

announcements of significant acquisitions, strategic partnerships, joint ventures or capital commitments by us or our competitors;

 

   

our ability to effectively manage our growth;

 

   

actual or anticipated variations in quarterly operating results;

 

   

our cash position;

 

   

our failure to meet the estimates and projections of the investment community or that we may otherwise provide to the public;

 

   

publication of research reports about us or our industry, or product candidates in particular, or positive or negative recommendations or withdrawal of research coverage by securities analysts;

 

   

changes in the market valuations of similar companies;

 

   

changes in the structure of the healthcare payment systems;

 

   

overall performance of the equity markets;

 

   

sales of our common stock by us or our stockholders in the future;

 

   

trading volume of our common stock;

 

   

changes in accounting practices;

 

   

ineffectiveness of our internal controls;

 

   

disputes or other developments relating to proprietary rights, including patents, litigation matters and our ability to obtain patent protection for our technologies;

 

   

significant lawsuits, including patent or stockholder litigation;

 

   

general political and economic conditions; and

 

   

other events or factors, many of which are beyond our control.

In addition, the stock market in general, and the market for biopharmaceutical companies in particular, have experienced extreme price and volume fluctuations that have often been unrelated or disproportionate to the operating performance of these companies, including as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Broad market and industry factors may negatively affect the market price of our common stock, regardless of our actual operating

 

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performance. If the market price of our common stock after this offering does not exceed the initial public offering price, you may not realize any return on your investment in us and may lose some or all of your investment. In the past, securities class action litigation has often been instituted against companies following periods of volatility in the market price of a company’s securities. This type of litigation, if instituted, could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management’s attention and resources.

We do not intend to pay dividends on our common stock so any returns will be limited to the value of our stock.

We currently anticipate that we will retain future earnings for the development, operation and expansion of our business and do not anticipate declaring or paying any cash dividends for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, future debt or other financing arrangements may contain terms prohibiting or limiting the amount of dividends that may be declared or paid on our common stock. Any return to stockholders will therefore be limited to the appreciation of their stock.

Our executive officers, directors and their affiliates and our principal stockholders own a significant percentage of our stock and will be able to exert significant control over matters subject to stockholder approval.

Based on shares outstanding as of May 15, 2020 and immediately following the completion of this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, our executive officers, directors and their affiliates and our principal stockholders will beneficially hold, in the aggregate, approximately 51.1% of our outstanding voting stock, excluding any shares purchased in this offering. These stockholders, acting together, would be able to significantly influence all matters requiring stockholder approval. For example, these stockholders would be able to significantly influence elections of directors, amendments of our organizational documents, or approval of any merger, sale of assets, or other major corporate transaction. This may prevent or discourage unsolicited acquisition proposals or offers for our common stock that you may feel are in your best interest as one of our stockholders.

The Concurrent Private Placement and the potential purchases of shares in this offering by our principal stockholders may reduce the number of freely tradeable shares of our common stock.

Novartis has agreed to purchase $10.0 million of shares of our common stock at the initial public offering price per share (or 625,000 shares based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share) in a private placement transaction that would close concurrently with, and be contingent and conditioned upon consummation of, this offering. The sale of these shares to Novartis will not be registered in this offering, and these shares are subject to a 180-day lock-up agreement with the underwriters in this offering. Certain of our principal stockholders including stockholders affiliated with certain of our directors, have indicated an interest in purchasing a substantial amount of the shares of our common stock offered in this offering at the initial public offering price and on the same terms and conditions as the other purchasers in this offering.

The Concurrent Private Placement and the potential purchases of shares in this offering by certain of our principal stockholders may reduce the number of shares of our common stock that are freely tradeable because Novartis will be restricted from selling the shares pursuant to restrictions under applicable securities laws, and our existing stockholders, to the extent they are affiliated with us, may be restricted from selling any shares purchased by them pursuant to lock-up agreements they have entered into with the underwriters in this offering. As a result, the sale of common stock in the Concurrent Private Placement and to our existing stockholders may reduce the liquidity of our common stock relative to what it would have been had these shares been sold in this offering and been purchased by investors that were not affiliated with us. Following this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, the number of shares beneficially owned by Novartis and our other principal stockholders after this offering will be as set forth in the beneficial ownership table in “Principal Stockholders” elsewhere in this prospectus.

 

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If you purchase our common stock in this offering, you will incur immediate and substantial dilution in the book value of your shares.

The initial public offering price will be substantially higher than the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of our common stock after this offering. Investors purchasing common stock in this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement will pay a price per share that substantially exceeds the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share after this offering. As a result, investors purchasing common stock in this offering will incur immediate dilution of $6.94 per share, based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share and the sale of shares of common stock in the Concurrent Private Placement, representing the difference between our pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share after giving effect to this offering and the initial public offering price. Further, investors purchasing common stock in this offering will contribute approximately 40.6% of the total amount invested by stockholders since our inception, but will own only approximately 28.1% of the shares of common stock outstanding after this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement.

This dilution is due to our investors who purchased shares prior to this offering having paid substantially less when they purchased their shares than the price offered to the public in this offering. To the extent outstanding options are exercised, there will be further dilution to new investors. As a result of the dilution to investors purchasing shares in this offering, investors may receive significantly less than the purchase price paid in this offering, if anything, in the event of our liquidation. For a further description of the dilution that you will experience immediately after this offering, see the section entitled “Dilution.”

We are an emerging growth company, and we cannot be certain if the reduced reporting requirements applicable to emerging growth companies will make our common stock less attractive to investors.

We are an emerging growth company, or EGC, as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, or the JOBS Act, enacted in April 2012. For as long as we continue to be an EGC, we may take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not EGCs, including not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, as amended, or the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in this prospectus and our periodic reports and proxy statements and exemptions from the requirements of holding nonbinding advisory votes on executive compensation and stockholder approval of any golden parachute payments not previously approved. We could be an EGC for up to five years following the year in which we complete this offering, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier. We will remain an EGC until the earlier of (i) the last day of the fiscal year (a) following the fifth anniversary of the completion of this offering, (b) in which we have total annual gross revenue of at least $1.07 billion or (c) in which we are deemed to be a large accelerated filer, which requires the market value of our common stock that is held by non-affiliates to exceed $700.0 million as of the prior June 30th, and (ii) the date on which we have issued more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during the prior three-year period.

We may choose to take advantage of some, but not all, of the available exemptions. We have taken advantage of reduced reporting burdens in this prospectus. In particular, we have not included all of the executive compensation information that would be required if we were not an EGC. We cannot predict whether investors will find our common stock less attractive if we rely on certain or all of these exemptions. If some investors find our common stock less attractive as a result, there may be a less active trading market for our common stock and our stock price may be more volatile.

Under the JOBS Act, EGCs can also delay adopting new or revised accounting standards until such time as those standards apply to private companies, which may make our financial statements less comparable to companies that comply with new or revised accounting pronouncements as of public company effective dates.

 

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We will incur significant increased costs as a result of operating as a public company, and our management will be required to devote substantial time to new compliance initiatives.

As a public company, we will incur significant legal, accounting and other expenses that we did not incur as a private company. We will be subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, which will require, among other things, that we file with the SEC annual, quarterly and current reports with respect to our business and financial condition. In addition, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, as well as rules subsequently adopted by the SEC and The Nasdaq Global Market to implement provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, impose significant requirements on public companies, including requiring establishment and maintenance of effective disclosure and financial reporting controls and changes in corporate governance practices. Further, in July 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or the Dodd-Frank Act, was enacted. There are significant corporate governance and executive compensation related provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act that require the SEC to adopt additional rules and regulations in these areas such as “say on pay” and proxy access. Recent legislation permits EGCs to implement many of these requirements over a longer period and up to five years from the pricing of this offering. Stockholder activism, the current political environment and the current high level of government intervention and regulatory reform may lead to substantial new regulations and disclosure obligations, which may lead to additional compliance costs and impact the manner in which we operate our business in ways we cannot currently anticipate.

We expect the rules and regulations applicable to public companies to substantially increase our legal and financial compliance costs and to make some activities more time-consuming and costly. If these requirements divert the attention of our management and personnel from other business concerns, they could have an adverse effect on our business. The increased costs will decrease our net income or increase our net loss, and may require us to reduce costs in other areas of our business or increase the prices of our products or services. For example, we expect these rules and regulations to make it more difficult and more expensive for us to obtain director and officer liability insurance and we may be required to incur substantial costs to maintain the same or similar coverage. We cannot predict or estimate the amount or timing of additional costs we may incur to respond to these requirements. The impact of these requirements could also make it more difficult for us to attract and retain qualified persons to serve on our board of directors, our board committees or as executive officers.

If we fail to maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to accurately report our financial results or prevent fraud. As a result, stockholders could lose confidence in our financial and other public reporting, which would harm our business and the trading price of our common stock.

Effective internal controls over financial reporting are necessary for us to provide reliable financial reports and, together with adequate disclosure controls and procedures, are designed to prevent fraud. Any failure to implement required new or improved controls, or difficulties encountered in their implementation could cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations. In addition, any testing by us conducted in connection with Section 404, or any subsequent testing by our independent registered public accounting firm, may reveal deficiencies in our internal controls over financial reporting that are deemed to be material weaknesses or that may require prospective or retroactive changes to our financial statements or identify other areas for further attention or improvement. Inferior internal controls could also cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial information, which could have a negative effect on the trading price of our stock.

We will be required to disclose changes made in our internal controls and procedures on a quarterly basis and our management will be required to assess the effectiveness of these controls annually. However, for as long as we are an EGC, our independent registered public accounting firm will not be required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404. We could be an EGC for up to five years. An independent assessment of the effectiveness of our internal controls over financial reporting could detect problems that our management’s assessment might not. Undetected material weaknesses in our internal controls over financial reporting could lead to restatements of our financial statements and require us to incur the expense of remediation.

 

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Our disclosure controls and procedures may not prevent or detect all errors or acts of fraud.

Upon completion of this offering, we will become subject to certain reporting requirements of the Exchange Act. Our disclosure controls and procedures are designed to reasonably assure that information required to be disclosed by us in reports we file or submit under the Exchange Act is accumulated and communicated to management, recorded, processed, summarized and reported within the time periods specified in the rules and forms of the SEC. We believe that any disclosure controls and procedures or internal controls and procedures, no matter how well conceived and operated, can provide only reasonable, not absolute, assurance that the objectives of the control system are met. These inherent limitations include the realities that judgments in decision-making can be faulty, and that breakdowns can occur because of simple error or mistake. Additionally, controls can be circumvented by the individual acts of some persons, by collusion of two or more people or by an unauthorized override of the controls. Accordingly, because of the inherent limitations in our control system, misstatements or insufficient disclosures due to error or fraud may occur and not be detected.

Substantial amounts of our outstanding shares may be sold into the market when lock-up or market standoff periods end. If there are substantial sales of shares of our common stock, the price of our common stock could decline.

If our existing stockholders sell, or indicate an intention to sell, substantial amounts of our common stock in the public market after the lock-up and other legal restrictions on resale discussed in this prospectus lapse, the trading price of our common stock could decline. Based on shares of common stock outstanding as of March 31, 2020, upon the completion of this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement we will have outstanding a total of 34,201,346 shares of common stock. Of these shares, only the shares of common stock sold in this offering by us, plus any shares sold upon exercise of the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares, will be freely tradable without restriction in the public market immediately following this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement.

The lock-up agreements pertaining to this offering will expire 180 days from the date of this prospectus, subject to earlier release of all or a portion of the shares subject to such agreements by the representatives of the underwriters in this offering in their sole discretion. After the lock-up agreements expire, based upon the number of shares of common stock, on an as-converted basis, outstanding as of March 31, 2020, up to an additional 24,576,346 shares of common stock will be eligible for sale in the public market. Approximately 37.3% of these additional shares are beneficially held by directors, executive officers and their affiliates and will be subject to certain limitations of Rule 144 under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, or the Securities Act.

In addition, shares of common stock that are either subject to outstanding options or reserved for future issuance under our existing equity compensation plans will become eligible for sale in the public market to the extent permitted by the provisions of various vesting schedules, the lock-up agreements and Rule 144 and Rule 701 under the Securities Act. If these additional shares of common stock are sold, or if it is perceived that they will be sold, in the public market, the trading price of our common stock could decline. Additionally, the number of shares of our common stock reserved for issuance under our 2020 Stock Option and Incentive Plan will automatically increase on January 1 of each year, beginning on January 1, 2021, by 5% of the total number of shares of our capital stock outstanding on December 31 of the preceding calendar year, or a lesser number of shares determined by our board of directors or compensation committee. Moreover, the number of shares of our common stock reserved for issuance under our 2020 Employee Stock Purchase Plan will automatically increase on January 1 of each year, beginning on January 1, 2021, by the lesser of 700,000 shares of common stock, 1% of the total number of shares of our capital stock outstanding on December 31 of the preceding calendar year, or a lesser number of shares determined by our board of directors or compensation committee. Unless our board of directors elects not to increase the number of shares available for future grant each year, our stockholders may experience additional dilution.

After this offering, the holders of 23,057,029 shares of our common stock will be entitled to rights with respect to the registration of their shares under the Securities Act as provided under the terms of an investors’

 

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rights agreement between us and the holders of our redeemable convertible preferred stock, subject to the 180-day lock-up agreements described above. See “Description of Capital Stock—Registration Rights.” Registration of these shares under the Securities Act would result in the shares becoming freely tradable without restriction under the Securities Act, except for shares held by affiliates, as defined in Rule 144 under the Securities Act. Any sales of securities by these stockholders could have a material adverse effect on the trading price of our common stock.

We have broad discretion in the use of our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments and the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement and may not use them effectively.

Our management will have broad discretion in the application of our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments and the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, other than the payment required to be made to UCSF pursuant to our license agreement with them upon the closing of this offering, including for any of the purposes described in the section entitled “Use of Proceeds,” and you will not have the opportunity as part of your investment decision to assess whether such proceeds are being used appropriately. Because of the number and variability of factors that will determine our use of our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments and the net proceeds from this offering, their ultimate use may vary substantially from their currently intended use. Our management might not apply our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments and the net proceeds from this offering in ways that ultimately increase the value of your investment. The failure by our management to apply these funds effectively could harm our business. Pending their use, we may invest the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement in short-term, investment-grade, interest-bearing securities. These investments may not yield a favorable return to our stockholders. If we do not invest or apply the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement in ways that enhance stockholder value, we may fail to achieve expected financial results, which could cause our stock price to decline.

Anti-takeover provisions under our charter documents and Delaware law could delay or prevent a change of control which could limit the market price of our common stock and may prevent or frustrate attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove our current management.

Our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws, which are to become effective upon the completion of this offering, contain provisions that could delay or prevent a change of control of our company or changes in our board of directors that our stockholders might consider favorable. Some of these provisions include:

 

   

a board of directors divided into three classes serving staggered three-year terms, such that not all members of the board will be elected at one time;

 

   

a prohibition on stockholder action through written consent, which requires that all stockholder actions be taken at a meeting of our stockholders;

 

   

a requirement that special meetings of stockholders be called only by the board of directors acting pursuant to a resolution approved by the affirmative vote of a majority of the directors then in office;

 

   

advance notice requirements for stockholder proposals and nominations for election to our board of directors;

 

   

a requirement that no member of our board of directors may be removed from office by our stockholders except for cause and, in addition to any other vote required by law, upon the approval of not less than two-thirds of all outstanding shares of our voting stock then entitled to vote in the election of directors;

 

   

a requirement of approval of not less than two-thirds of all outstanding shares of our voting stock to amend any bylaws by stockholder action or to amend specific provisions of our certificate of incorporation; and

 

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the authority of the board of directors to issue convertible preferred stock on terms determined by the board of directors without stockholder approval and which convertible preferred stock may include rights superior to the rights of the holders of common stock.

In addition, because we are incorporated in Delaware, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware, which may prohibit certain business combinations with stockholders owning 15% or more of our outstanding voting stock. These anti-takeover provisions and other provisions in our amended and restated certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws could make it more difficult for stockholders or potential acquirers to obtain control of our board of directors or initiate actions that are opposed by the then-current board of directors and could also delay or impede a merger, tender offer or proxy contest involving our company. These provisions could also discourage proxy contests and make it more difficult for you and other stockholders to elect directors of your choosing or cause us to take other corporate actions you desire. Any delay or prevention of a change of control transaction or changes in our board of directors could cause the market price of our common stock to decline.

If securities or industry analysts do not publish research or publish inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price and trading volume could decline.

The trading market for our common stock will depend in part on the research and reports that securities or industry analysts publish about us or our business. Securities and industry analysts do not currently, and may never, publish research on our company. If no securities or industry analysts commence coverage of our company, the trading price for our stock would likely be negatively impacted. In the event securities or industry analysts initiate coverage, if one or more of the analysts who covers us downgrades our stock or publishes inaccurate or unfavorable research about our business, our stock price may decline. If one or more of these analysts ceases coverage of our company or fails to publish reports on us regularly, demand for our stock could decrease, which might cause our stock price and trading volume to decline.

Our amended and restated by-laws will designate certain courts as the exclusive forum for certain litigation that may be initiated by our stockholders, which could limit our stockholders’ ability to litigate disputes with us in a different judicial forum.

Pursuant to our amended and restated by-laws, as will be in effect upon the completion of this offering, unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternative forum, the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware will be the sole and exclusive forum for any state law claims for: (i) any derivative action or proceeding brought on our behalf; (ii) any action asserting a claim of breach of a fiduciary duty or other wrongdoing by any of our directors, officers, employees or agents to us or our stockholders; (iii) any action asserting a claim against us arising pursuant to any provision of the General Corporation Law of the State of Delaware, our amended and restated certificate of incorporation or our amended and restated by-laws; (iv) any action to interpret, apply, enforce or determine the validity of our certificate of incorporation or by-laws; or (v) any action asserting a claim governed by the internal affairs doctrine, in each case subject to the Court of Chancery having personal jurisdiction over the indispensable parties named as defendants therein, or the Delaware forum provision. This exclusive forum provision will not apply to any causes of action arising under the Securities Act or the Exchange Act or any other claim for which the federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction. Unless we consent in writing to the selection of an alternate forum, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California shall be the sole and exclusive forum for resolving any complaint asserting a cause of action arising under the Securities Act, or the federal forum provision, as our principal office is located in South San Francisco, California. In addition, our amended and restated bylaws provide that any person or entity purchasing or otherwise acquiring any interest in shares of our common stock is deemed to have notice of and consented to the Delaware forum provision and the Federal forum provision; provided, however, that stockholders cannot and will not be deemed to have waived our compliance with the federal securities laws and the rules and regulations thereunder.

