The following excerpt is from the company's SEC filing.
We are an early commercial-stage company with a history of net losses; we expect to incur net losses in the future, and we may never achieve sustained profitability.
We have historically incurred substantial net losses, including net losses of $15.9 million and $16.9 million for the years ended December 31, 2014 and 2015, respectively, and we have never been profitable. At December 31, 2015, our accumulated deficit was approximately $155.2 million. Before 2008, we were pursuing a business plan relating to fetal genetic disorders and other fields, all of which were unrelated to cancer diagnostics. The portio n of our accumulated deficit that relates to the period from inception through December 31, 2007 is approximately $66.5 million.
We expect our losses to continue as a result of costs relating to our lab operations as well as increased sales and marketing costs and ongoing research and development expenses. These losses have had, and will continue to have, an adverse effect on our working capital, total assets and stockholders
equity. Because of the numerous risks and uncertainties associated with our commercialization efforts, we are unable to predict when we will become profitable, and we may never become profitable. Even if we do achieve profitability, we may not be able to sustain or increase profitability on a quarterly or annual basis. Our inability to achieve and then maintain profitability would negatively affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Our chief executive officer Michael W. Nall, who joined us in August 2013, has not previously been the chief executive officer of a public or private company, and therefore his lack of experience may result in some of his time being spent acclimating to his new position and responsibilities. A lack of significant experience in being the chief executive officer of a public company could have an adverse effect on his ability to quickly respond to problems or effectively manage issues surrounding the operation of a public company.
We need to raise additional capital to continue as a going concern.
We expect to continue to incur losses for the foreseeable future and will have to raise additional capital to fund our planned operations and to meet our long-term business objectives. As a result, there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern unless we are able to successfully raise additional capital. Until we can generate significant cash from operations, including assay revenues, we expect to continue to fund our operations with the proceeds from offerings of our equity securities or debt, or transactions involving product development, technology licensing or collaboration. We can provide no assurances that any sources of a sufficient amount of financing will be available to us on favorable terms, if at all. Failure to raise additional capital in sufficient amounts would significantly impact our ability to continue as a going concern. The actual amount of funds that we will need and the timing of any such investment will be determined by many factors, some of which are beyond our control.
An event of default under our credit facility may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition.
On April 30, 2014, we borrowed approximately $4.9 million pursuant to the terms of a credit facility, or the April 2014 Credit Facility, with Oxford Finance LLC, or Oxford, of which approximately $2.1 million was due within one
year of December 31, 2015 in the absence of subjective acceleration of the April 2014 Credit Facility by Oxford. The April 2014 Credit Facility includes events of default, the occurrence and con
tinuation of which provide Oxford, as collateral agent, with the right to exercise remedies against us and the collateral securing the loans under the April 2014 Credit Facility, including foreclosure against our properties securing the April 2014 Credit F
acility, including our cash. These events of default include, among other things, our failure to pay any amounts due under the April 2014 Credit Facility, a breach of covenants under the April 2014 Credit Facility, our insolvency, a material adverse change
, the occurrence of any default under certain other indebtedness in an amount greater than $250,000, and a final judgment against us in an amount greater than $250,000.
Accordingly, the occurrence of an event of default under our April 2014 Credit Facility, unless cured or waived, may have a material adverse effect on our results of operations.
The sale of our common stock to Aspire Capital Fund, LLC may cause substantial dilution to our existing stockholders and the sale of the shares of common stock acquired by Aspire Capital Fund, LLC could cause the price of our common stock to decline.
We have registered for sale the 165,000 commitment fee common shares and 625,000 initial purchase common shares that we have issued and 2,984,122 shares that we may sell to Aspire Capital Fund, LLC, or Aspire Capital, under a common stock purchase agreement. Approximately $14.0 million, or up to 2,984,122 shares, remains available to be issued to Aspire Capital under this agreement as of March 3, 2016. Depending on a variety of factors, including market liquidity of our common stock, the sale of shares under the Aspire Capital common stock purchase agreement may cause the trading price of our common stock to decline.