 

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The Delaware forum provision and the federal forum provision may impose additional litigation costs on stockholders who assert the provision is not enforceable and may impose more general additional litigation costs in pursuing any such claims, particularly if the stockholders do not reside in or near the State of Delaware or the State of California. In addition, these forum selection clauses in our bylaws may limit our stockholders’ ability to bring a claim in a judicial forum that they find favorable for disputes with us or our directors, officers or employees, which may discourage such lawsuits against us and our directors, officers and employees even though an action, if successful, might benefit our stockholders. In addition, while the Delaware Supreme Court ruled in March 2020 that federal forum selection provisions purporting to require claims under the Securities Act be brought in federal court were “facially valid” under Delaware law, there is uncertainty as to whether other courts will enforce our Federal forum provision. If the Federal forum provision is found to be unenforceable, we may incur additional costs associated with resolving such matters. The federal forum provision may also impose additional litigation costs on stockholders who assert the provision is not enforceable or invalid. The Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware and the United States District Court for the Northern District of California may also reach different judgments or results than would other courts, including courts where a stockholder considering an action may be located or would otherwise choose to bring the action, and such judgments may be more or less favorable to us than our stockholders.

Our issuance of additional capital stock in connection with financings, acquisitions, investments, our stock incentive plans or otherwise will dilute all other stockholders.

We expect to issue additional capital stock in the future that will result in dilution to all other stockholders. We expect to grant equity awards to employees, directors, and consultants under our stock incentive plans. We may also raise capital through equity financings in the future. As part of our business strategy, we may acquire or make investments in complementary companies, products, or technologies and issue equity securities to pay for any such acquisition or investment. Any such issuances of additional capital stock may cause stockholders to experience significant dilution of their ownership interests and the per share value of our common stock to decline.

 

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CAUTIONARY NOTE REGARDING FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS

This prospectus, including the sections entitled “Prospectus Summary,” “Risk Factors,” “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” and “Business,” contains forward-looking statements, within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, concerning our business, operations and financial performance and condition, as well as our plans, objectives and expectations for our business operations and financial performance and condition that are based on our management’s belief and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Although we believe that the expectations reflected in these forward-looking statements are reasonable, these statements relate to our strategy, future operations, future financial position, future revenue, projected costs, prospects, plans, objectives of management and expected market growth, and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to be materially different from any future results, levels of activity, performance or achievements expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this prospectus include, but are not limited to, statements about:

 

   

our estimates regarding expenses, future revenue, capital requirements and needs for additional financing;

 

   

the success, cost and timing of our product development activities and clinical trials of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, as well as PLN-1474 and our other product candidates;

 

   

the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic which has had an adverse impact on our business, including our preclinical studies and clinical trials;

 

   

ours or our current or future collaborators plans to initiate, recruit and enroll patients in, and conduct our clinical trials at the pace that we project;

 

   

our plans and strategy to obtain and maintain regulatory approvals of our product candidates;

 

   

our plans and strategy to obtain funding for our operations, including funding necessary to complete further development and, upon successful development, if approved, commercialize any of our product candidates;

 

   

the potential benefit of orphan drug designations for PLN-74809;

 

   

our ability to compete with companies currently marketing or engaged in the development of treatments for fibrosis;

 

   

our plans and strategy regarding obtaining and maintaining intellectual property protection for our product candidates and the duration of such protection;

 

   

our plans and strategy regarding the manufacture of our product candidates for clinical trials and for commercial use, if approved;

 

   

our dependence on current and future collaborators for developing, obtaining regulatory approval for and commercializing product candidates in the collaboration;

 

   

our receipt and timing of any milestone payments or royalties under any current of future research collaboration or license agreements or arrangements;

 

   

our plans and strategy regarding the commercialization of any products that are approved for marketing;

 

   

the size and growth potential of the markets for our product candidates, and our ability to serve those markets, either alone or in combination with others;

 

   

our ability to attract and retain qualified employees and key personnel;

 

   

our expectations regarding government and third-party payor coverage and reimbursement; and

 

   

our expected use of the proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement.

 

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In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by terminology such as “may,” “will,” “should,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “predicts,” “potential,” “continue” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. These statements are only predictions. You should not place undue reliance on forward-looking statements because they involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors, which are, in some cases, beyond our control and which could materially affect results. Factors that may cause actual results to differ materially from current expectations include, among other things, those listed in the section entitled “Risk factors” and elsewhere in this prospectus. If one or more of these risks or uncertainties occur, or if our underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect, actual events or results may vary significantly from those implied or projected by the forward-looking statements. No forward-looking statement is a guarantee of future performance. You should read this prospectus and the documents that we reference in this prospectus and have filed with the SEC as exhibits to the registration statement, of which this prospectus is a part, completely and with the understanding that our actual future results may be materially different from any future results expressed or implied by these forward-looking statements.

The forward-looking statements in this prospectus represent our views as of the date of this prospectus. We anticipate that subsequent events and developments will cause our views to change. However, while we may elect to update these forward-looking statements at some point in the future, we assume no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements except to the extent required by applicable law. You should, therefore, not rely on these forward-looking statements as representing our views as of any date subsequent to the date of this prospectus.

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 prospectus, 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 are cautioned not to rely unduly upon these statements.

 

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MARKET AND INDUSTRY DATA AND FORECASTS

We obtained the industry, market and competitive position data used throughout this prospectus from our own internal estimates and research, as well as from independent market research, industry and general publications and surveys, governmental agencies and publicly available information in addition to research, surveys and studies conducted by third parties. Internal estimates are derived from publicly available information released by industry analysts and third-party sources, our internal research and our industry experience, and are based on assumptions made by us based on such data and our knowledge of our industry and market, which we believe to be reasonable. In some cases, we do not expressly refer to the sources from which this data is derived. In that regard, when we refer to one or more sources of this type of data in any paragraph, you should assume that other data of this type appearing in the same paragraph is derived from the same sources, unless otherwise expressly stated or the context otherwise requires. In addition, while we believe the industry, market and competitive position data included in this prospectus is reliable and based on reasonable assumptions, such data involve risks and uncertainties and are subject to change based on various factors, including those discussed in the section entitled “Risk Factors.” These and other factors could cause results to differ materially from those expressed in the estimates made by the independent parties or by us.

 

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USE OF PROCEEDS

We estimate that the net proceeds from our issuance and sale of 9,000,000 shares of our common stock in this offering will be approximately $129.0 million, or approximately $149.1 million if the underwriters exercise in full their option to purchase 1,350,000 additional shares, based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share, and after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us. We also expect to receive net proceeds of $10.0 million from the sale of shares of our common stock to Novartis, in the Concurrent Private Placement, based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share, for aggregate net proceeds to be raised by us in this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement of $139.0 million.

The principal purposes of this offering are to increase our financial flexibility, create a public market for our common stock and facilitate our future access to capital markets.

We currently intend to use the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, together with our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments as follows:

 

   

approximately $90.0 million to fund the clinical development of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, including for conducting our Phase 2a clinical trials in IPF and PSC;

 

   

approximately $20.0 million to fund the preclinical development of our early-stage programs in oncology and muscular dystrophy; and

 

   

the remainder, if any, for additional early-stage research and development activities, business development activities, working capital and other general corporate purposes.

In addition, under our license agreement with UCSF, we are required to pay a sum of $2.6 million, based on the assumed sale of 9,000,000 shares of common stock in this offering and the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share. We plan to make this payment shortly following the completion of this offering from our existing cash resources.

Based on our current plans, we believe our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments, together with the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, will be sufficient to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements into 2023.

We may also use a portion of the net proceeds to in-license, acquire or invest in new businesses, technology or assets. Although we have no current agreements, commitments or understandings with respect to any such in-license or acquisition, we evaluate such opportunities and engage in related discussions with third parties from time to time.

The expected use of net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement represents our intentions based upon our present plans and business conditions. We cannot specify with certainty all of the particular uses for the net proceeds to be received upon the closing of this offering. Due to uncertainties inherent in the product development process, it is difficult to estimate the exact amounts of the net proceeds that will be used for any particular purpose. We may use our existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments and the future payments, if any, generated from any future collaboration agreements to fund our operations, either of which may alter the amount of net proceeds used for a particular purpose. In addition, the amount, allocation and timing of our actual expenditures will depend upon numerous factors, including the results of our research and development efforts, the timing and success of clinical trials and the timing of regulatory submissions. Accordingly, we will have broad discretion in using these proceeds.

Pending the uses described above, we plan to invest the net proceeds of this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement in short- and immediate- term, interest-bearing obligations, investment-grade instruments, certificates of deposit or direct or guaranteed obligations of the U.S. government.

 

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DIVIDEND POLICY

We have never declared or paid any cash dividends on our capital stock. We do not anticipate paying any dividends on our capital stock in the foreseeable future. We currently intend to retain all available funds and any future earnings to fund the development and growth of our business. Any future determination to declare dividends will be subject to the discretion of our board of directors and will depend on various factors, including applicable laws, our results of operations, financial condition, future prospects and any other factors deemed relevant by our board of directors. Investors should not purchase our common stock with the expectation of receiving cash dividends.

 

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CAPITALIZATION

The following table sets forth our cash, cash equivalents and short term investments and our capitalization as of March 31, 2020:

 

   

on an actual basis;

 

   

on a pro forma basis to give effect to (i) the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our redeemable convertible preferred stock into an aggregate of 22,432,029 shares of our common stock as if such conversion had occurred as of March 31, 2020, (ii) the filing and effectiveness of our amended and restated certificate of incorporation immediately prior to the completion of this offering; and (iii) the receipt of $27.8 million in payments under the Novartis Agreement in the second quarter of 2020; and

 

   

on a pro forma as adjusted basis to give effect to (i) the pro forma adjustments described above, and (ii) the issuance and sale of 9,000,000 shares of our common stock in this offering at the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us; (iii) our sale of $10.0 million of shares of common stock in the Concurrent Private Placement to Novartis (or 625,000 shares based on the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share); and (iv) the payment of the milestone payment of $2.6 million in the second quarter of 2020 to the UC Regents, calculated using the initial public offering price per share of $16.00, multiplied by 162,738, an amount determined by calculating 2.0% of the Company’s fully diluted outstanding shares as of a date defined in the license agreement with UCSF. See Note 7 to our condensed financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus for additional information.

You should read this information together with our financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus and the information set forth in the sections entitled “Selected Financial Data” and “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

     As of March 31, 2020  
     Actual     Pro Forma     Pro
Forma As
Adjusted
 
     (in thousands, except share and per
share data)
 

Cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments

   $ 141,431     $ 169,254     $ 310,840  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Redeemable convertible preferred stock, par value $0.0001 per share; 160,501,221 shares authorized, 160,389,279 issued and outstanding, actual; no shares authorized, issued or outstanding, pro forma and pro forma as adjusted

   $ 238,313     $ —         —    

Stockholders’ (deficit) equity:

      

Common stock, par value $0.0001 per share; 210,000,000 shares authorized, 1,906,349 shares issued and outstanding, actual; 300,000,000 shares authorized, 24,576,346 shares issued and outstanding, pro forma; 300,000,000 shares authorized, 34,201,346 shares issued and outstanding, pro forma as adjusted(1)

     1       3       4  

Preferred stock, $0.0001 par value per share; no shares authorized, issued or outstanding, actual; 10,000,000 shares authorized, no shares issued or outstanding, pro forma and pro forma as adjusted

     —         —         —    

Additional paid-in capital

     455       238,766       377,748  

Accumulated deficit

     (65,266     (65,266     (67,970

Accumulated other comprehensive gain

     59       59       59  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total stockholders’ (deficit) equity

     (64,751     173,562       309,841  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total capitalization

   $ 173,562     $ 173,562     $ 309,841  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

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(1)   Shares issued and outstanding, pro forma and pro forma as adjusted includes 237,997 unvested restricted shares subject to repurchase.

The number of shares of common stock issued and outstanding pro forma and pro forma as adjusted in the table above is based on 24,576,346 shares of common stock (including our redeemable convertible preferred stock on an as-converted basis) outstanding as of March 31, 2020, and excludes:

 

   

2,607,939 shares of common stock issuable upon exercise of outstanding options issued as of March 31, 2020 under our 2015 Plan, at a weighted-average exercise price of $4.69 per share, or pursuant to rights to purchase restricted stock at a weighted average purchase price of $0.08 per share;

 

   

1,047,247 shares of common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2015 Plan as of March 31, 2020, which shares will no longer be reserved upon the effectiveness of our 2020 Plan as described below;

 

   

4,200,000 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2020 Plan, which became effective in connection with this offering; and

 

   

700,000 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2020 ESPP, which became effective in connection with this offering.

Our 2020 Plan and 2020 ESPP each provide for annual automatic increases in the number of shares of our common stock reserved thereunder and our 2020 Plan also provides for increases to the number of shares of common stock that may be granted thereunder based on shares underlying any awards under our 2020 Plan and 2015 Plan that expire, are forfeited or are otherwise terminated, as more fully described in the section titled “Executive Compensation—Employee Benefits and Equity Compensation Plans.”

 

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DILUTION

If you invest in our common stock in this offering, your ownership interest will be diluted to the extent of the difference between the initial public offering price per share of our common stock and the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book (deficit) value per share of our common stock immediately after this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement.

Our historical net tangible book value (deficit) per share as of March 31, 2020 is determined by dividing our total tangible assets less our total liabilities and redeemable convertible preferred stock, which are not included within stockholders’ deficit, by the number of shares of common stock outstanding as of such date. Our historical net tangible book value (deficit) was $(64.8) million, or $(33.97) per share as of March 31, 2020.

Our pro forma net tangible book value (deficit) as of March 31, 2020 was $173.6 million, or $7.06 per share. Our pro forma net tangible book value (deficit) per share represents the amount of our total tangible assets reduced by the amount of our total liabilities and divided by the total number of shares of our common stock outstanding as of March 31, 2020, assuming the automatic conversion of all outstanding shares of our redeemable convertible preferred stock, unvested outstanding restricted shares and outstanding shares of common stock as of March 31, 2020 into an aggregate of 24,576,346 shares of common stock, which conversion will occur immediately prior to the completion of this offering.

Our pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value (deficit) represents our pro forma net tangible book (deficit) value, plus the effect of (i) the sale of shares of common stock in this offering at the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share, after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us; (ii) the sale of shares of common stock in the Concurrent Private Placement to Novartis at the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share and (iii) the payment of the milestone payment of $2.6 million in the second quarter of 2020 to the UC Regents, calculated using a price per share of $16.00, multiplied by 162,738, an amount determined by calculating 2.0% of the Company’s fully diluted outstanding shares as of a date defined in the license agreement with UCSF. Net tangible book value dilution per share to new investors represents the difference between the amount per share paid by purchasers of shares of common stock in this offering and the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share of common stock immediately after completion of this offering. After giving effect to our sale of shares of common stock in this offering at the initial public offering price of $16.00 per share, and after deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us, our pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value as of March 31, 2020 would have been $309.8 million, or $9.06 per share. This represents an immediate increase in net tangible book value of $2.00 per share to existing stockholders and an immediate dilution in net tangible book value of $6.94 per share to purchasers of common stock in this offering, as illustrated in the following table:

 

Initial public offering price per share

     $ 16.00  

Historical net tangible book value (deficit) per share as of March 31, 2020

   $ (33.97  

Pro forma increase in net tangible book value (deficit) per share as of March 31, 2020

     41.03    
  

 

 

   

Pro forma net tangible book value (deficit) per share as of March 31, 2020

     7.06    
  

 

 

   

Increase in pro forma net tangible book value per share attributable to new investors participating in this offering and to Novartis in the Concurrent Private Placement

     2.00    
  

 

 

   

Pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value (deficit) per share after this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement

       9.06  
    

 

 

 

Dilution per share to new investors participating in this offering and to Novartis in the Concurrent Private Placement

     $ 6.94  
    

 

 

 

If the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares from us is exercised in full, the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share after this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement would be $9.28 per share,

 

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the increase in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share to existing stockholders would be $0.22 per share and the dilution to new investors purchasing shares in this offering would be $6.72 per share.

If the underwriters’ option to purchase additional shares from us is exercised in full, the pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share after this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement would be decreased or increased, as applicable, accordingly by $0.22 per share, the increase in pro forma as adjusted net tangible book value per share to existing stockholders would be $0.22 per share and the decrease in dilution to new investors purchasing shares in this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement would be $(0.22) per share.

The following table shows, as of March 31, 2020, on a pro forma as adjusted basis described above (but before deducting underwriting discounts and commissions and offering expenses payable by us), the differences between the existing stockholders and the purchasers of shares in this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement with respect to the number of shares purchased from us, the total consideration paid, which includes net proceeds received from the issuance of common and redeemable convertible preferred stock, cash received from the exercise of stock options, and the value of any stock issued for services and the average price paid per share (in thousands, except per share amounts and percentages):

 

     Shares Purchased     Total Consideration     Weighted-
Average Price
Per Share
 
     Number      Percent     Amount      Percent  

Existing stockholders before this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement(1)

     24,576,346        71.9   $ 225,001,453        59.4   $ 9.16  

New investors participating in this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement

     9,625,000        28.1     154,000,000        40.6   $ 16.00  
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

   

Total

     34,201,346        100   $ 379,001,453        100   $ 11.08  
  

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

 

    

 

 

   

 

(1)   Certain of our principal stockholders, including stockholders affiliated with certain of our directors, have indicated an interest in purchasing a substantial amount of the shares of our common stock offered in this offering at the initial public offering price and on the same terms and conditions as the other purchasers in this offering. However, because indications of interest are not binding agreements or commitments to purchase, the underwriters could sell more, fewer or no shares to any of these potential purchasers, and any of these potential purchasers could determine to purchase more, fewer or no shares in this offering. The underwriters will receive the same underwriting discounts and commissions on any shares purchased by these parties as they will on any other shares sold to the public in this offering.

The foregoing tables and calculations (other than the historical net tangible book value (deficit) calculations) are based on 24,576,346 shares of common stock (including our redeemable convertible preferred stock on an as converted basis) outstanding as of March 31, 2020 and excludes:

 

   

2,607,939 shares of common stock issuable upon exercise of outstanding options issued as of March 31, 2020 under our 2015 Plan, at a weighted-average exercise price of $4.69 per share, or pursuant to rights to purchase restricted stock at a weighted average purchase price of $0.08 per share;

 

   

1,047,247 shares of common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2015 Plan as of March 31, 2020, which shares will no longer be reserved upon the effectiveness of our 2020 Plan as described below;

 

   

4,200,000 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2020 Plan, which became effective in connection with this offering; and

 

   

700,000 shares of our common stock reserved for future issuance under our 2020 ESPP, which became effective in connection with this offering.

Our 2020 Plan and 2020 ESPP each provide for annual automatic increases in the number of shares of our common stock reserved thereunder and our 2020 Plan also provides for increases to the number of shares of common stock that may be granted thereunder based on shares underlying any awards under our 2020 Plan and

 

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2015 Plan that expire, are forfeited or are otherwise terminated, as more fully described in the section titled “Executive Compensation—Employee Benefits and Equity Compensation Plans.”

To the extent that any outstanding options are exercised, new options are issued under our stock-based compensation plans or we issue additional shares of common stock or convertible debt in the future, there will be further dilution to investors participating in this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement.

 

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SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

The following tables present selected financial data for our business. We have derived the summary statements of operations and balance sheets data for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2019 from our audited financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. We have derived the summary statements of operations data for the three months ended March 31, 2019 and 2020, and the summary balance sheet data as of March 31, 2020 from our unaudited condensed financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus. We have prepared the unaudited condensed financial statements on the same basis as our audited financial statements. Our historical results are not necessarily indicative of the results that may be expected in the future and our operating results for the three months ended March 31, 2020 are not necessarily indicative of the actual or expected results for the full year ending December 31, 2020 or any other interim periods or any future period. You should read this data together with our financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus and the information in the section entitled “Management Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.”

 

(In thousands, except share and per share amounts)   Years Ended December 31,     Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
    2018     2019     2019     2020  

Statements of Operations Data:

       

Revenue—related party

  $ —     $ 57,052     $ —     $ 28,938  

Operating expenses:

       

Research and development

    (24,415     (47,353     (11,749     (13,919

General and administrative

    (6,500     (10,930     (2,601     (4,011
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Total operating expenses

    (30,915     (58,283     (14,350     (17,930
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

(Loss) profit from operations

    (30,915     (1,231     (14,350     11,008  

Interest income

    688       816       313       209  

Other income (expense), net

    (49     (216     14       (188
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net (loss) income

  $ (30,276   $ (631   $ (14,023   $ 11,029  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Accretion to redemption value and cumulative dividends on redeemable convertible preferred

    (4,876     (6,225     (1,344     —    

Less: Undistributed earnings to preferred shareholders

    —         —         —         (11,029
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net (loss) income attributable to common stockholders

  $ (35,152   $ (6,856   $ (15,367   $ —    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net (loss) income per share attributable to common stockholders:

       

Basic(1)

  $ (30.16   $ (4.22   $ (10.90   $ —    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted(1)

  $ (30.16   $ (4.22   $ (10.90   $ —    
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Weighted-average shares used in computing net (loss) income per share attributable to common stockholders:

       

Basic(1)

    1,165,454       1,623,358       1,409,697       1,897,669  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Diluted(1)

    1,165,454       1,623,358       1,409,697       1,897,669  
 

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

 

Pro forma net (loss) income per share attributable to common stockholders:

       

Basic(1)

    $ (0.04     $ 0.51  
   

 

 

     

 

 

 

Diluted(1)

    $ (0.04     $ 0.48  
   

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

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(In thousands, except share and per share amounts)    Year Ended
December 31,

2019
     Three Months Ended
March 31,

2020
 
 

Weighted-average shares outstanding used in computing pro forma net (loss) income per share attributable to common stockholders:

                                                   

Basic(1)

     16,510,084        21,829,723  

Diluted(1)

     16,510,084        22,861,086  

 

(1)   See Notes 2 and 16 to our audited financial statements and to our condensed financial statements included elsewhere in the prospectus for an explanation of the calculations of our basic and diluted net (loss) income per share, pro forma net income per share and the weighted-average number of shares used in the computation of the per share amounts.

 

(In thousands)    As of December 31,     As of March 31,  
     2018     2019     2020  

Balance Sheets Data:

      

Cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments

   $ 60,949     $ 102,773     $ 141,431  

Working capital(1)

     56,649       103,728       166,515  

Total assets

     66,529       119,064       184,057  

Redeemable convertible preferred stock

     132,103       186,275       238,313  

Accumulated deficit

     (71,470     (76,295     (65,266

Total stockholders’ deficit

     (71,469     (76,295     (64,751

 

(1)   We define working capital as current assets less current liabilities. See our financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus for details regarding our current assets and current liabilities.

 

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MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

You should read the following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations together with the section entitled “Selected Financial Data” and our financial statements and related notes appearing elsewhere in this prospectus. This discussion and other parts of this prospectus contain forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties, such as our plans, objectives, expectations, intentions and beliefs. Our actual results could differ materially from those discussed in these forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to, those identified below and those discussed in the section entitled “Risk Factors.”

Overview

We are a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing novel therapies for the treatment of fibrosis. Our initial focus is on treating fibrosis by inhibiting integrin-mediated activation of TGF-ß. We have applied our deep understanding of fibrosis biology, along with our medicinal chemistry and translational medicine expertise to develop a set of proprietary tools designed to discover and de-risk product candidates quickly and efficiently. Our wholly-owned lead product candidate, PLN-74809, is an oral small-molecule dual selective inhibitor of avß6 and avß1 integrins that we are developing for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, and primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC. We have completed a Phase 1a SAD/MAD trial and a Phase 1b proof-of-mechanism trial of PLN-74809 in IPF. We are recruiting two Phase 2a trials of PLN-74809 in IPF. We submitted an IND for PLN-74809 for the treatment of PSC in March 2020, and plan to initiate a Phase 2a PSC trial in the second half of 2020, subject to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our second product candidate, PLN-1474, is a small-molecule selective inhibitor of avß1 for the treatment of liver fibrosis associated with NASH, which we have partnered with Novartis. PLN-1474 is currently undergoing a Phase 1 trial with top-line data expected by the end of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our clinical programs, we currently have preclinical integrin-based programs targeting oncology and muscular dystrophies.

In October 2019, we entered into a Collaboration and License Agreement with Novartis, or the Novartis Agreement, for the development and commercialization of our then preclinical product candidate, PLN-1474 and up to three integrin research targets. PLN-1474 is an internally discovered small molecule selective inhibitor of integrin avß1, currently being developed for the treatment of liver fibrosis associated with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, or NASH. In December 2019, we received an upfront license payment of $50.0 million for the worldwide exclusive license to PLN-1474. During the second quarter of 2020, we received $27.8 million in payments from Novartis. Pursuant to the Novartis Agreement, we expect to receive research and development funding totaling $19.6 million for PLN-1474 development services and funding of up to $13.4 million for option research and development services on the integrin research targets. Additionally, we are eligible to receive developmental, regulatory and commercial milestone payments of up to $416.0 million in total, if defined development, regulatory and commercialization milestones are achieved and tiered royalties, on a product-by-product basis based on annual nets sales of products, at percentages ranging from high-single digits to low teens of the applicable licensed products and mid-single digits to high-single digits for any products resulting from the research programs.

On December 19, 2019, we issued 26.4 million shares of Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock, or the Series C Funding, for aggregate cash proceeds of $48.2 million. Novartis purchased 10.9 million shares of the December 19, 2019 Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock offering at $1.83 per share, which as at fair value as the Company sold Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock investor which is at arms-length transaction as $1.83 per share was the purchase price paid for shares by other unrelated investors who participated in the funding round. In February 2020, we issued an additional 28.5 million shares of Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock for aggregate cash proceeds of $52.2 million.

 

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Since our inception in 2015, our operations have included organizing and hiring personnel for our company, business planning, raising capital, establishing our intellectual property portfolio and performing research and development of TGF-ß signaling and integrin biology, medicinal chemistry, translational screening technologies, and clinical insights to create tissue-specific inhibitors of fibrotic diseases.

We have incurred net losses since inception and expect to incur losses in the future as we continue our research and development activities. To date, we have funded our operations primarily through private placements of our redeemable convertible preferred stock and from revenue generated from the Novartis Agreement.

To date, all our revenue has solely been generated from the Novartis Agreement. We expect revenue will continue to fluctuate from period to period and there can be no assurance that we will generate other revenue, that we will enter into new collaborations, or that new or existing collaborations will continue beyond their initial terms or that we will be able to meet the milestones specified in these agreements.

Since our inception, we have incurred significant operating losses. Our net loss was $30.3 million and $0.6 million for the years ended December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2019 and our net income was $11.0 million for the three months ended March 31, 2020. As of December 31, 2018, December 31, 2019 and March 31, 2020, we had an accumulated deficit of $71.5 million, $76.3 million and $65.3 million, respectively. We expect to continue to incur significant expenses and operating losses for the foreseeable future. In addition, we anticipate that our expenses will increase significantly in connection with our ongoing activities, as we:

 

   

advance the development of our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, through clinical development, and, if approved by the FDA, commercialization;

 

   

advance our other preclinical development programs into clinical development;

 

   

seek regulatory approvals for any product candidates that successfully complete clinical trials;

 

   

increase the amount of research and development activities to identify and develop product candidates;

 

   

hire additional clinical, quality control and scientific personnel;

 

   

expand our operational, financial and management systems and increase personnel, including personnel to support our clinical development, manufacturing and commercialization efforts and our operations as a public company;

 

   

maintain, expand and protect our intellectual property portfolio;

 

   

establish a sales, marketing, medical affairs and distribution infrastructure to commercialize any products for which we may obtain marketing approval and intend to commercialize on our own or jointly with third parties; and

 

   

invest in or in-license other technologies or product candidates.

We will not generate revenue from product sales unless and until we successfully complete clinical development and obtain regulatory approval for PLN-74809 or any of our other product candidates. In addition, if we obtain regulatory approval for PLN-74809 or any of our other product candidates and do not enter into one or more collaborations with third-parties for commercialization, we expect to incur significant expenses related to developing our commercialization capability to support product sales, marketing and distribution activities.

As a result, we will need substantial additional funding to support our continuing operations and pursue our growth strategy. Until such time as we can generate significant revenue from product sales, if ever, we expect to finance our operations through a combination of public or private equity offerings and debt financings, government funding arrangements, collaborations, strategic alliances and marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements. We may be unable to raise additional funds or enter into such other agreements or arrangements when needed on favorable terms, or at all. If we fail to raise capital or enter into such agreements as, and when,

 

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needed, we may have to significantly delay, scale back or discontinue the development and commercialization of one or more of our product candidates.

Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with pharmaceutical product development and the economic and developmental uncertainty arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, we may be unable to accurately predict the timing or magnitude of all expenses. Even if we can generate product sales, we may not become profitable. If we fail to become profitable or are unable to sustain profitability on a continuing basis, then we may be unable to continue our operations at planned levels and be forced to reduce or terminate our operations.

As of March 31, 2020, we had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $141.4 million. We expect to continue to incur losses for the foreseeable future and will require additional financial resources to continue to advance our products and intellectual property. We believe that the net proceeds from this offering and the Concurrent Private Placement, together with our existing cash, cash equivalents and short term investments, will enable us to fund our operating expenses and capital expenditure requirements into 2023. As a result, we will need substantial additional funding to support our continuing operations and pursue our growth strategy. Until such time, if ever, as we can generate substantial product revenue, we expect to finance our operations through a combination of equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations, strategic alliances and marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements. To the extent that we raise additional capital through the sale of equity or convertible debt securities, your ownership interest will be diluted, and the terms of these securities may include liquidation or other preferences that adversely affect your rights as a common stockholder. Debt financing and preferred equity financing, if available, may involve agreements that include covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making acquisitions or capital expenditures or declaring dividends. If we raise additional funds through collaborations, strategic alliances or marketing, distribution or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish valuable rights to our technologies, future revenue streams, research programs or drug candidates, or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us. If we are unable to raise additional funds through equity or debt financings or other arrangements when needed, we may be required to delay, limit, reduce or terminate our research, product development or future commercialization efforts, or grant rights to develop and market product candidates that we would otherwise prefer to develop and market ourselves

COVID-19 Pandemic

In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, as a pandemic, which continues to spread throughout the United States and worldwide. We could be materially and adversely affected by the risks, or the public perception of the risks, related to an epidemic, pandemic, outbreak, or other public health crisis, such as the recent outbreak of COVID-19. Among other things, our clinical trials have been and may continue to be delayed, extending the timelines and increasing the overall costs to finish the clinical trials, as our fixed costs are not substantially reduced while the clinical trials are delayed. The ultimate extent of the impact of any epidemic, pandemic, outbreak, or other public health crisis on our business, financial condition and results of operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, including new information that may emerge concerning the severity of such epidemic, pandemic, outbreak, or other public health crisis and actions taken to contain or prevent the further spread, among others. Accordingly, we cannot predict the extent to which our business, financial condition and results of operations will be affected. We remain focused on maintaining a strong balance sheet, liquidity and financial flexibility and continue to monitor developments as we deal with the disruptions and uncertainties from a business and financial perspective relating to COVID-19.

Financial Operations Overview

Revenue—Related Party

In October 2019, we entered into the Novartis Agreement for the development and commercialization of our then preclinical product candidate, PLN-1474 and up to three additional integrin research targets. Under the

 

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terms of the Novartis Agreement, in December 2019, Novartis paid Pliant an upfront license fee payment of $50.0 million for the worldwide exclusive license to PLN-1474. Novartis will fund our research and development activities for PLN-1474 through Phase 1 after which Novartis will assume responsibility for all future development, manufacturing and commercialization of PLN-1474. Novartis will also fund the research and development activities associated with the integrin research targets as outlined in the Novartis Agreement. We are scheduled to receive up to $19.6 million in funding for PLN -1474 development services through Phase 1, and are expected to receive up to $13.4 million in funding for optional development and research services on the integrin research targets. The research and development funding payments are expected to be paid periodically throughout 2020, 2021 and 2022. We are eligible for milestone payments of up to $416.0 million in total, if defined developmental, regulatory and commercialization milestones are achieved, and tiered royalties on a product-by-product basis based on annual nets sales of products, at percentages ranging from high-single digits to low teens of the applicable licensed products and mid-single digits to high-single digits for any products resulting from the research programs. Novartis became a related party to us following its purchase of 10.9 million shares of our Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock on December 19, 2019, representing aggregate holdings of 7.4% and 5.4% of our outstanding shares on a fully diluted basis as of December 31, 2019 and March 31, 2020, respectively. See Notes 6, 9 and 14 to our financial statements included elsewhere in the prospectus for more information.

Operating Expenses

Research and Development

Our research and development expenses consist of expenses incurred in connection with the development of our product candidates. Research and development expenses include:

 

   

employee-related expenses, which include salaries, benefits and stock-based compensation for our research and development personnel;

 

   

expenses incurred under agreements with third-party contract organizations for pre-clinical studies, investigative clinical trial sites and consultants that conduct research and development activities on our behalf;

 

   

costs associated with clinical trials;

 

   

depreciation of laboratory equipment and costs of equipment and supplies;

 

   

costs associated with technology and intellectual property licenses; and

 

   

facilities and other allocated expenses, which include expenses for rent and other facility related costs and other supplies.

The following table summarizes our research and development expenses for the years ended December 31, 2018 and 2019 and the three months ended March 31, 2019 and 2020:

 

     Years Ended
December 31,
     Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
     2018      2019      2019      2020  
     (in thousands)  

Employee related expenses

   $ 6,171      $ 10,385      $ 2,227      $ 3,251  

Outside and consulting services for preclinical studies and research and development activities by third party contract organizations

     9,849        22,043        5,356        4,995  

Clinical trials expenses

     482        6,667        2,208        3,515  

Depreciation of lab equipment and costs of equipment and supplies

     5,084        4,829        1,131        1,191  

Technology and intellectual property licenses

     229        288        25        7  

Facilities and other allocated expenses

     2,600        3,141        802        960  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total research and development expenses

   $ 24,415      $ 47,353      $ 11,749      $ 13,919  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

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We expense all research and development costs in the periods in which they are incurred. We do not allocate our costs by product candidates or by preclinical programs as these are in early stages of clinical trials or development, and our internal expenses are not allocated between product candidates and programs. Although external third-party costs are allocable between product candidates and programs, we do not perform this allocation.

During 2018, we were eligible for a research and development tax credit. The tax incentive was available to us based on research and development activity within the United States and California during those years. These research and development tax incentives are recognized as a contra to FICA payroll tax expense when the right to receive has been attained and funds are collectible and is capped at $250,000 per year. In 2019, we longer qualified for the research and development tax credit as we generated revenue in the fourth quarter of 2019. For additional information, see Note 2 to our audited financial statements included elsewhere in this prospectus.

We expect our research and development expenses to increase substantially for the foreseeable future as we continue to invest in research and development activities related to developing our product candidates and our preclinical programs and as they advance into later stages of development. The process of conducting the necessary clinical research to obtain regulatory approval is costly and time-consuming, and the successful development of our product candidates is highly uncertain. As a result, we are unable to determine the duration and completion costs of our research and development projects or when and to what extent we will generate revenue from the commercialization and sale of any of our product candidates.

General and Administrative

Our general and administrative expenses consist primarily of personnel costs, allocated facilities costs and other expenses for outside professional services, including legal, marketing, investor relations, human resource and accounting services. Personnel costs consist of salaries, benefits and stock-based compensation for our general and administrative personnel. We expect to incur additional expenses as a result of operating as a public company, including expenses related to compliance with the rules and regulations of the SEC, The Nasdaq Global Select Market, additional insurance expenses, investor relations activities and other administrative and professional services. We also expect to increase the size of our administrative function to support the growth of our business. In addition, if we obtain regulatory approval for any of our product candidates and do not enter into a third-party commercialization collaboration, we expect to incur significant expenses related to building a sales and marketing team to support product sales, marketing and distribution activities.

Interest Income

Our interest income consists of interest income earned on cash and cash equivalents, money market funds and short-term investments.

Results of Operations

As described above in “—COVID 19 Pandemic”, the ultimate extent of the impact of any epidemic, pandemic, outbreak or other public health crisis on our results of operations will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain, including new information that may emerge concerning the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health crisis and actions taken to contain or prevent the further spread, among others. Accordingly, we cannot fully predict the extent to which our business and results of operations will be affected; however we expect the COVID-19 pandemic to impact our operations in several ways. Many clinical trial sites have been impacted by the pandemic, forcing them to delay enrollment in research trials, including ours. This will likely impact the speed of enrollment in our current trials. Additionally, the pandemic has limited our ability to perform basic science R&D in our facilities due to government shelter-in-place orders, ultimately slowing, but not stopping, progress of several early stage projects.