Aspire Capital may ultimately purchase all, some or none of the common stock that can be sold pursuant to the common stock purchase agreement. Aspire Capital may sell all, some or none of our shares that it holds or comes to hold under the common stock purchase agreement. Sales by Aspire Capital of shares acquired pursuant to the common stock purchase agreement may result in dilution to the interests of other holders of our common stock. The sale of a substantial number of shares of our common stock by Aspire Capital in such offering, or anticipation of such sales, could cause the trading price of our common stock to decline or make it more difficult for us to sell equity or equity-related securities in the future at a time and at a price that we might otherwise desire. However, we have the right under the common stock purchase agreement to control the timing and amount of sales of our shares to Aspire Capital, and the common stock purchase agreement may be terminated by us at any time at our discretion without any penalty or cost to us.
Risks Relating to Our Business and Strategy
If we are unable to increase sales of our current assays or successfully develop and commercialize other assays, our revenues will be insufficient for us to achieve profitability.
We currently derive substantially all of our revenues from sales of cancer diagnostic assays. We recently began offering our assays through our CLIA-certified, CAP accredited, and state-licensed laboratory. We are in varying stages of research and development for other cancer diagnostic assays that we may offer. If we are unable to increase sales of our existing cancer diagnostic assays or successfully develop and commercialize other cancer diagnostic assays, we will not produce sufficient revenues to become profitable.
If we are unable to execute our sales and marketing strategy for cancer diagnostic assays and are unable to gain acceptance in the market, we may be unable to generate sufficient revenue to sustain our business.
We are an early commercial-stage company and have engaged in only limited sales and marketing activities for the cancer diagnostic assays we currently offer through our CLIA-certified, CAP accredited, and state-licensed laboratory. To date, we have received very limited revenue.
Although we believe that our current assays and our planned future assays represent a promising commercial opportunity, our assays may never gain significant acceptance in the marketplace and therefore may never generate
substantial revenue or
profits for us. We will need to establish a market for our cancer diagnostic assays and build that market through physician education, awareness programs and the publication of clinical trial results. Gaining acceptance in medical communities requires, am
ong other things, publication in leading peer-reviewed journals of results from studies using our current assays and/or our planned future assays. The process of publication in leading medical journals is subject to a peer review process and peer reviewers
may not consider the results of our studies sufficiently novel or worthy of publication. Failure to have our studies published in peer-reviewed journals would limit the adoption of our current assays and our planned future assays.
Our ability to successfully market the cancer diagnostic assays that we may develop will depend on numerous factors, including:
conducting clinical utility studies of such assays in collaboration with key thought leaders to demonstrate their use and value in important medical decisions such as treatment selection;
whether our current or future partners, vigorously support our offerings;
the success of our sales force;
whether healthcare providers believe such diagnostic assays provide clinical utility;
whether the medical community accepts that such diagnostic assays are sufficiently sensitive and specific to be meaningful in patient care and treatment decisions;
our ability to continue to fund planned sales and marketing activities; and
whether private health insurers, government health programs and other third-party payors will cover such cancer diagnostic assays and, if so, whether they will adequately reimburse us.
Failure to achieve widespread market acceptance of our current assays and our planned future assays would materially harm our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If we cannot develop assays to keep pace with rapid advances in technology, medicine and science, our operating results and competitive position could be harmed.
In recent years, there have been numerous advances in technologies relating to the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. Several new cancer drugs have been approved, and a number of new drugs in clinical development may increase patient survival time. There have also been advances in methods used to identify patients likely to benefit from these drugs based on analysis of biomarkers. We must continuously develop new cancer diagnostic assays and enhance any existing assays to keep pace with evolving standards of care. Our current assays and our planned future assays could become obsolete unless we continually innovate and expand them to demonstrate benefit in the diagnosis, monitoring or prognosis of patients with cancer. New cancer therapies typically have only a few years of clinical data associated with them, which limits our ability to develop cancer diagnostic assays based on, for example, biomarker analysis related to the appearance or development of resistance to those therapies. If we cannot adequately demonstrate the applicability of our current assays and our planned future assays to new treatments, by incorporating important biomarker analysis, sales of our assays could decline, which would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
If our current assays and our planned future assays do not continue to perform as expected, our operating results, reputation and business will suffer.
Our success depends on the market
s confidence that we can continue to provide reliable, high-quality assay results. We believe that our customers are likely to be particularly sensitive to assay defects and errors. As a result, the failure of our current or planned future assays to perform as expected would significantly impair our reputation and the public image of our cancer assays, and we may be subject to legal claims arising from any defects or errors.
If our sole laboratory facility becomes damaged or inoperable, or we are required to vacate the facility, our ability to sell and provide cancer diagnostic assays and pursue our research and development efforts may be
We currently derive our revenues from our cancer diagnostic assays conducted in our CLIA-certified, CAP accredited, and state-licensed laboratory. We do not have any clinical reference laboratory facilities other than our facility in San Diego, California. Our facilities and equipment could be harmed or rendered inoperable by natural or man-made disasters, including fire, earthquake, flooding and power outages, which may render it difficult or impossible for us to perform our diagnostic assays for some period of time. The inability to perform our current assays and our planned future assays or the backlog of assays that could develop if our facility is inoperable for even a short period of time may result in the loss of customers or harm to our reputation or relationships with scientific or clinical collaborators, and we may be unable to regain those customers or repair our reputation in the future. Furthermore, our facilities and the equipment we use to perform our research and development work could be costly and time-consuming to repair or replace.
The San Diego area has recently experienced serious fires and power outages, and is considered to lie in an area with earthquake risk.
Additionally, a key component of our research and development process involves using biological samples as the basis for our diagnostic assay development. In some cases, these samples are difficult to obtain. If the parts of our laboratory facility where we store these biological samples were damaged or compromised, our ability to pursue our research and development projects, as well as our reputation, could be jeopardized. We carry insurance for damage to our property and the disruption of our business, but this insurance may not be sufficient to cover all of our potential losses and may not continue to be available to us on acceptable terms, if at all.
Further, if our CLIA-certified, CAP accredited, and state-licensed laboratory became inoperable we may not be able to license or transfer our technology to another facility with the necessary qualifications, including state licensure and CLIA certification, under the scope of which our current assays and our planned future assays could be performed. Even if we find a facility with such qualifications to perform our assays, it may not be available to us on commercially reasonable terms.
If we cannot compete successfully with our competitors, we may be unable to increase or sustain our revenues or achieve and sustain profitability.
Our principal competition comes from mainstream diagnostic methods, used by pathologists and oncologists and other physicians for many years, which focus on tumor tissue analysis. It may be difficult to change the methods or behavior of oncologists and other physicians to incorporate our CTC and ctDNA testing, including molecular diagnostic testing, in their practices in conjunction with or instead of tissue biopsies and analysis. In addition, companies offering capital equipment and kits or reagents to local pathology laboratories represent another source of potential competition. These kits are used directly by the pathologist, which can facilitate adoption. We plan to focus our marketing and sales efforts on medical oncologists rather than pathologists.
We also face competition from companies that offer products or are conducting research to develop products for CTC or ctDNA testing in various cancers. CTC and ctDNA testing is a new area of science and we cannot predict what assays others will develop that may compete with or provide results similar or superior to the results we are able to achieve with the assays we develop. Competitors include but are not limited to companies such as Atossa, Qiagen, Roche, Trovagene, Guardant, Janssen Diagnostoric, Alere (Adnagen), Illumina, Apocell, EPIC Sciences, Clearbridge Biomedics, Biodesix, Thermo-Fisher, Foundation Medicine, Neogenomics, Cynvenio Biosystems, Genomic Health, Fluxion Biosciences, RareCells, ScreenCell and Silicon Biosystems. Some of these groups, in addition to operating research and development laboratories, are establishing CLIA-certified testing laboratories while others are focused on selling equipment and reagents.