 

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Comparison of the Years Ended December 31, 2018 and 2019

 

(In thousands, except percentages)    Years Ended December 31,              
          2018               2019          $ Change     % Change  

Revenue—related party

   $ —         57,052     $ 57,052       NM  

Operating expenses:

        

Research and development

     (24,415     (47,353     (22,938     94.0

General and administrative

     (6,500     (10,930     (4,430     68.2
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total operating expenses

     (30,915     (58,283     (27,368     88.5
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Loss from operations

     (30,915     (1,231     29,684       (96.0 )% 

Interest income

     688       816       128       18.6

Other expense, net

     (49     (216     (167     NM  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Net loss

   $ (30,276   $ (631   $ 29,645       (97.9 )% 
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

NM:   Results not meaningful

Revenue - Related Party

Revenue-related party consists primarily of revenue generated from the Novartis Agreement. The increase of $57.1 million in revenue-related party for the year ended December 31, 2019 compared to year ended December 31, 2018 was due to the recognition of $50.0 million in upfront license fee revenue and $7.1 million in research and development services revenue. We anticipate revenue over the next several years will be derived primarily from the Novartis Agreement as we continue to recognize revenue-related party from research and development services and from the potential achievement of the Novartis Agreement’s developmental, regulatory and commercial milestones.

Research and Development Expenses

Research and development expenses increased by $22.9 million, or 94.0%, for the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to the year ended December 31, 2018. The increase was primarily due to $18.1 million of increased consulting and outside services costs, $3.7 million of increased compensation costs, $0.5 million of increased rent expense, $0.5 million in increased stock-based compensation costs, $0.4 million of increased depreciation expense, $0.3 million of increased sponsored research expenses and $0.2 million of increased miscellaneous and other expenses partially offset by a decrease in equipment and supplies expense of $0.8 million. Consulting and outside services costs increased due to increased PLN-74809 and PLN-1474 development activities. Compensation costs and stock-based compensation costs increased as a result of increased headcount. Rent expense increased due to the move to new office space in South San Francisco in mid-2018. Depreciation expense increased due to increased leasehold improvements installed at the South San Francisco office. Sponsored research expenses increased due to increased research sponsorship activities with universities in 2019. The reduction in equipment and supplies expense was due to a decrease in purchases of laboratory equipment during the year ended December 31, 2019 when compared to in the year ended December 31, 2018.

General and Administrative Expenses

General and administrative expenses increased by $4.4 million, or 68.2%, for the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to the year ended December 31, 2018. The increase was primarily due to $1.9 million of increased compensation costs, $1.1 million of increased stock-based compensation costs, $0.8 million of increased professional and consulting costs, $0.2 million of increased miscellaneous and other expenses, $0.2 million of increased rent expense, $0.2 million in increased travel expense and $0.1 million of increased equipment and supplies expense. Compensation costs and stock-based compensation costs increased as a result of increased headcount. Professional and consulting costs increased primarily as a result of increased legal,

 

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marketing, investor relations and accounting fees. Travel expenses increased primarily due to increased executive travel associated with equity financing initiatives. Equipment and supplies expense increased primarily due to increased purchases of office supplies.

Interest Income

Interest income increased by $0.1 million for the year ended December 31, 2019, compared to the year ended December 31, 2018. The increase was attributable to interest income earned on higher cash and cash equivalents balances resulting from preferred stock issuances in the second half of 2019.

Comparison of the Three Months Ended March 31, 2019 and 2020

 

(In thousands, except percentages)    Three Months
Ended March 31,
    $ Change     % Change  
     2019     2020  

Revenue—related party

   $   $  28,938     $ 28,938       NM  

Operating expenses:

        

Research and development

     (11,749     (13,919     2,170       18.5

General and administrative

     (2,601     (4,011     1,410       54.2
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Total operating expenses

     (14,350     (17,930     3,580       24.9
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Loss from operations

     (14,350     11,008       25,358       NM  

Interest income

     313       209       (104     (33.2 )% 

Other expense/(income), net

     14       (188     (202     NM  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

Net (loss)/income

   $ (14,023   $ 11,029     $ 25,052       NM  
  

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

NM: Results not meaningful

Revenue—Related Party

Revenue-related party consists primarily of revenue generated from the Novartis Agreement. The increase of $28.9 million in revenue-related party for the three months ended March 31, 2020 compared to three months ended March 31, 2019 was due to us recognizing revenue—related party of $25.0 million as we achieved the first patient dosing milestone of the Novartis agreement. In addition, we also recognized revenue—related party of $3.9 million in funding generated from research and development services performed during the three months ended March 31, 2020. Over the next several years, we expect our revenue will be derived primarily from the Novartis Agreement as we continue to recognize revenue-related party from research and development services funding and from the potential achievement of the Novartis Agreement’s developmental, regulatory and commercial milestones.

Research and Development Expenses

Research and development expenses increased by $2.2 million, or 18.5%, for the three months ended March 31, 2020, compared to the three months ended March 31, 2019. The increase was primarily due to $1.0 million of increased consulting and outside services costs, $1.0 million of increased compensation costs, $0.1 million in increased equipment and supplies costs, $0.1 million in increased stock-based compensation costs, $0.1 million of increased depreciation expense, offset by a $0.1 million in decreased research studies and license fee expenses. Consulting and outside services costs increased due to increased PLN-74809 and PLN-1474 development activities with external vendors. Compensation costs and stock-based compensation costs increased as a result of increased headcount. Depreciation expense increased due to increased leasehold improvements installed at the South San Francisco office.

 

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General and Administrative Expenses

General and administrative expenses increased by $1.4 million, or 54.2%, for the three months ended March 31, 2020, compared to the three months ended March 31, 2019. The increase was primarily due to $0.8 million of increased consulting and outside services costs, $0.3 million of increased compensation costs and $0.3 million of increased charitable contributions, offset by $0.1 million of decreased miscellaneous and other expenses. Compensation costs and stock-based compensation costs increased as a result of increased headcount.

Interest Income

Interest income decreased by $0.1 million for the three months ended March 31, 2020, compared to the three months ended March 31, 2019. The decrease was primarily attributable lower interest rates in the three months ended March 31, 2020 when compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

Overview

As of March 31, 2020, we had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $141.4 million.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our clinical trials with universities were temporarily delayed and our ability to identify and enroll patients in future clinical trials may become more difficult and costly. Our liquidity and financial condition evaluation includes an estimate of the financial impact of the delay in clinical trials and increased patient enrollment costs.

Based on our current cash balance and our ability to control discretionary spending, such as research and development expenditures with outside service providers, we have evaluated and concluded our financial condition is sufficient to fund our planned operations, commitments and contractual obligations for a period of at least one year following the date that these financial statements are issued. Further, our cash position is expected to improve in 2020, as we raised an additional $52.2 million from the issuance of an additional 28.5 million shares of our Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock in February of 2020, and have achieved the first patient dosing milestone of the Novartis Agreement triggering the receipt of a $25.0 million payment which was received from Novartis in the second quarter of 2020 along with an additional $2.8 million representing amounts recorded to revenue for prior periods.

Funding Requirements

Our primary use of cash is to fund operating expenses, primarily research and development expenditures. Cash used to fund operating expenses is impacted by the timing of when we pay these expenses, as reflected in the change in our outstanding accounts payable, accrued expenses and prepaid expenses.

Our future funding requirements will depend on many factors, including the following:

 

   

the initiation, progress, timing, costs and results of preclinical studies and clinical trials for our product candidates;

 

   

the clinical development plans we establish for these product candidates;

 

   

the timelines of our clinical trials and the overall costs to finish the clinical trials due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

 

   

the number and characteristics of product candidates that we develop;

 

   

the outcome, timing and cost of meeting regulatory requirements established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, and other comparable foreign regulatory authorities;

 

   

whether we enter into any collaboration agreements and the terms of any such agreements;

 

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the cost of filing, prosecuting, defending and enforcing our patent claims and other intellectual property rights;

 

   

the cost of defending intellectual property disputes, including patent infringement actions brought by third parties against us or our product candidates;

 

   

the effect of competing technological and market developments;

 

   

the cost and timing of completion of commercial-scale outsourced manufacturing activities; and

 

   

the cost of establishing sales, marketing and distribution capabilities for any product candidates for which we may receive regulatory approval in regions where we choose to commercialize our products on our own.

Further, our operating plan may change, and we may need additional funds to meet operational needs and capital requirements for clinical trials and other research and development expenditures.

If we need to raise additional capital to fund our operations, funding may not be available to us on acceptable terms, or at all. If we are unable to obtain adequate financing when needed, we may have to delay, reduce the scope of or suspend one or more of our preclinical studies, clinical trials, research and development programs or commercialization efforts. We may seek to raise any necessary additional capital through a combination of public or private equity offerings, debt financings, collaborations and other licensing arrangements. If we raise additional capital through debt financing, we may be subject to covenants limiting or restricting our ability to take specific actions, such as incurring additional debt, making capital expenditures or declaring dividends. If we raise additional capital through marketing and distribution arrangements or other collaborations, strategic alliances or licensing arrangements with third parties, we may have to relinquish certain valuable rights to our product candidates, technologies, future revenue streams or research programs or grant licenses on terms that may not be favorable to us.

Cash Flows

Comparison of the Years Ended December 31, 2018 and 2019

The following summarizes our cash flows for the periods indicated (in thousands):

 

     Years Ended
December 31,
 
     2018     2019  

Cash used in operating activities

   $ (28,328   $ (2,750

Cash used in investing activities

     (2,323     (17,931

Cash provided by financing activities

     87,349       45,539  
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net increase in cash and cash equivalents

   $ 56,698     $ 24,858  
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash Used in Operating Activities

Net cash used in operating activities was $2.8 million for the year ended December 31, 2019 and $28.3 million for the year ended December 31, 2018.

Cash used in operating activities in the year ended December 31, 2019 was primarily due to our net loss for the period of $0.6 million adjusted by non-cash charges of $2.9 million and net change of $5.1 million in our net operating assets and liabilities. The non-cash charges consisted of $1.1 million of depreciation expense and $1.8 million of stock-based compensation expense. The changes in our net operating assets and liabilities were primarily due to an increase of $7.1 million in accounts receivable, an increase of $1.5 million in prepaid expense and other current assets, a decrease of $1.3 million in accounts payable, partially offset by an increase of $4.3 million in accrued expenses, a decrease of $0.2 million in other non-current assets and a decrease of $0.2 million in tax credit receivable.

 

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Cash used in operating activities in the year ended December 31, 2018, was primarily due to our net loss for the year of $30.3 million adjusted by non-cash charges of $0.9 million and a net change of $1.1 million in our net operating assets and liabilities. The non-cash charges consisted of $0.7 million of depreciation expense and $0.2 million of stock-based compensation expense. The changes in our net operating assets and liabilities were primarily due to an increase of $1.5 million in accounts payable and accrued expenses and $0.4 million increase in deferred rent and other long-term liabilities, partially offset by a decrease of $0.8 million in other non-current assets, prepayments and tax credit receivable.

Cash Used in Investing Activities

During the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018, cash used in investing activities was $17.9 million and $2.3 million, respectively. Cash used in investing activities for the year ended December 31, 2019 was primarily due to the purchase of short-term investments of $51.7 million, purchases of property, plant and equipment of $1.0 million and $0.3 million of accretion of short-term investments, partially offset by $35.0 million in maturities of short term investments . Cash used in investing activities for the year ended December 31, 2018 was primarily resulting from the purchase of laboratory equipment and leasehold improvements.

Cash Provided by Financing Activities

During the year ended December 31, 2019, cash provided by financing activities was $45.5 million. Cash provided by financing activities for the year ended December 31, 2019 was primarily due to net proceeds from the issuance of our Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock financing of $47.9 million and proceeds from the exercise of stock options of $0.2 million, partially offset by the payment of deferred offering costs of $2.6 million.

During the year ended December 31, 2018, cash provided by financing activities was $87.3 million of net proceeds from the issuance of shares of Series A and Series B redeemable convertible preferred stock.

Comparison of the Three Months Ended March 31, 2019 and 2020

The following summarizes our cash flows for the periods indicated (in thousands):

 

     Three Months Ended
March 31,
 
     2019     2020  

Cash used in operating activities

   $ (10,847   $ (12,766

Cash used in investing activities

     (27,417     (11,373

Cash provided by (used in) financing activities

     (127     51,700  
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Net increase (decrease) in cash and cash equivalents

   $ (38,391   $ 27,561  
  

 

 

   

 

 

 

Cash Used in Operating Activities

Net cash used in operating activities was $12.8 million for the three months ended March 31, 2020 and $10.8 million for the three months ended March 31, 2019.

Cash used in operating activities in the three months ended March 31, 2020 was primarily due to our net income for the period of $11.0 million adjusted by non-cash charges of $0.7 million and net change of $24.5 million in our net operating assets and liabilities. The non-cash charges consisted of $0.3 million of depreciation expense and $0.4 million of stock-based compensation expense. The changes in our net operating assets and liabilities were primarily due to an increase of $24.7 million in accounts receivable, an increase of

 

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$0.9 million in prepaid expenses and other current assets, a decrease of $0.4 million in accrued expenses, partially offset by an increase of $1.2 million in accounts payable and a $0.2 million decrease in other non-current assets.

Cash used in operating activities in the three months ended March 31, 2019 was primarily due to our net loss for the period of $14.0 million adjusted by non-cash charges of $0.6 million and net change of $2.6 million in our net operating assets and liabilities. The non-cash charges consisted of $0.3 million of depreciation expense and $0.3 million of stock-based compensation expense. The changes in our net operating assets and liabilities were primarily due to an increase of $2.9 million in accounts payable and accrued expenses, partially offset by an increase of $0.3 million in other non-current assets, prepayments and a tax credit receivable.

Cash Used in Investing Activities

During the three months ended March 31, 2020 and 2019, cash used in investing activities was $11.4 million and $27.4 million, respectively. Cash used in investing activities for the three months ended March 31, 2020 was primarily due to the purchase of short-term investments of $11.0 million and purchases of property and equipment of $0.3 million. Cash used in investing activities for the three months ended March 31, 2019 was primarily due to the purchase of short-term investments of $27.2 million and purchases of property and equipment of $0.3 million.

Cash Provided by (Used in) Financing Activities

During the three months ended March 31, 2020, cash provided by financing activities was $51.7 million. Cash provided by financing activities for the three months ended March 31, 2020 was primarily due to net proceeds from the issuance of our Series C redeemable convertible preferred stock financing of $52.0 million, partially offset by the payment of deferred offering costs of $0.4 million.

During the three months ended March 31, 2019, cash used in financing activities was $0.1 million for payment of deferred offering costs.

Contractual Obligations and Other Commitments

The following table summarizes our contractual obligations and other commitments as of December 31, 2019 (in thousands):

 

     Payments Due by Period  
     Less than
1 Year
     1 to 3
Years
     3 to 5
Years
     More Than
5 Years
     Total  

Operating lease

   $ 1,959      $ 4,125      $ 4,418      $ 1,143      $ 11,645  
              
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

Total obligations

   $ 1,959      $ 4,125      $ 4,418      $ 1,143      $ 11,645  
  

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

    

 

 

 

We enter into contracts in the normal course of business with third-party contract organizations for clinical trials, non-clinical studies and testing, manufacturing and other services and products. These contracts generally provide for termination following a certain period after notice and therefore we believe that our cancelable obligations under these agreements are not material and they are not included in the table above.

We have not included milestone or royalty payments or other contractual payment obligations in the table above if the timing and amount of such obligations are unknown or uncertain.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements

During the periods presented, we did not have, nor do we currently have, any off-balance sheet arrangements or holdings in any variable interest entities.

 

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Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures about Market Risk

The primary objectives of our investment activities are to ensure liquidity and to preserve capital. We are exposed to market risks in the ordinary course of our business. These risks primarily include interest rate sensitivities. We had cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $141.4 million as of March 31, 2020 which consisted of bank deposits and highly liquid money market funds. Historical fluctuations in interest rates have not been significant for us. We had no outstanding debt as of March 31, 2020. Due to the short-term maturities of our cash equivalents, an immediate 100 basis point change in interest rates would not have a material effect on the fair market value of our cash equivalents. To minimize the risk in the future, we intend to maintain our portfolio of cash equivalents in institutional market funds that are composed of U.S. Treasury and U.S. Treasury-backed repurchase agreements or short-term U.S. Treasury securities. We do not believe that inflation, interest rate changes, or exchange rate fluctuations had a significant impact on our results of operations for any periods presented herein.

Critical Accounting Polices and Estimates

Our management’s discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations is based on our financial statements, which have been prepared in accordance with United States generally accepted accounting principles. The preparation of these financial statements requires us to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and the disclosure of contingent assets and liabilities at the date of the financial statements, as well as the reported expenses incurred during the reporting periods. Our estimates are based on our historical experience and on various other factors that we believe are reasonable under the circumstances, the results of which form the basis for making judgments about the carrying value of assets and liabilities that are not readily apparent from other sources. Actual results may differ from these estimates under different assumptions or conditions.

While our significant accounting policies are described in more detail in Note 2 to our financial statements appearing elsewhere in this prospectus, we believe that the following accounting policies are those most critical to the judgments and estimates used in the preparation of our financial statements.

Revenue Recognition

As of March 31, 2020, all of our revenue to date has been generated from the Novartis Agreement. Effective January 1, 2018, we adopted the provisions of ASC Topic 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers (“Topic 606”) using the full retrospective transition method. We did not have any prior collaboration agreements and did not recognize revenue during the year ended December 31, 2018.

Under Topic 606, we recognize revenue when our customer obtains control of promised goods or services, in an amount that reflects the consideration which we expect to receive in exchange for those goods or services. To determine the appropriate amount of revenue to be recognized for arrangements determined to be within the scope of Topic 606, we perform the following five steps: (i) identification of the contract(s) with the customer, (ii) identification of the promised goods or services in the contract and determination of whether the promised goods or services are performance obligations, (iii) measurement of the transaction price, (iv) allocation of the transaction price to the performance obligations, and (v) recognition of revenue when (or as) we satisfy each performance obligation. We only apply the five-step model to contracts when it is probable that we will collect the consideration we are entitled to in exchange for the goods or services we transfer to our customer.

Identification of the Contracts with the Customers

We evaluate every contract to determine whether it in its entirety or in part represent a contract with a customer, or a collaboration agreement and, based on this determination, apply appropriate accounting guidance.

We account for a contract with a customer that is within the scope of Topic 606 when all of the following criteria are met: (i) the arrangement has been approved by the parties and the parties are committed to perform

 

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their respective obligations, (ii) each party’s rights regarding the goods or services to be transferred can be identified, (iii) the payment terms for the goods or services to be transferred can be identified, (iv) the arrangement has commercial substance and (v) collection of substantially all of the consideration to which we will be entitled in exchange for the goods or services that will be transferred to the customer is probable.