There are a number of companies which are focused on the oncology diagnostic market, such as Caris, Neogenomics, Agendia and Genoptix, who while not currently offering CTC or ctDNA assays are selling to the medical oncologists and pathologists and could develop or offer CTC or ctDNA assays. Large laboratory services companies such as Sonic USA, Quest and LabCorp provide more generalized cancer diagnostic testing but could also offer a CTC or ctDNA test service. Companies like Abbott, Danaher and others could develop equipment or
reagents in the future as well.
Some of our present and potential competitors have widespread brand recognition and substantially greater financial and technical resources and development, production and marketing capabilities than we do. Others may develop lower-priced, less complex assays that payors, pathologists and oncologists and other physicians could view as functionally equivalent to our current or planned future assays, which could force us to lower the list price of our assays and impact our operating margins and our ability to achieve and maintain profitability. In addition, technological innovations that result in the creation of enhanced diagnostic tools that are more sensitive or specific than ours may enable other clinical laboratories, hospitals, physicians or medical providers to provide specialized diagnostic assays similar to ours in a more patient-friendly, efficient or cost-effective manner than is currently possible. If we cannot compete successfully against current or future competitors, we may be unable to increase or create market acceptance and sales of our current or planned future assays, which could prevent us from increasing or sustaining our revenues or achieving or sustaining profitability.
We expect that pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies will increasingly focus attention and resources on the personalized cancer diagnostic sector as the potential and prevalence of molecularly targeted oncology therapies approved by the FDA along with companion diagnostics increases. For example, the FDA has recently approved three such agents-Xalkori
from Pfizer Inc. along with its companion anaplastic lymphoma kinase FISH test from Abbott Laboratories, Inc., Zelboraf
from Daiichi-Sankyo/Genentech/Roche along with its companion B-RAF kinase V600 mutation test from Roche Molecular Systems, Inc. and Tafinlar
from GlaxoSmithKline along with its companion B-RAF kinase V600 mutation test from bioMerieux. These recent FDA approvals are only the second, third and fourth instances of simultaneous approvals of a drug and companion diagnostic, the first being the 2010 approval of Genentech
for HER2 positive breast cancer along with the HercepTest from partner Dako A/S. Our competitors may invent and commercialize technology platforms or assays that compete with ours.
Additionally, projects related to cancer diagnostics and particularly genomics have received increased government funding, both in the United States and internationally. As more information regarding cancer genomics becomes available to the public, we anticipate that more products aimed at identifying targeted treatment options will be developed and that these products may compete with ours. In addition, competitors may develop their own versions of our current or planned future assays in countries where we did not apply for patents or where our patents have not issued and compete with us in those countries, including encouraging the use of their assay by physicians or patients in other countries.
We expect to continue to incur significant expenses to develop and market cancer diagnostic assays, which could make it difficult for us to achieve and sustain profitability.
In recent years, we have incurred significant costs in connection with the development of cancer diagnostic assays. For the year ended December 31, 2014, our research and development expenses were $4.5 million and our sales and marketing expenses were $2.1 million. For the year ended December 31, 2015, our research and development expenses were $2.9 million and our sales and marketing expenses were $3.9 million. We expect our expenses to continue to increase for the foreseeable future as we conduct studies of our current assays and our planned future assays, establish a sales and marketing organization, drive adoption of and reimbursement for our diagnostic assays and develop new assays. As a result, we need to generate significant revenues in order to achieve sustained profitability.
If oncologists and other physicians decide not to order our current assays or our planned future assays, we may be unable to generate sufficient revenue to sustain our business.