Identification of the Performance Obligations

The promised goods or services in our collaboration and option arrangements consist of research and development services. The arrangements also have options for additional items (i.e., license rights). Options are considered to be marketing offers and are to be accounted for as separate contracts when the customer elects such options, unless we determine the option provides a material right which would not be provided without entering into the contract. The determination as to whether such options are material rights requires significant management judgment, and management considers factors such as other similar arrangements, market data and the terms of the contractual arrangement to make such conclusion. Performance obligations are promised goods or services in a contract to transfer a distinct good or service to the customer. Promised goods or services are considered distinct when: (i) the customer can benefit from the good or service on its own or together with other readily available resources and (ii) the promised good or service is separately identifiable from other promises in the contract. In assessing whether promised goods or services are distinct, we consider factors such as the stage of development of the underlying intellectual property, the capabilities of our customer to develop the intellectual property on their own and whether the required expertise is readily available.

Determination of the Transaction Price

We estimate the transaction price based on the amount of consideration we expect to receive for transferring the promised goods or services in the contract. The consideration may include both fixed consideration and variable consideration. At the inception of each arrangement that includes variable consideration, we evaluate the amount of the potential payments and the likelihood that the payments will be received. We utilize either the most likely amount method or expected value method to estimate the transaction price based on which method better predicts the amount of consideration expected to be received. If it is probable that a significant revenue reversal would not occur, the variable consideration is included in the transaction price.

All contingent future payments, which include research, development, regulatory, and sales-based royalty payments, have not been considered in the initial analysis, as they are contingent upon option(s) being exercised or are subject to significant risk of achievement.

Allocation of Transaction Price

We allocate the transaction price based on the estimated standalone selling price. We must develop assumptions that require judgment to determine the standalone selling price for each performance obligation identified in the contract. We utilize key assumptions to determine the standalone selling price, which may include other comparable transactions, pricing considered in negotiating the transaction, and the estimated costs. Certain variable consideration is allocated specifically to one or more performance obligations in a contract when the terms of the variable consideration relate to the satisfaction of the performance obligation and the resulting amounts allocated to each performance obligation are consistent with the amounts we would expect to receive for satisfying each performance obligation.

Recognition of Revenue

We considered the license to PLN-1474 as functional intellectual property, as when control of the license was transferred to Novartis at the inception of the Novartis Agreement, Novartis had the right to access its technology and it was functional. The license was distinct from the research and development services as the services are not transformative in nature. As such, under Topic 606, the Company determined the $50.0 million was standalone selling price PLN-1474 license and was recorded to revenue at the inception of the Novartis Agreement.

 

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We recognize revenue as we perform the research and development services based on an input method, as such costs have direct relationship between our effort and the progress made towards satisfying its performance obligations to Novartis.

Accrued Research and Development Costs

We record accrued expenses for estimated costs of our research and development activities conducted by third-party service providers, which include the conduct of clinical studies and preclinical studies. We record the estimated costs of research and development activities based upon the estimated amount of services provided but not yet invoiced and include these costs in accrued liabilities in the balance sheets and within research and development expense in the statements of operations and comprehensive (loss) income. These costs are a significant component of our research and development expenses. We record accrued expenses for these costs based on factors such as estimates of the work completed and in accordance with agreements established with these third-party service providers. Any payments made in advance of services provided are recorded as prepaid assets, which are expensed as the contracted services are performed.

We estimate the amount of work completed through discussions with internal personnel and external service providers as to the progress or stage of completion of the services and the agreed-upon fee to be paid for such services. We make significant judgments and estimates in determining the accrued balance in each reporting period. As actual costs become known, we adjust our accrued estimates. Our accrued expenses are dependent, in part, upon the receipt of timely and accurate reporting from clinical research organizations and other third-party service providers. If we under estimate or over estimate the level of services performed or the costs of these services, our accrued expenses could differ from our estimates. For the periods presented, we have experienced no material differences between our accrued expenses and actual expenses.

Stock-Based Compensation

We recognize compensation costs related to stock awards and stock options granted to employees, nonemployees and directors based on the estimated fair value of the awards on the date of grant. We estimate the grant date fair value and the resulting stock-based compensation expense, using the Black-Scholes option-pricing model. The grant date fair value of the stock-based awards is recognized on a straight-line basis over the requisite service periods, which are generally the vesting period of the respective awards. Forfeitures are accounted for as they occur.

The Black-Scholes option-pricing model requires the use of subjective assumptions which determine the fair value of stock-based awards, including the expected term and the price volatility of the underlying stock. These assumptions include:

 

   

Fair value of common stock—See “Determination of the Fair Value of Our Common Stock” below.

 

   

Expected term—The expected term represents the period that the stock-based awards are expected to be outstanding. The expected term for our stock options was calculated based on the weighted-average vesting term of the awards and the contract period, or simplified method, as allowed by the SEC.

 

   

Expected volatility—Since we are not yet a public company and do not have any trading history for our common stock, the expected volatility was estimated based on the average historical volatilities of common stock of comparable publicly traded entities over a period equal to the expected term of the stock option grants. The comparable companies were chosen based on their size, stage in the life cycle or area of specialty. We will continue to apply this process until enough historical information regarding the volatility of our own stock price becomes available.

 

   

Risk-free interest rate—The risk-free interest rate is based on the U.S. Treasury yield in effect at the time of grant for zero-coupon U.S. Treasury notes with maturities approximately equal to the expected term of the awards.

 

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Expected dividend—We have never paid dividends on our common stock and have no plans to pay dividends on our common stock. Therefore, we used an expected dividend yield of zero.

Determination of the Fair Value of Our Common Stock

As there has been no public market for our common stock to date, the estimated fair value of our common stock has been determined by our board of directors as of the date of each option grant, with input from management, considering our most recently available third-party valuations of common stock and our board of directors’ assessment of additional objective and subjective factors that it believed were relevant and which may have changed from the date of the most recent valuation through the date of the grant. These third-party valuations were performed in accordance with the guidance outlined in the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ Accounting and Valuation Guide, Valuation of Privately-Held-Company Equity Securities Issued as Compensation.

For stock awards and options granted in 2018 and 2019, we considered the use of the Income and Market approaches. Under the income approach, the cash generating ability of the company is valued. This approach focuses on determining a forecast benefit stream that is reflective of the subject company’s most likely future performance. The forecast benefit stream is then discounted to present value based on the appropriate risk-adjusted discount rate or capitalization rate.

Under the Market approach, we referenced actual transactions involving our company or similar assets and/or enterprises. The Market approach generally consists of two primary methodologies: The Guideline Comparables Method, or GCM and the Guideline Transaction Method, or GTM. The GCM involves identifying and selecting publicly traded companies or guideline public companies, or Guideline Public Companies, with financial and operating characteristics like the subject being valued, and subsequently deriving multiples and other metrics from such Guideline Public Companies to apply to the subject being valued.

Taking the stage of our development into consideration and expected liquidity events into account, we elected not to rely upon a pure application of the Income or Market valuation approaches. We determined that the PWERM was more appropriate to value our equity classes as the approach is based upon an analysis of future values for the entire enterprise assuming various future outcomes. We did consider elements of the Income and Market approaches for gauging the appropriateness of certain PWERM inputs and assumptions.

In addition to considering the results of these third-party valuations, our board of directors considered various objective and subjective factors to determine the fair value of our common stock as of each grant date, which may be as a date later than the most recent third-party valuation date, including:

 

   

the prices at which we sold shares of preferred stock and the superior rights and preferences of the preferred stock relative to our common stock at the time of each grant;

 

   

the progress of our research and development programs, including the status of pre-clinical and planned clinical trials for our product candidates;

 

   

our stage of development and commercialization and our business strategy;

 

   

external market conditions affecting the biotechnology industry, and trends within the biotechnology industry;

 

   

our financial position, including cash on hand, and our historical and forecasted performance and operating results;

 

   

the lack of an active public market for our common stock and our preferred stock;

 

   

the likelihood of achieving a liquidity event, such as an initial public offering, or IPO, or a sale of our company considering prevailing market conditions; and

 

   

the analysis of IPOs and the market performance of similar companies in the biopharmaceutical industry.

 

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For financial reporting purposes, we considered the amount of time between the valuation date and the grant date of our stock awards and options to determine whether to use the latest common stock valuation or an interpolated fair value between the two valuation dates. This determination included an evaluation of whether the subsequent valuation indicated that any significant change in valuation had occurred between the previous valuation and the grant date.

The assumptions underlying these valuations represent management’s best estimates, which involve inherent uncertainties and the application of management judgment. As a result, if factors or expected outcomes change and we use significantly different assumptions or estimates, our stock-based compensation expense could be materially different. Following the closing of this offering, the fair value of our common stock will be determined based on the quoted market price of our common stock.

As of December 31, 2019, there was $0.4 million of unrecognized compensation costs that is expected to be recognized over the weighted-average periods of 2.2 years related to restricted stock awards. As of December 31, 2019, there was $4.4 million of unrecognized compensation costs that is expected to be recognized over the weighted-average periods of 3.0 years related to stock options.

As of March 31, 2020, there was $0.4 million of unrecognized compensation costs that is expected to be recognized over the weighted-average periods of 1.9 years related to restricted stock awards. As of March 31, 2020, there was $8.9 million of unrecognized compensation costs that is expected to be recognized over the weighted-average periods of 3.3 years related to stock options. Based upon the initial public offering price of $16.00, the aggregate intrinsic value of options outstanding as of March 31, 2020 was $29.5 million, $24.7 million of which related to unvested options.

Recent Accounting Pronouncements

See Note 2 to our condensed financial statements appearing elsewhere in this prospectus for more information.

Emerging Growth Company Status and JOBS Act Accounting Election

We are an “emerging growth company,” as defined in the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act of 2012, or the JOBS Act. Under the JOBS Act, emerging growth companies can delay adopting new or revised accounting standards issued subsequent to the enactment of the JOBS Act until such time as those standards apply to private companies. We have elected to avail ourselves of this exemption and adopt ASU No. 2016-02 (Topic 842), Leases when the standard is effective for private companies which is for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2020. As a result, our financial statements may not be comparable to companies that comply with new or revised accounting pronouncements as of public company effective dates.

In addition, we intend to rely on the other exemptions and reduced reporting requirements provided by the JOBS Act. Subject to certain conditions set forth in the JOBS Act, if as an “emerging growth company” we intend to rely on such exemptions, we are not required to, among other things, (i) provide an auditor’s attestation report on our system of internal controls over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, (ii) provide all of the compensation disclosure that may be required of non-emerging growth public companies under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, (iii) comply with any requirement that may be adopted by the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board regarding mandatory audit firm rotation or a supplement to the auditor’s report providing additional information about the audit and the financial statements (auditor discussion and analysis) and (iv) disclose certain executive compensation-related items such as the correlation between executive compensation and performance and comparisons of the Chief Executive Officer’s compensation to median employee compensation. These exemptions will apply for a period of five years following the completion of this offering or until we no longer meet the requirements of being an emerging growth company, whichever is earlier.

 

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Business

Overview

We are a clinical stage biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering and developing novel therapies for the treatment of fibrosis. Our initial focus is on treating fibrosis by inhibiting integrin-mediated activation of TGF-ß. We have applied our deep understanding of fibrosis biology, along with our medicinal chemistry and translational medicine expertise to develop a set of proprietary tools designed to discover and de-risk product candidates quickly and efficiently. Our wholly-owned lead product candidate, PLN-74809, is an oral small-molecule dual selective inhibitor of avß6 and avß1 integrins that we are developing for the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or IPF, and primary sclerosing cholangitis, or PSC. We have completed a Phase 1a SAD/MAD trial and a Phase 1b proof-of-mechanism trial of PLN-74809 in IPF and are recruiting two Phase 2a trials in IPF. We submitted an IND for PLN-74809 for the treatment of PSC in March 2020, and plan to initiate a Phase 2a PSC trial in the second half of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our second product candidate, PLN-1474, is a small-molecule selective inhibitor of avß1 for the treatment of stage liver fibrosis associated with NASH, which we have partnered with Novartis. PLN-1474 is currently undergoing a Phase 1 trial testing with top-line data expected by the end of 2020, subject to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our clinical programs, we currently have preclinical integrin-based programs targeting oncology and muscular dystrophies.

Fibrosis refers to the abnormal thickening and scarring of connective tissue due to the production and deposition of excess collagen in the extra-cellular matrix. Fibrosis can occur in many different tissues including lung, liver, kidney, muscle, skin and the gastrointestinal tract, and often causes severe and debilitating disease potentially leading to organ failure and death. Fibrosis has historically proven difficult to treat, which we believe is due to the complexity of the disease biology and the challenge of targeting fibrotic tissues selectively without affecting healthy tissues.

We believe that tissue-specific inhibition of TGF-ß may hold the key to successfully treating fibrosis. In normal tissues TGF-ß is activated in response to tissue injury which initiates a cascade that results in collagen production and, ultimately, scar formation to heal the tissue. In fibrosis, however, TGF-ß signaling becomes dysregulated, with TGF-ß being continuously activated, leading to excess collagen deposition, even in the absence of acute tissue injury. TGF-ß, while implicated in fibrosis pathophysiology, is expressed and intermittently activated across all tissue types and plays important, context-specific roles in tissue homeostasis. Therefore, TGF-ß cannot be blocked systemically without disrupting these homeostatic functions and causing significant toxicities. To more precisely treat fibrosis in specific tissues, we believe it is crucial to discover and treat the underlying mechanism causing excess TGF-ß activation.

Our scientific founders are pioneers in elucidating the role of specific extracellular receptors known as integrins as a key element in the activation of TGF-ß. While the role of integrins in TGF-ß activation has been well-characterized over the past 10 years, integrins have historically been difficult to target therapeutically using small-molecules due to the difficulty of engineering molecules with high receptor selectivity and bioavailability. We believe that we have addressed these challenges with our platform. We have built a library of compounds that includes bioavailable, selective and potent inhibitors of multiple integrins that may be used to target a range of fibrotic diseases across different tissues.

 

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Our Pipeline

 

LOGO

 

Our lead wholly-owned product candidate, PLN-74809, is an oral small-molecule, dual-selective inhibitor of avß6 and avß1 that we are advancing in IPF and PSC. While expressed at very low levels in normal tissues, avß6 and avß1 are upregulated in the pulmonary tissues of IPF patients, and in the liver tissues of PSC patients. They both serve as activators of TGF-ß, leading to increased collagen production and fibrosis in these tissues. By blocking TGF-ß activation by both avß6 and avß1, we believe PLN-74809 may slow and potentially halt the progression of fibrosis in these patient populations. PLN-74809 has been granted orphan drug designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, for both IPF and PSC.

IPF is the most common and severe form of progressive pulmonary fibrosis, affecting approximately 140,000 patients in the United States. While the underlying cause of IPF is unknown, the course of the disease is well documented, with progressive scarring that destroys the structure and function of the lungs over time. The average life expectancy for patients with confirmed IPF is between three and five years. There are currently two FDA-approved therapies for IPF. Both have shown modest slowing of disease progression. However, both therapies have raised significant safety and tolerability concerns.

PSC is a progressive liver disorder affecting approximately 30,000 to 45,000 patients in the United States. The disease is characterized by fibrosis originating in the bile ducts that ultimately results in bile flow obstruction, or cholestasis, causing liver damage and progressive fibrosis of the liver. Patients have a median survival of 10 to 12 years without intervention and carry high lifetime risk of developing gastrointestinal malignancies. There are currently no FDA-approved therapies for PSC.

In our live human tissue assay, PLN-74809 showed a greater than 50 percent decrease in the expression of pro-fibrotic genes, such as collagen type I alpha1 chain, or COL1A1, and collagen type 3 alpha1 chain, or COL3A1, that are responsible for collagen production in human IPF and PSC tissues. Additionally, we have completed a study in non-human primates in which we showed that inhibition of avß6 and avß1 reduced TGF-ß activation by greater than 75% in cells isolated from the lungs after seven days of treatment.

We have completed a Phase 1a single ascending dose, or SAD, multiple ascending dose, or MAD, and food effect clinical trial in which PLN-74809 was shown to be orally bioavailable and generally well tolerated with a half-life that may support once-daily dosing.

We have also completed a Phase 1b proof-of-mechanism trial in healthy volunteers evaluating PLN-74809’s ability to inhibit TGF-ß activation as measured through pSMAD2/3 activation levels. pSMADs act as signaling

 

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molecules directly downstream from the TGF-ß receptor, and therefore pSMAD2/3 activation is used as a reliable biomarker for TGF-ß activation. In the Phase 1b trial, PLN-74809 was shown to inhibit TGF-ß activation by up to 70% in alveolar macrophages collected from healthy volunteers, in a dose- and exposure-dependent manner. Additionally, PLN-74809 was well tolerated with only mild adverse events and no drug-related adverse events.

We are recruiting two Phase 2a trials of PLN-74809 in IPF. In the first of these trials, we plan to enroll IPF patients and utilize a positron emission tomography, or PET, ligand to measure avß6 target engagement by PLN-74809 in the lungs post-treatment. The second trial is a 12-week double blind placebo-controlled trial involving IPF patients across four cohorts consisting of three doses of PLN-74809 and one placebo and will evaluate safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics, or PK. We also plan to employ exploratory efficacy endpoints including Quantitative Lung Fibrosis imaging analysis, biomarkers and pulmonary function. We submitted an IND for PLN-74809 in PSC in March of 2020 and plan to initiate a Phase 2a trial in the second half of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. This trial will be a 12-week double blind placebo-controlled trial involving PSC patients across four cohorts consisting of three doses of PLN-74809 and one placebo and will evaluate safety, tolerability and PK. We also plan to employ exploratory efficacy endpoints including biomarkers and evaluation of liver-stiffness.

Our second clinical stage product candidate, PLN-1474, is a small-molecule, selective inhibitor of TGF-ß activation by the integrin avß1, in development for treatment of stage F3/F4 NASH. avß1 serves as an activator of TGF-ß and its expression has been shown to be upregulated in hepatic stellate cells in stage F3 and F4 NASH-associated liver fibrosis. In October 2019, we entered into a collaboration and license agreement with Novartis in which Novartis licensed global rights to PLN-1474.

NASH is a severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, that is associated with the development of liver fibrosis and potentially life-threatening liver dysfunction. NASH is highly prevalent, affecting approximately 16.5 million adults in the United States, including approximately 3.3 million with stage F3/F4 fibrosis. Over time, NASH-related liver fibrosis may progress to cirrhosis, resulting in impaired liver function and increased risk of liver-related complications and mortality. There are currently no FDA approved therapies for NASH, and to date investigational NASH therapies have only shown modest anti-fibrotic benefits in clinical trials.

We have shown through our assays of live human fibrotic liver tissue that PLN-1474 is able to decrease the expression of pro-fibrotic genes such as COL1A1, the gene associated with the production of the most abundant type of collagen produced in fibrosis. We have also shown in multiple animal models of NASH that PLN-1474 has a potent anti-fibrotic effect. Despite delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently conducting a Phase 1 trial of PLN-1474 in healthy volunteers with data expected by the end of 2020.

Pursuant to our collaboration with Novartis, Novartis will reimburse us for all development activities associated with the PLN-1474 Phase 1 trials, and will be responsible for all development and commercialization activities following Phase 1 trials. In addition to PLN-1474, during the research term, Novartis will also collaborate with us on up to three separate integrin research programs. We will be eligible to receive up to $416.0 million in total from various developmental regulatory and commercial milestones as well as tiered royalties, on a product-by-product basis based on annual nets sales of products, at percentages ranging from high-single digits to low teens of the applicable licensed products and mid-single digits to high-single digits for any products resulting from the research programs.

In addition to our clinical programs, we are developing two additional preclinical integrin-based programs. The first of these is our oncology program. As TGF-ß biology has been elucidated, it has become increasingly understood in the scientific literature that TGF-ß plays an important anti-inflammatory role in the tumor micro-environment, preventing T-cell infiltration and inhibiting release of various cytokines. This mechanism is becoming increasingly recognized as a potential cause of the resistance to checkpoint inhibitors such as anti-PD-

 

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1 therapies seen in many tumors. We are targeting the TGF-ß activating integrin avß8 , which is upregulated in certain tumors with the goal of sensitizing tumors to checkpoint inhibitors. This program has generated positive data in preclinical tumor models and our candidate is currently undergoing IND-enabling studies.

Our second preclinical program is an allosteric agonistic monoclonal antibody against an undisclosed integrin receptor being developed for treatment of muscular dystrophies, including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. The target integrin is upregulated on muscle cells across multiple muscular dystrophy indications, acting as a substitute for dystrophin and helping to anchor muscle cells to the extracellular matrix. The program utilizes an allosteric agonistic antibody to activate the target in order to augment the naturally occurring compensatory mechanism. Because the antibody is not mutation specific, it could potentially be effective as a single therapy or in combination with other treatment modalities across multiple muscular dystrophy indications. This program is currently in the candidate selection phase of development.

Pliant was formed to build upon our scientific founders’ pioneering work elucidating the biology of fibrosis and its underlying causes. Our mission is to advance the understanding of fibrosis by building a biology-, chemistry- and screening-based engine to drive drug development across the spectrum of fibrotic diseases. We have established what we believe is a leading capability to both identify relevant fibrosis targets across different tissue types and address those targets with product candidates that have been optimized for potency and selectivity. We have established collaborations with medical research institutions and tissue networks that provide us access to human fibrotic tissue from patients undergoing transplant to use in evaluation of our product candidates and share insights with thought leaders to further engage them in our mission. By refining the development of biology-driven product candidates in our laboratories through testing in freshly obtained human fibrotic tissue, we believe that we may be able to increase the efficiency of our development process and maximize the probability of success.

We have assembled an executive team with highly relevant experience in fibrosis, small-molecule drug discovery and clinical development. Bernard Coulie, M.D., Ph.D., our CEO, has 20 years of experience in drug development, previously serving as CEO and CMO of ActoGeniX, as well as holding senior roles at Johnson & Johnson. Éric Lefebvre, M.D., our Chief Medical Officer, brings deep experience in clinical development in liver disease. He previously served as head of clinical research and development for NASH at Allergan. Prior to Allergan, Dr. Lefebvre led HIV and HCV development at Janssen and later served as CMO at Tobira. We were founded by world-renowned researchers Dean Sheppard, Rik Derynck, Bill DeGrado and Hal Chapman from the University of California, San Francisco, who bring broad experience in fibrosis biology and small-molecule chemistry among other related disciplines.

To date, we have raised over $220 million from investors including Third Rock Ventures, Cowen Healthcare Investments, Eventide Asset Management, Novartis, Redmile Group, Farallon Capital Management, Cormorant Asset Management, Surveyor Capital (a Citadel Company), Logos Capital, Schroder Adveq Management, Menlo Ventures, SCubed Capital and Agent Capital.

Our Strategy

Our goal is to become a world-leading fibrosis company, developing and commercializing disease-modifying therapies across a spectrum of fibrotic diseases. To achieve this, we are focused on the following key strategies:

 

   

Rapidly advance PLN-74809 in IPF and PSC through clinical development and commercialization.    We are developing our lead oral small-molecule inhibitor of avß6 and avß1 as a novel therapy for both IPF and PSC, each areas of high unmet medical need. Both IPF and PSC are orphan indications that we believe we can commercialize on our own in key geographies using targeted sales forces.

 

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Rapidly advance our second product candidate, PLN-1474, through Phase 1 for subsequent trials in NASH associated liver fibrosis.    PLN-1474 is a small-molecule selective inhibitor of avß1 in development for the treatment of stage F3/F4 liver fibrosis associated with NASH, an area of high unmet medical need with no currently FDA-approved treatments. In October 2019, we entered into a license and collaboration agreement with Novartis, or the Novartis Agreement, under which Novartis licensed global rights to PLN-1474. We are currently executing a Phase 1 SAD/MAD trial of PLN-1474. Novartis will reimburse us for all development activities associated with the Phase 1 trials, and will be responsible for all development and commercialization activities following Phase 1.

 

   

Selectively evaluate additional partnerships in indications and geographies where we believe partners can add significant commercial and/or development capabilities.    Fibrotic diseases represent a broad set of disease indications to pursue. Our focus is to commercialize our assets in orphan fibrosis indications and to selectively work with partners in larger indications and in geographies outside of North America. Given the size and competitive dynamics of the NASH indication, we believe that our collaboration with Novartis gives PLN-1474 the best chance for success. Furthermore, we will evaluate and potentially choose to partner our unpartnered product candidates in indications outside of fibrosis.

 

   

Explore opportunities for our pipeline assets in additional fibrotic indications.    We are evaluating the potential benefit of our product candidates outside of their lead indications. Our product candidates have shown anti-fibrotic activity in multiple animal models as well as human tissue in indications outside of IPF, PSC and NASH. We will continue to evaluate additional indications to maximize the potential of our pipeline.

 

   

Leverage our industry leading tools and capabilities to advance our mission of becoming a leading fibrosis company.    Since our founding we have endeavored to advance the understanding of fibrosis biology, uncover new targets and advance novel product candidates. Currently, our proprietary capabilities include a target expression atlas, an expansive library of over 7,000 integrin inhibitor molecules, integrin screening assay platform, live fibrotic human tissue program, PET-ligand imaging program, and biomarker assays. We continue to expand our integrin inhibitor library and develop tools such as additional PET-ligands as well as novel disease biomarkers. In addition, we have a library of over 70,000 compounds for non-integrin targets. We intend to leverage these tools and capabilities in a target- and modality-agnostic manner to expand our pipeline with a mission to become a world-leading fibrosis company.

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing significant industry-wide delays in clinical trials. There are multiple causes of these delays, including reluctance of patients to enroll or continue in trials for fear of exposure to coronavirus, local and regional shelter-in-place orders and regulations that discourage, hamper, or prohibit patient visits, healthcare providers and health systems shifting away from clinical trials toward the acute care of COVID-19 patients and the FDA and other regulators making product candidates for the treatment of COVID-19 a priority over product candidates unrelated to the pandemic.

We are working closely with our contract research organizations, or CROs, manufacturers, investigators and clinical trial sites to assess the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on timelines and expected costs for each of our programs. Our CRO’s are largely decentralized organizations and, to date, have not experienced significant impacts to their ability to support our trials. Our manufacturers, particularly in China, have, to varying degrees, experienced impacts to their operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, however, these operational challenges have had minimal impact on their ability to produce and deliver materials to us in a timely manner.

We are surveying each of our more than 60 global clinical trial sites per program (i.e., IPF and PSC) to assess the local and regional impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and will adjust the conduct of our clinical trials accordingly. Our sites have informed us that while they can review new study applications, they currently

 

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anticipate delays in site start-up activities of one to two quarters for both the PLN-74809 IPF and PSC Phase 2a trials and could experience slower than expected enrollment, but cannot yet quantify any effects on enrollment and retention of patients in our trials. At this time, approximately 58% of our global IPF sites expect to begin enrolling within one to six months. Approximately 77% of our global PSC sites expect to begin enrolling within three months. We are focusing our efforts on completing site-readiness and conducting an awareness campaign to generate interest in our trials. The campaign includes clinical research site calls with our founders and KOLs, engagement with scientific and patient communities and foundations, and active social media channels.

People living with IPF are considered at higher risk for developing serious illness if they become infected by the coronavirus. These patients may be instructed to avoid non-essential visits to medical centers, and to instead self-isolate at home. We are actively evaluating potential home care solutions for both our IPF and PSC clinical trials in order to mitigate COVID-19 infection risk in these vulnerable populations. We do not yet know the feasibility of home care or other potential solutions for our IPF and PSC programs or their impact on our projected timelines.

Our pipeline and early-stage programs are being impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic due to local California shelter-in-place orders in effect since March 16, 2020. These impacts may be mitigated by our ability to outsource work to third parties, such as CMC. Additionally, we are subject to certain exceptions to the shelter-in-place order through the nature of our early stage research and continue to conduct essential lab work utilizing social distancing measures such as alternating shifts and reduced staff. In response to the spread of COVID-19, we have closed our executive offices with our administrative employees continuing their work outside of our offices and limited the number of staff in any given research and development laboratory.

We are not aware of any of our directors employees being infected with coronavirus, but the virus can remain asymptomatic for a significant period of time and methods and availability of testing continue to evolve. Notwithstanding the current shelter-in-place orders, our employees or their family members could become infected.

We note the high level of difficulty in projecting the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our programs and our company, given the rapid and dramatic evolution in the course and impact of the pandemic and the societal and governmental response to it.

Fibrosis: A Condition of Uncontrolled Scarring

Fibrosis refers to excessive scarring often resulting from aberrant tissue repair processes. In normal tissues, fibrotic pathways represent a repair mechanism by which the tissues heal themselves in response to injury or disease. These pathways are normally deactivated upon completion of tissue repair. However, when they become dysregulated and remain activated, excess collagen deposition can cause tissues to thicken and become stiff, ultimately impairing their physiological function.

Fibrosis is a disease of connective tissue. Normal connective tissue forms a supportive network between cells, lending structure and integrity to tissues built up of many cell types. Connective tissue is composed of collagenous and elastic fibers, as well as a number of supporting cells such as fibroblasts and white blood cells. These supporting cells are embedded in a gel-like matrix made up of proteins known as the extra-cellular matrix. The most important protein in this matrix is collagen, which takes the form of elongated, fine fibers, providing flexible support to the surrounding cells. In fibrotic tissues, initial insults such as tissue damage or inflammation spur the deposition of excess collagen. Normally such responses are balanced in finely controlled feedback loops, but in fibrotic disease these feedback loops are dysregulated, resulting in progressive scarring, thickening, and loss of function.

Fibrosis occurs in many organ systems throughout the body including the lungs, liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, skin and muscles. While the exact pathologies of diseases in these organs vary, the development of fibrosis involves many common cell types and biochemical pathways, including the TGF-ß

 

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signaling pathway. The ultimate result is similar across many tissues: secretion and extracellular activation of growth factors that stimulate fibroblasts to secrete excess collagen, leading to runaway growth of scar tissue.

 

 

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Role of TGF-ß Signaling in Fibrosis

We believe that selectively inhibiting TGF-ß activation holds the key to successfully treating fibrosis across multiple tissues and organs. TGF-ß is secreted by nearly all cells and organs in mammals and stored in large amounts outside of cells, in the extra-cellular matrix, as part of an inactive complex. In healthy tissues, TGF-ß is transiently activated in response to tissue injury which initiates a cascade that results in collagen production and, ultimately, healing of the tissue. In fibrosis, however TGF-ß signaling becomes dysregulated and perpetuated, with TGF-ß being continuously activated, leading to excess collagen deposition in the absence of acute tissue injury. Moreover, induced activation of TGF-ß alone in animal models has been shown to be sufficient to induce fibrosis, and inhibition of TGF-ß activation has been shown to prevent or attenuate fibrosis.

TGF-ß can be activated in multiple ways in response to specific tissue injury. One important class of cell-surface proteins that activate TGF-ß in fibrosis are integrins. Integrins have a variety of functions, including signaling inside the cells, providing tissue structure and stability through adhesion between cells. Integrins are heterodimeric proteins, meaning they are composed of two different protein subunits paired together. These subunits are known as a and ß subunits. In humans, there are eighteen distinct a subunits and eight distinct ß subunits, which combine to form 24 known and functional integrin pairs.

Certain integrins bind the inactive TGF-ß complex. In response to tissue injury, the cells expressing these integrins are induced to contract, exerting physical force on the bound TGF-ß complex. This mechanical force changes the shape of the complex, releasing active TGF-ß. This activation triggers a biological cascade which results in collagen production, and when dysregulated leads to fibrosis. As depicted in the figure below, this cascade involves (i) binding of active TGF-ß to its receptor, the TGF-ß type I receptor kinase also known as ALK5; (ii) phosphorylation of immediate downstream signaling proteins known as SMAD2 and SMAD3; (iii) formation of a transcription initiation complex by pSMAD2, pSMAD3 and SMAD4; and (iv) subsequent transcription of target genes that encode fibrotic proteins such as collagen. Importantly, whereas certain TGF-ß-activating integrins are expressed at very low levels in healthy tissues, the TGF-ß cascade can lead to the upregulation of these integrins resulting in a TGF-ß-driven positive feed-forward loop which further increases TGF-ß activation. Furthermore, as fibrosis progresses and the fibrotic organ gets stiffer, it becomes progressively easier for contracting cells to activate integrin-bound TGF-ß. It is because of this continued, tissue-specific

 

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upregulation of integrins and their key roles in continued TGF-ß-activation that we believe that integrins provide an avenue to selectively inhibit TGF-ß activation in fibrotic tissue without affecting TGF-ß’s important physiological roles in healthy tissues.

av Integrins promote fibrosis through activation of TGF-ß

 

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Model of integrin regulation of TGF-ß signaling

Historical Challenges to Drug Development in Fibrosis

Fibrosis has historically been a difficult therapeutic area to target pharmaceutically. The biology and underlying causes of fibrosis are complex and, in many diseases, poorly understood. In the past, many patients with fibrotic disease were treated with anti-inflammatory agents such as steroids. While steroids may have a mild anti-fibrotic effect in some forms of fibrosis, they can exacerbate others, such as IPF. Additionally, the negative effects of chronic steroid exposure make it difficult to treat patients with these agents for long-term periods.

More recently, it has become well understood that regardless of the underlying cause, TGF-ß activation is at the heart of several key processes that drive fibrosis, including collagen formation, deposition of extracellular matrix proteins and activation and proliferation of fibroblast cells. As such, much of the historic drug development efforts to treat fibrosis have been aimed at systemically inhibiting or disrupting the TGF-ß signaling pathway by either (i) blocking TGF-ß binding to the TGF-ß receptors with an antibody or (ii) preventing the type I TGF-ß receptor, also known as ALK5, from activating the SMADs using a small-molecule kinase inhibitor. However, because of TGF-ß’s role in normal physiology, these approaches cause substantial toxicity and dysregulation of normal functions. In fact, documented toxicities that arise from systemic inhibition of TGF-ß signaling include cardiac toxicity, inflammation, and focal epithelial hyperplasia.

A potentially safer approach to fibrosis therapy is to inhibit specific pro-fibrotic signaling molecules, such as connective tissue growth factor and autotaxin, which operate downstream of TGF-ß activation, thereby mitigating the tolerability issues associated with systemic TGF-ß inhibition. While tolerability has been shown to improve with this approach, the efficacy shown to date has been modest, likely because TGF-ß activates multiple pro-fibrotic signaling pathways in addition to those targeted by these approaches.

Another recent approach is to prevent TGF-ß activation by stabilizing TGF-ß in its inactive form. However, it is not known whether latent TGF-ß stabilization can be accomplished in a tissue specific manner.

 

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In addition to the historical difficulty in targeting TGF-ß, clinical development for the treatment of fibrosis has also been limited by the lack of tools to understand this complex multicellular process. Only certain parts of this process can be modeled using cellular assays. More complete representations of fibrosis can be generated in animal models, but these models tend to be acute in nature and do not accurately represent disease pathology in humans which, in most cases, develops over decades. While fibrosis has historically been a difficult area of development, there has been significant interest in the space from large-cap pharma companies due to the relative scarcity of companies developing antifibrotic candidates. This is evidenced by several recent notable acquisitions in the space including Roche’s acquisitions of InterMune and Promedior, Allergan’s acquisition of Tobira, and Gilead’s strategic investment in Galapagos.

Integrin Inhibitors as a Potential Treatment for Fibrosis

An ideal approach to fibrosis treatment would be one that inhibits TGF-ß activation in only those tissues where fibrosis is occurring. One potential way to accomplish this is to inhibit the integrin proteins that are known to be overexpressed in specific fibrotic tissue and cause the abnormal activation of TGF-ß. In several forms of fibrosis, namely IPF and PSC, TGF-ß activating integrins such as avß6 and avß1 are over-expressed. These integrins are normally expressed at low levels in healthy tissue. Therefore, we would not expect off-target toxicity effects by selectively inhibiting avß6 and avß1. By inhibiting fibrosis-specific TGF-ß activators such as these specific integrins, it is possible to block abnormal TGF-ß activation in the specific tissues where fibrosis occurs, without affecting TGF-ß signaling in healthy tissues. However, integrin drug development has historically been challenging due to the difficulty of developing small molecule integrin inhibitors that are both selective for specific integrins and bioavailable. Notably, a recent approach targeting integrins selectively with a monoclonal antibody was terminated due to safety concerns, which we believe may be related to antibody-mediated immune activation. We believe our pipeline of bioavailable highly selective small molecule integrin inhibitors has the potential to address these challenges.

Recently, large biopharmaceutical companies have begun to recognize the potential of anti-integrin approaches to treat fibrosis and made large investments in the space. AbbVie recently in-licensed a set of preclinical integrin inhibitors for the treatment of fibrosis including an avß6 inhibitor targeting IPF. The AbbVie product candidate is a single selective inhibitor of avß6; however, it has been shown that the expression of both avß6 and avß1 is upregulated in IPF. We believe that our dual-selective avß6/avß1 inhibitor approach has the potential to provide a more potent anti-fibrotic effect than a single selective avß6 inhibitor.

We believe that recent developments in the field of integrin inhibitors validate our initial focus on integrin inhibitors as a treatment for fibrosis. Utilizing our proprietary discovery and development capabilities, we believe that we have overcome key historical challenges to the development of integrin inhibitors, including potency, selectivity and bioavailability. We have identified two bioavailable and highly potent and selective integrin inhibitors. Our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, has completed Phase 1a trials and has demonstrated potential for a once daily oral dosing profile.

Our Capability and Approach to Fibrosis Drug Discovery and Development

Our approach to drug development in fibrosis combines our deep knowledge of the biology of fibrosis with various cellular, tissue, and in vivo assays developed in house to interrogate the biology of fibrosis and uncover pathways and potential targets. We developed an extensive panel of cell assays, precision cut tissue assays and animal models covering various types of fibrotic diseases. These assays allow us to evaluate target expression in fibrotic tissues as well as the anti-fibrotic activity of our candidates after treatment and begin to establish proof-of-biological-mechanism in both animal models and human tissue prior to initiating clinical trials. We believe these collective capabilities uniquely allow us to (i) efficiently identify targets, (ii) optimize the potency and selectivity of candidates and (iii) de-risk product candidates in advance of human proof-of-concept.

The first tool we use in our discovery process is our target expression atlas. Utilizing samples from normal and fibrotic human tissue, we developed a quantitative atlas of gene and protein expression across multiple

 

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fibrotic diseases. This database represents a wealth of data that we use to quantify expression of tissue specific targets for potential therapeutics. The atlas is continuously expanding through acquisition of additional samples as well as additional analyses. To date, we have advanced multiple potential targets to our early discovery pipeline.

The second important tool in our discovery process is our compound library that we screen for activity against targets identified through our target atlas. While we are agnostic to treatment modality, our initial targeted chemistry effort has been focused on integrin inhibitors, and our medicinal chemistry team has developed a proprietary library of over 7,000 potential integrin inhibitors. The goal of the library is to maximize structural diversity while targeting optimal absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion, or ADME, properties. We expect that the library will continue to grow as we investigate new structures. We have designed the library based on in silico known X-ray structures/homology models, structure-activity relationships of structural motifs of known integrin inhibitors, and de novo molecular design. In addition to our proprietary integrin inhibitor library, we have a non-integrin compound library of over 70,000 compounds that we screen against non-integrin targets.

Once we have identified a potential target through our target expression atlas, we screen our library of compounds against the target. We have developed screening assays for 20 of the 24 known integrins and use these assays to evaluate the potency and selectivity of binding for our potential drug candidates prior to preclinical studies. Given the selectivity and potency challenges that have hampered integrin drug development, we believe our integrin assay panel represents a major step forward in integrin-based drug development.

We believe a key advantage of our development strategy is our ability to test our product candidates in live human fibrotic tissue, which helps us to bridge the gap between animal models and clinical proof-of-concept. We have developed proprietary protocols that extend the viability of live human explant tissue samples which allow us to reproducibly perform multiday experiments. We also maintain an on-call, around the clock team that obtains tissue samples following transplant procedures and transports those tissues to our lab within hours of explant, in a highly coordinated process. Our access to these live tissue samples allows us to evaluate the effects of our product candidates on multiple markers of anti-fibrotic activity. The data from these experiments increase our confidence that the tested product candidates will show anti-fibrotic effects in patients. In this way, our human tissue program serves to further de-risk product candidates and increase their likelihood of success in the clinic.

Once in clinical development, we seek to further de-risk our programs by designing clinical trials that allow us to show proof-of-mechanism in advance of clinical efficacy data. Because fibrosis is a chronic disease, proof-of-efficacy in human trials is expensive and takes years to complete. We utilize pharmacodynamic biomarkers and advanced imaging techniques, including PET, to evaluate target engagement by our product candidates over relatively short time periods and observe whether the product candidate is having the anticipated effect. We believe obtaining these clinical data points in an efficient manner will allow us to optimize our clinical development strategy and resource allocation.

We and our partners also proactively conduct observational, natural history trials in target diseases to better understand disease pathophysiology and progression and develop new molecular biomarkers. Through these trials, we have gone on to develop patient registries and establish relationships with clinicians at leading medical research institutions dedicated to bringing novel fibrosis therapies to their patients.

We are developing an extensive biomarker discovery and validation program. We are seeking to develop biomarkers to (i) identify patients at high risk of rapid disease progression, (ii) identify patients more likely to respond to treatment and (iii) monitor early treatment responses. We are conducting clinical studies and other research with leading academic centers to track disease progression and collect biological samples such as blood, urine, and tissue biopsies which we can use to discover and validate novel biomarkers.

 

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Our systematic approach to identifying and targeting integrins in fibrosis

Selective inhibition of TGF-ß activation in fibrotic tissues could potentially be the safest and most effective approach to treating fibrosis. One way to accomplish this is to inhibit the integrin receptors that drive excessive activation of TGF-ß. Given the importance of integrins in regulating the initial steps in fibrosis, we have focused our initial drug discovery efforts on a dual approach. This approach includes both biological profiling to identify which integrins are important in various diseased tissues and chemical profiling of libraries containing proprietary integrin inhibitors to help determine their selectivity and potency for individual integrins.

Utilizing our extensive in-house medicinal chemistry expertise, we have created a library of over 7,000 integrin-inhibitors. We screen this library against the integrin targets that we identify through our expression atlas and or biological profiling process. To our knowledge, this type of industrial-scale, systematic biological and chemical profiling, seeking selective inhibitors of one or more integrins, has not previously been carried out. We believe this combination makes our approach distinctive.

Central to our integrin inhibitor discovery process are our integrin assay panels. A key challenge in integrin inhibition, historically, has been selectivity for specific integrins. To address this challenge, we have developed assays against the 20 most relevant known integrins. We use these screening assays to measure potency and selectivity of potential candidates against these integrins. This allows us to quickly optimize the integrin binding profiles of potential development candidates in an iterative process.

Integrins can undergo conformational change. This results in different binding affinities. We believe an ideal integrin inhibitor should potently bind across the spectrum of conformations. Through the use of specific assays, we can measure the potency of our product candidates against multiple integrin conformations and seek to optimize for candidates that are able to potently bind to all conformations.

In addition to our deep understanding of integrin biology, we have gained significant insight in structure-activity relationships that determine integrin selectivity and optimal PK profiles. Utilizing this knowledge, we are now able to precisely engineer bioavailable integrin inhibitors with high potency and desired selectivity.

Our integrin inhibitor profiling capability has enabled us to quickly identify inhibitors that target individual integrins such as PLN-1474, which selectively inhibits avß1, as well as dual inhibitors such PLN-74809 which selectively targets both avß6 and avß1. Combining the data from our biological profiling and chemical profiling sets has enabled us to identify compounds that we believe have the highest potential for therapeutic activity in specific fibrotic diseases. Our iterative drug discovery effort focuses on drug-like properties of compounds early in the testing process. Compounds are screened for in vitro potency/selectivity and ADME/PK properties. This enables us to move from compound optimization to in vivo testing in a matter of months.

 

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In addition to PLN-1474 and PLN-74809, we continue to evaluate our broad proprietary library of integrin inhibitors to identify additional product candidates to treat fibrotic diseases. Furthermore, our approach allows us to use our discovery and development capabilities to develop non-integrin therapeutic modalities to treat fibrotic diseases. Our rich library also provides a deep series of potential backup molecules with structurally unique chemotypes that we believe can enhance the probability of clinical success.

As with all of our development efforts, a key approach to preclinically de-risking our integrin inhibitor candidates is evaluation of candidates in live human fibrotic tissue obtained following transplant procedures. The ability to observe effects of our product candidates on gene expression in human tissues prior to entering the clinic provides a bridge from animal models to clinical proof-of-concept and helps give us additional confidence as we move toward human trials. Similarly, if our ex vivo live human tissue studies show little or no effect on the target genes, we can quickly reallocate resources, saving time and money, and minimizing unnecessary patient exposure.

A second important de-risking strategy involves biomarker measurement in both preclinical and early stage clinical studies. By utilizing specific biomarkers such as pSMAD2/3 that operate immediately downstream from TGF-ß, we are able to measure the effects of our drugs on TGF-ß activation. We believe understanding the ability of our drug candidates to reduce TGF-ß activation is crucial to gaining confidence in the anti-fibrotic activity of our product candidates as we move forward in the clinic.

In our Phase 2 clinical trials, we will use an advanced imaging technique to generate mechanistic data and de-risk the development of our candidates. Fibrosis is a chronic process and it can take 6 months to a year to see a clinical benefit with a product candidate. We will utilize PET imaging to evaluate target engagement in patients and to determine if PLN-74809 is having an effect in the tissues. We have an ongoing collaboration with Stanford pursuant to which we are evaluating Stanford’s avß6 PET ligand in IPF patients. We are using this ligand to evaluate the level of avß6 expression in the lungs of IPF patients, as well as to measure our product candidate’s ability to bind avß6. In addition to the avß6 PET ligand, we are internally developing PET ligands to other integrins that we will use to evaluate subsequent product candidates.

Our product candidates

PLN-74809 for the treatment of IPF and PSC

Our lead product candidate, PLN-74809, is an oral small-molecule, dual-selective inhibitor of avß6 and avß1 integrins which we are developing for the treatment of IPF and PSC. We have received orphan drug designation for PLN-74809 in both IPF and PSC. We completed a Phase 1a trial of PLN-74809 in healthy volunteers and a Phase 1b trial in which we assessed target engagement and proof-of-mechanism in healthy volunteers by examining the inhibition of TGF-ß activation in alveolar macrophages. We are recruiting two Phase 2a trials of PLN-74809 in IPF patients. We submitted an IND for PLN-74809 in PSC in March 2020 and plan to initiate a Phase 2a trial in the second half of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to utilize a similar approach to the previously described IPF study for which we plan to enroll PSC patients, evaluating up to three doses of PLN-74809 or placebo. We intend to first enroll a 40 mg cohort, then amend the protocol to add 80 mg and 160 mg cohorts, subject to our ongoing phase 1 dose escalation trial.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis background

IPF is a debilitating, age-related lung disease of unknown causes that has few treatment options. It is a form of progressive pulmonary fibrosis that leads to thickening and stiffening of the lung tissue resulting in the loss of lung function. As tissue scarring progresses, the lungs’ ability to transfer oxygen into the bloodstream becomes increasingly impaired. Average life expectancy at the time of confirmatory diagnosis of IPF is estimated to be between three and four years. Approximately 60 to 80 percent of patients die within five years of diagnosis. These survival rates are worse than those of many late stage cancers, such as stage 3 breast cancer.

Patients with IPF experience debilitating symptoms, including shortness of breath and difficulty performing routine functions, such as walking and talking. Other symptoms include a chronic, dry, hacking cough; fatigue;

 

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weakness; discomfort in the chest; loss of appetite; and weight loss. IPF is a rare disease that affects approximately 140,000 people in the United States. There are an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Currently, there is no pharmacological cure for IPF and only a small proportion of late-stage IPF patients may be eligible for a lung transplant. The current non-transplant standard of care aims to slow the disease progression and improve the quality of life. Two therapies to treat IPF have recently been approved by the FDA: Esbriet® (pirfenidone), marketed by Genentech, and OFEV® (nintedanib), marketed by Boehringer Ingelheim. After decades during which the FDA approved no new treatments for IPF, the approvals of pirfenidone and nintedanib represented a major breakthrough for IPF patients. However, while these therapies may help slow the decline of lung function, neither drug has been shown to stop the progression of IPF. We believe that, despite the approval of pirfenidone and nintedanib by FDA, there remains an unmet need for IPF patients that we plan to address through our product candidate.

Despite its mechanism of action being unknown, pirfenidone has been shown in registrational trials to have a modest effect on slowing the progression of IPF as measured by forced vital capacity, or FVC, in approximately fifteen percent of patients. Recent studies suggest that pirfenidone may have an impact on survival compared to placebo, but these results have not been confirmed. In March 2020, the FDA granted breakthrough therapy designation for pirfenidone for treatment of unclassifiable lung fibrosis.

Nintedanib is an inhibitor of multiple tyrosine kinases that are receptors for growth factors such as platelet-derived growth factor, or PDGF, fibroblast growth factor, or FGF, and vascular endothelial growth factor or VEGF. Nintedanib reduced the rate of decline of pulmonary function in multiple trials by approximately half and led to significant delays in the time to acute disease exacerbation. While treatment was associated with a trend towards increased survival in registration trials, it has not been shown conclusively to have a survival benefit. Recent exploratory analyses from pooled data from six clinical trials of nintedanib suggest that nintedanib may extend life expectancy in patients with IPF. The FDA approved nintedanib for the treatment of lung fibrosis associated with systemic sclerosis in September 2019, and for the treatment of chronic fibrosing interstitial lung disease, or ILD with a progressive phenotype in March 2020.

Elevated liver enzymes have been observed with both of these drugs, requiring monitoring of liver tests and potentially temporary dose reduction and discontinuation. Cases of drug-induced liver injury, including one fatal outcome, have been reported in patients treated with nintedanib. Pirfenidone’s prescribing information also carries a similar warning about elevated liver enzymes. Despite the remaining unmet need, combined sales of pirfenidone and nintedanib in 2019 were over $2.7 billion. IPF remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality and an area of high unmet medical need for which a commercial opportunity remains.

Primary sclerosing cholangitis background

PSC is a progressive liver disorder characterized by inflammation and fibrosis of the bile ducts which transport bile from the liver to the intestines. This type of fibrosis often results in obstruction or interruption of bile flow from the liver, a condition known as cholestasis, leading to liver fibrosis. Cirrhosis eventually develops and many individuals ultimately require a liver transplant. PSC patients are also at a higher risk of developing hepatobiliary cancers, including a 5 to 20 percent lifetime chance of developing cholangiocarcinoma, a typically rare form of cancer with an especially poor prognosis. The exact cause of PSC is unknown. PSC is normally diagnosed at middle age, with a median age at diagnosis of approximately 40 years old. The prevalence of PSC in the United States is estimated to be between 30,000 and 45,000 patients.

In the absence of liver transplant, median survival of PSC patients is 10 to 12 years following diagnosis without intervention. There are currently no approved pharmacological treatments for PSC. A number of immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory agents have been studied in patients with PSC, but none has been conclusively proven to slow progression. Liver transplantation is the only available treatment for PSC patients; however, disease has been shown to recur in up to 20 percent of patients following transplantation.

 

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Our solution, PLN-74809

PLN-74809 is a small-molecule that selectively inhibits both avß6 and avß1 integrins that we are developing as a potential therapy for IPF and PSC. We have determined that TGF-ß activation in fibrosis associated with IPF and PSC involves both avß6 and avß1 integrins. It has been shown that expression of both avß6 on epithelial cells and avß1 on fibroblasts can lead to excessive activation of TGF-ß in fibrosis. Epithelial tissue includes any tissue that lines the surfaces of the body such as alveoli, bile ducts, urinary tract, skin, and gastrointestinal tract. Each of these tissues contains multiple cell types including epithelial cells and fibroblasts. An important secondary effect of the TGF-ß cascade is that it promotes upregulation of avß6 on epithelial cells. The increased expression of these integrins on the cell surface contributes in turn to further TGF-ß activation in a TGF-ß-driven positive feed-forward loop.

 

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Activation of TGF-ß by avß6 and avß1 leads to:

 

•  Activation of TGF-ß signaling pathways

 

•  Expression of pro-fibrotic genes including COL1A1

 

•  Subsequent collagen production and deposition

 

•  Additional upregulation of avß6

Epithelial tissue fibrosis is driven by two types of integrins

Data from our lab, as well as scientific literature, have shown that avß6 and avß1 proteins are overexpressed in at least two different fibrosis indications: IPF and PSC. In lung tissue from IPF patients we and others have shown that alveolar epithelial cells have elevated avß6 expression, and that the level of over-expression correlates with disease severity. We have also shown that in these patients, avß1 expression is upregulated. In liver tissue from PSC patients, we have shown that avß6 is upregulated in cholangiocytes, the epithelial cells that line the bile ducts, and that avß1 is upregulated in whole fibrotic liver tissue. avß6 and avß1 are normally expressed at very low levels in healthy tissue making them ideal targets for selectively inhibiting TGF-ß activation in IPF and PSC.

 

 

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avß6 is upregulated in the lung tissue of IPF

patients and the liver tissue of PSC patients

 

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*   = p < 0.05(1)
(1)   A p-value is the probability that the reported result was achieved purely by chance, such that a p-value of less than or equal to 0.05 or 0.01 means that there is a 5.0% or 1.0% or less probability, respectively, that the difference between the control group and the treatment group is purely due to chance. A p-value of 0.05 or less typically represents a statistically significant result.

avß1 expression is upregulated in lung and liver fibrosis

We have conducted a non-interventional clinical trial in IPF patients to assess the expression of integrin avß6 using a PET ligand. This trial confirmed that patients with IPF have high levels of integrin avß6 expression, which tend to be co-localized with fibrotic regions of the lungs. This trial was published in Nature Communications in 2019. The specificity of this PET ligand can be seen in images from an IPF patient who received a unilateral lung transplant. The PET ligand is only taken up in the diseased lung but not in the transplanted healthy lung.

 

 

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Pulmonary avß6 PET ligand uptake in an IPF patient with a unilateral lung transplantation is confined to the IPF lung

 

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We have shown that inhibition of both avß6 and avß1 integrins is required to maximally inhibit the expression of COL1A1, a key gene that encodes type I collagen, in models of lung and biliary fibrosis as well as in human IPF tissue. COL1A1 is a TGF-ß regulated gene that is expressed in fibrotic tissue. The expression level of COL1A1 correlates with the amount of collagen deposited as measured by the standard biochemical method of quantification of hydroxyproline, an amino acid that is a major component of collagen.

Clinical development of PLN-74809

Completed trials

We completed a Phase 1a SAD/MAD and food effect clinical trial of PLN-74809 in healthy volunteers. In the SAD portion of the trial, single doses of PLN-74809 were administered to 32 volunteers across four cohorts at doses of 15, 30, 50 and 75 mg. Eight additional volunteers in the SAD portion of the trial received placebo. In the MAD portion of the trial, PLN-74809 was administered orally to 27 volunteers, once-daily over 14 days at 10, 20 and 40 mg. Six additional volunteers in the MAD portion of the trial received placebo. In the food effect part of the trial, PLN-74809 was administered to 12 volunteers, administered as a single dose with and without food. PLN-74809 was shown to be well tolerated with no dose-related adverse events. All but two adverse events reported in the entire trial were mild except for a moderate adverse event of dental abscess (SAD, 30 mg dose cohort) and a moderate adverse event of viral syndrome (MAD, 40 mg dose cohort). All adverse events resolved or recovered and no dose relationship for adverse events was observed. No notable findings were observed for laboratory abnormalities, vital signs or ECG/telemetry.

Adverse Events Reported by Participants Receiving PLN-74809 in Phase 1a Trials

 

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Additionally, PLN-74809 was well absorbed, and displayed a half-life of over 40 hours. PLN-74809 reached steady state plasma concentrations after seven days of dosing. Co-administration of PLN-74809 with food decreased drug concentrations relative to the fasted state, with AUC decreasing by approximately 40 percent and Cmax by approximately 50 percent.

 

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We have also completed a Phase 1b proof-of-mechanism trial in healthy volunteers that was similar in design to our previously completed non-human primate mechanistic trial. The purpose of this randomized, double-blind, ascending-dose, placebo-controlled trial was to evaluate PLN-74809’s ability to inhibit TGF-b activation in the lung as measured by pSMAD2 levels in pulmonary alveolar macrophages collected from BAL fluid and to further characterize the PK/PD relationship in humans. Additionally, this trial will serve to inform dosing in our planned Phase 2a trials. We conducted this trial in healthy volunteers due to the safety risks associated with performing multiple BAL procedures in IPF patients.

We enrolled 18 volunteers across four dose cohorts (each cohort randomized 3:1 active to placebo). Two cohorts were dosed at 20 mg once daily and two cohorts were dosed at 40 mg once daily. Volunteers underwent an initial BAL procedure prior to treatment to measure baseline pSMAD levels. They were then treated with PLN-74809 or placebo for seven days, after which they underwent two additional BAL procedures to measure the amount of pSMAD reduction post-treatment at multiple time points. By utilizing two cohorts each for the 20 mg and 40 mg doses, we were able to measure pSMAD and drug levels at 4 different time points post treatment for each dose (3, 6, 12 and 24 hours post-dose on day 7), allowing assessment of PK/PD relationship over a 24-hour period.

In the Phase 1b trial, 16 participants completed pre- and post-treatment BAL procedures. Four out of six participants (66%) receiving the high dose of PLN-74809 experienced ³49% reductions in pSMAD2 levels at six hours post-dose relative to baseline levels. Notably, all four of the volunteers in the high dose cohort with reductions in pSMAD2 levels also achieved plasma concentrations of PLN-74809 corresponding to the predicted plasma protein adjusted IC50 of 700 ng/ml. The two volunteers in the high dose cohort who did not achieve these concentrations did not experience reductions in pSMAD2 levels. In the low dose cohort, no volunteers achieved plasma protein adjusted IC50, and only one volunteer experienced significant reduction in pSMAD2 levels post treatment, relative to baseline levels. These results demonstrate PLN-74809’s effect on reducing TGF-b activation in the lungs in a dose- and exposure-dependent manner, supporting a PK/PD relationship in humans. These data support the biological activity of PLN-74809 and will guide dose selection and trial design as we move into Phase 2a trials.

 

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Treatment with PLN-74809 was well tolerated with no drug-related adverse events. None of the adverse events reported were observed in more than one participant. In the 40-mg dose cohort, two trial participants discontinued treatment prematurely (one participant receiving PLN-74809 and one receiving placebo) and did not undergo post-treatment BAL procedures; these participants were subsequently replaced.

Adverse Events Reported by Participants Receiving PLN-74809 in Phase 1b Trial

 

 

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Current and planned clinical trials for IPF and PSC

We are currently recruiting two Phase 2a trials of PLN-74809 in patients with IPF, subject to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first of these is an open label trial utilizing a PET ligand to avß6 that allows imaging of target engagement by PLN-74809 in the lungs of IPF patients during treatment. Patients will receive a single dose of PLN-74809 across a dose range starting at 60 mg. We will obtain a PET scan at baseline to evaluate avß6 expression levels in the patients’ lungs and then initiate treatment with open-label PLN-74809. A post-treatment PET scan will be performed at approximately three hours after administration of the dose, which will enable us to evaluate PLN-74809’s target engagement in patients’ lungs at maximum drug concentration. When PLN-74809 binds to the avß6 receptor, we would expect to see decreased PET ligand uptake in the lungs post-treatment when compared to pre-treatment levels. The relationship between dose and target engagement is important to guide dose selection in future studies.

Our second Phase 2a trial is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled IPF trial evaluating up to three doses of PLN-74809 in IPF patients. We plan to explore doses up to 160mg per day at the highest dose. This trial

 

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is a 12-week trial evaluating safety and tolerability, as well as PK in IPF patients. We plan to evaluate exploratory endpoints including pulmonary function tests, biomarkers, and imaging, including Quantitative Lung Fibrosis HRCT imaging, or QLF. This is a multinational trial with over 40 sites in U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and multiple countries in Europe.

12 Week Safety, PK, Biomarker Trial in IPF Patients

 

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Design of 12 week Phase 2a IPF trial

In our 12-week Phase 2a IPF trial, we will utilize QLF as a biomarker for early detection of changes in lung fibrosis. QLF is a fibrosis biomarker assessed using high resolution CT imaging, and utilizes quantitative image analysis to measure the density of lung tissue and quantify the volume of fibrosis present in the lung. QLF technology was developed by MedQIA, and has been evaluated in over 5,000 ILD patients, showing an ability to predict FVC decline in patients with IPF. While we will measure both endpoints, we believe QLF may allow us to detect changes in lung fibrosis in a more specific way than FVC.

 

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QLF has been utilized in recent clinical trials to evaluate early treatment effects in the amount of lung fibrosis present. In Biogen’s Phase 2a trial of BG00011, a mAb targeting avß6, dose-dependent trends in QLF were seen at 8 weeks, with the 1mg/kg cohort actually showing a decrease in the amount of fibrosis present with a r=-0.49 correlation to FVC.

 

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Biogen’s Phase 2a 8-week QLF Results

Additionally, Fibrogen utilized FVC in their Phase 2 trial of pamrevlumab, their anti-CTGF mAb, in IPF. Fibrogen showed 71% and 50% reductions in progression of fibrosis versus placebo at 24 and 48 weeks, respectively, as measured by QLF.

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In addition to the two Phase 2a trials, we recently completed dosing an extended Phase 1 dose escalation trial in healthy volunteers with data expected in the third quarter of 2020. Based on preclinical findings and the results of our Phase 1b healthy volunteer BAL trial, we believe the human effective dose range for PLN-74809 may be between 40 mg and 160 mg administered once daily. To efficiently evaluate safety and PK at these higher doses, we are conducting a single center, randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled, sequential SAD/MAD trial. In the SAD cohorts, volunteers received a single dose of PLN-74809, starting at 120 mg in cohort 1 and

 

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increasing to a max of 320 mg in cohort 4. There were no new safety concerns revealed in the SAD portion of the trial. Most AEs were mild with the most common being dry throat/mouth and headache. One SAE of severe catheter (IV) site infection was reported in the 120 mg SAD, and deemed not related by the study investigator. In the MAD cohorts, volunteers received once-daily doses of PLN-74809 for seven days, starting at 80 mg per day and increasing to a max of 160 mg per day. One SAE of moderate breathlessness and cough-related chest pain was reported in the 80 mg MAD cohort and was deemed related to study drug by the study investigator; as the events occurred 14 days after the last dose of PLN-74809, Pliant could not establish or exclude the possibility of a cause and effect relationship and further follow-up is ongoing. The selection of doses in the SAD cohorts was chosen to provide daily plasma concentrations (area under the curve or AUC) of PLN-74809 similar to steady state concentrations expected to be achieved in the corresponding MAD cohorts. The results of the continued SAD/MAD trial will guide dose selection in the 12-week Phase 2a IPF and PSC trials.

 

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Design of Extended SAD/MAD Dose Escalation Trial

We submitted an IND for PLN-74809 in PSC in March 2020 and plan to initiate Part 1 of our third Phase 2a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in PSC patients in the second half of 2020, when it is feasible to do so in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to utilize a similar approach to the previously described IPF study for which we plan to enroll PSC patients, evaluating up to three doses of PLN-74809 or placebo. We plan to first enroll a 40 mg cohort, then submit a protocol amendment for FDA review to add higher dose cohorts, subject to the results of Part 1 of the trial.

 

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12 Week Safety, PK, Biomarker Trial in PSC Patients

 

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*   subject to FDA review

Design of 12 week Phase 2a PSC trial

The primary endpoints for our Phase 2a PSC trial will be safety and tolerability, as well as PK. We will also employ exploratory endpoints including fibrosis biomarkers including PRO-C3 and ELF, which are predictive of transplant-free survival in PSC patients, change in alkaline phosphatase, and liver imaging. Regulators have suggested that composite endpoints including biomarkers such as a alkaline phosphatase, PRO-C3 and ELF coupled with liver histology may support approval in PSC. Gilead and Dr. Falk’s are both including liver histology as a primary endpoint in their respective Phase 3 PSC trials. NGM Biopharmaceuticals, Inc., or NGM, showed dose-dependent changes in PRO-C3 and ELF at 12 weeks in its Phase 2a PSC trial, with levels returning to baseline after treatment was removed.

 

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NGM ELF and Pro-C3 Data Over 12 Weeks of Treatment in PSC

 

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Other Potential Development Plans for PLN-74809

We are currently exploring the potential effects of PLN-74809 in fibrotic diseases outside of IPF and PSC and may choose to explore the development of PLN-74809 in additional indications in the future. For example, we believe PLN-74809 could provide anti-fibrotic benefits in several pulmonary and hepatic fibrosis diseases where there is over-expression of avß6, including pulmonary fibrosis associated with systemic sclerosis, pulmonary fibrosis associated with rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary fibrosis associated with other forms of interstitial lung disease, primary biliary cholangitis, or PBC, biliary atresia and progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis, or PFIC. Additionally, we believe that PLN-74809 could provide anti-fibrotic benefits in the setting of end stage renal disease.

In addition to pulmonary and liver fibrosis, there is research supporting the potential activity of

PLN-74809 in acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS, a major cause of mortality

associated with COVID-19. Research has shown that avb6 expression is elevated in the lungs of COVID-19 patients leading to increased TGF-b levels. Increased TGF-b levels in ARDS lead to epithelial cell death, alveolar and vascular leak, increased immune cell infiltration, inhibition of sodium channel transport of fluid out of alveoli and fibroproliferation.

By inhibiting avb6-mediated activation of TGF-b, we believe that PLN-74809 may be able to reduce the likelihood of progression from pneumonia to ARDS in the setting of COVID-19. We are currently evaluating the feasibility of initiating a clinical program testing PLN-74809 in COVID-19 patients.

 

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Preclinical data in IPF

 

 
Summary Preclinical Data in IPF
   
Preclinical Findings   Observations
   
PLN-74809 reduced collagen gene expression in live human ILD lung tissue  

•  Greater than 50% decrease in expression of COL1A1 relative to DMSO vehicle control seen in lung tissue from five IPF patients and one systemic sclerosis patient

•  An antibody to avß6 did not significantly decrease expression

   
pSMAD3 was correlated with extractable collagen levels in patients suspected of having IPF  

•  pSMAD3 and extractable, or newly formed, collagen 1 were measured in biopsy samples from 18 patients and 5 controls.

•  pSMAD3 and extractable collagen 1 were correlated with an r value of 0.7807 (p<0.0001)

   
avß6 and avß1 expression is elevated in mouse bleomycin IPF models  

•  In both acute and chronic bleomycin IPF mouse models, expression of avß6 and avß1 integrins was higher in bleomycin exposed animals compared to healthy controls

   
Dual avß6 and avß1 inhibition decreased collagen more than avß6 or avß1 single inhibition in live human IPF lung tissue  

•  Dual inhibition of avß6 and avß1 at 10x IC50 significantly decreased expression of COL1A1 and other profibrotic genes relative to DMSO vehicle control

•  Single inhibition of either avß6 and avß1 at 10x IC50 did not show significant decrease in COL1A1 expression

   
PLN-74809 showed a dose dependent reduction in collagen fiber density in a mouse bleomycin IPF model  

•  Three weeks of treatment with PLN-74809 utilizing second-harmonic generation resulted in a dose dependent decrease in collagen fiber density

•  Fibrous composite score was significantly reduced in a dose dependent manner vs. vehicle control

   
PLN-74809 decreased TGF-ß activation in chronic bleomycin mouse model  

•  After two weeks of treatment with PLN-74809 levels of pSMAD3 were significantly reduced compared to PBS vehicle control

•  Post-treatment pSMAD3 levels were similar to those of healthy controls

   
Inhibition of avß6 and avß1 blocked TGF-ß activation in the pulmonary cells of non-human primates  

•  After seven days of treatment with dual avß6 and avß1 inhibitor pSMAD2 levels were reduced by greater than 75% in pulmonary cells of non-human primates

•  An anti-avß6 antibody showed approximately 50% decrease

•  Dual inhibition showed a clear PK/PD relationship with maximal pSMAD2 suppression was achieved and maintained while drug concentrations were in the effective dose range (i.e., above the plasma protein adjusted IC50, or p.a. IC50)

   
PLN-74809 binds to all conformations of avß6 and avß1 in biochemical assays  

•  PLN-74809 binds both bent-closed and extended-open conformations of avß6 and avß1

PLN-74809 reduced collagen gene expression in live human ILD lung tissue

In an assay using live lung tissue from five patients with IPF, application of PLN-74809 for seven days led to significant decrease of >50% in expression of COL1A1, a key gene responsible for collagen production. The degree of inhibition observed with PLN-74809 approaching that of a complete blockade of TGF-ß signaling

 

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using a direct inhibitor of its TGF-ß type I receptor kinase, also known as ALK5. In contrast, an avß6-specific monoclonal antibody, or mAb, that we synthesized based on publicly available information regarding Biogen’s antibody, 3G9, was unable to significantly inhibit COL1A1 expression. In the same assay, using live lung tissue from a patient with systemic sclerosis-associated pulmonary fibrosis, application of PLN-74809 for seven days also led to a decrease of >50% in expression of COL1A1.

 

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Combined inhibition of avß6 and avß1 provided increased anti-fibrotic activity in live human fibrotic tissue as compared to DMSO vehicle control.

pSMAD3 was correlated with extractable collagen levels in patients suspected of having IPF

Open lung biopsies for histologic confirmation of IPF diagnosis were performed in 18 patients with interstitial lung disease, or ILD, who were suspected of having IPF. As part of this analysis, five controls (non-transplanted donor lungs) were also included. Multiple biopsies were taken from different lobes of each lung. Total pSMAD3 and extractable collagen 1 were measured by western blot. Extractable collagen 1 is thought to be collagen that has been recently formed and has not been cross-linked to the extracellular matrix. Total pSMAD3 and extractable collagen were significantly correlated. Higher pSMAD3 levels corresponded to higher levels of recently produced collagen.

 

 

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pSMAD3 levels are correlated with extractable collagen in lung biopsies from patients

suspected of having IPF

 

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avß6 and avß1 expression is elevated in mouse bleomycin IPF model

We used the increased expression of both avß6 and avß1 integrins in human disease samples to select animal models with similar characteristics which we then employed for higher-throughput and more extensive testing than would be feasible with primary human tissue. The bleomycin model is the most extensively used model of IPF due to its ability to reproduce many aspects of the disease. The pattern of expression of integrins suggests that the bleomycin model can serve as a valid preclinical surrogate for evaluating the effects of integrin inhibition in IPF. We confirmed that both avß6 and avß1 integrins are upregulated in a mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis induced by exposure to bleomycin. In both acute and chronic versions of this model, expression of avß6 and avß1 integrins were higher in bleomycin-exposed animals compared to healthy controls.

 

 

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avß6 and avß1 expression in murine bleomycin model

Dual avß6 and avß1 inhibition decreased collagen more than avß6 or avß1 single inhibition in live human IPF lung tissue

To further understand the anti-fibrotic effect of single vs. dual integrin inhibition, we performed assays on live human lung tissue explanted from IPF patients during transplant. We incubated the samples for seven days with either a single selective avß1 small molecule inhibitor, a single selective avß6 inhibitor (avß6 mAb), or a dual selective avß6/avß1 inhibitor. Dual selective inhibition was accomplished with either PLN-74809 or a combination of the small molecule avß1 inhibitor and the avß6 mAb. In this assay, we also compared against an inhibitor of the TGF-ß receptor kinase ALK5, as a positive control. We measured effects on pro-fibrotic gene expression through the mRNA counts for COL1A1. The small molecule inhibitor of avß1 and the avß6 mAb, each dosed at 10x their IC50, failed to show a significant reduction in Col1a1 expression when administered individually. When the small molecule inhibitor of avß1 and the avß6 mAb were incubated as a combination therapy, COL1A1 expression was significantly reduced. PLN-74809 also showed a significant reduction in COL1A1 expression. We also evaluated gene expression across a broad panel of additional pro-fibrotic genes. Similar to COL1A1, dual inhibition resulted in a greater reduction in gene expression across the panel versus single inhibition.

 

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Dual avß6/avß1 inhibition blocked profibrotic gene expression more than single inhibition (avß6 or avß1) in live human IPF lung tissue

PLN-74809 showed a dose-dependent reduction in collagen fiber density in a mouse bleomycin IPF model

We evaluated three doses of PLN-74809 in a mouse bleomycin IPF model utilizing second-harmonic generation to evaluate the amount of new collagen formation ongoing post-treatment with PLN-74809. We evaluated a range of doses against vehicle control and saw a dose dependent reduction in collagen fiber density and fibrosis composite score.

 

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PLN-74809 resulted in a dose-dependent decrease in collagen fiber density in a mouse bleomycin IPF model as measured through second-harmonic generation

PLN-74809 decreased TGF-ß activation in chronic bleomycin mouse model

We confirmed through biochemical analyses that anti-fibrotic efficacy of PLN-74809 in the bleomycin model was due to blockade of TGF-ß activation. A key biochemical marker of TGF-ß activation is the

 

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phosphorylation of SMAD2/3. In the bleomycin model, two weeks of treatment with PLN-74809 reduced pSMAD3 levels in a dose-dependent manner to those seen in control mice that had not been exposed to bleomycin in the acute IPF model. In addition, levels of newly formed collagen, or neo-collagen, and total lung collagen as measured by hydroxyproline content were significantly reduced in a dose-dependent manner in the treatment group.

 

 

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PLN-74809 blocked TGF-ß activation in a chronic bleomycin model

The ability to measure TGF-ß activation through SMAD phosphorylation also provided us with the opportunity to develop SMAD2/3 phosphorylation as a biomarker that correlates with avß6 and avß1 integrin inhibition.

Inhibition of avß