To generate demand for our current assays and our planned future assays, we will need to educate oncologists, pathologists, and other health care professionals on the clinical utility, benefits and value of the assays we provide through published papers, presentations at scientific conferences, educational programs and one-on-one education sessions by members of our sales force. In addition, we need to assure oncologists and other physicians of our ability to obtain and maintain coverage and adequate from third-party payors. We need to hire additional commercial, scientific, technical and other personnel to support this process. Unless an adequate number of medical practitioners order our current assays and our planned future assays, we will likely be unable to create demand in sufficient
volume for us to achieve sustained profitability.
Clinical utility studies are important in demonstrating to both customers and payors an assay’s clinical relevance and value. If we are unable to identify collaborators willing to work with us to conduct clinical utility studies, or the results of those studies do not demonstrate that an assay provides clinically meaningful information and value, commercial adoption of such assay may be slow, which would negatively impact our business.
Clinical utility studies show when and how to use a clinical test, and describe the particular clinical situations or settings in which it can be applied and the expected results. Clinical utility studies also show the impact of the test results on patient care and management. Clinical utility studies are typically performed with collaborating oncologists or other physicians at medical centers and hospitals, analogous to a clinical trial, and generally result in peer-reviewed publications. Sales and marketing representatives use these publications to demonstrate to customers how to use a clinical test, as well as why they should use it. These publications are also used with payors to obtain coverage for an assay, helping to assure there is appropriate reimbursement.
We need to conduct additional studies for our assays, increase assay adoption in the marketplace and obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement. Should we not be able to perform these studies, or should their results not provide clinically meaningful data and value for oncologists and other physicians, adoption of our assays could be impaired and we may not be able to obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement for them.
We are undergoing management transitions.
Mark Foletta currently serves as our interim Chief Financial Officer. We intend to recruit and hire other senior executives, including a full time Chief Financial Officer. Such management transitions subject us to a number of risks, including risks pertaining to coordination of responsibilities and tasks, creation of new management systems and processes, differences in management style, effects on corporate culture, and the need for transfer of historical knowledge. In addition, our Chief Executive Officer has not previously been the chief executive officer of a public or private company, and therefore his lack of experience may result in some of his time being spent acclimating to his new position and responsibilities. A lack of significant experience in being the chief executive officer of a public company could have an adverse effect on his ability to quickly respond to problems or effectively manage issues surrounding the operation of a public company.
The loss of key members of our executive management team could adversely affect our business.
Our success in implementing our business strategy depends largely on the skills, experience and performance of key members of our executive management team and others in key management positions, including Michael W. Nall, our Chief Executive Officer and President, Lyle J. Arnold, Ph.D., our Senior Vice-President of Research & Development and Chief Scientific Officer, Veena M. Singh, M.D., our Senior Vice President and Senior Medical Director, Mark G. Foletta, our interim Chief Financial Officer, and Raaj Trivedi, Vice President, Commercial Operations. The collective efforts of each of these persons and others working with them as a team are critical to us as we continue to develop our technologies, assays and research and development and sales programs. As a result of the difficulty in locating qualified new management, the loss or incapacity of existing members of our executive management team could adversely affect our operations. If we were to lose one or more of these key employees, we could experience difficulties in finding qualified successors, competing effectively, developing our technologies and implementing our business strategy. Our Chief Executive Officer and President, interim Chief Financial Officer, Chief Scientific Officer, Vice President, Commercial Operations and Senior Medical Director have employment agreements, however, the existence of an employment agreement does not guarantee retention of members of our executive management team and we may not be able to retain those individuals for the duration of or beyond the end of their respective terms. We do not maintain
life insurance on any of our employees.
In addition, we rely on collaborators, consultants and advisors, including scientific and clinical advisors, to assist us in formulating our research and development and commercialization strategy. Our collaborators, consultants and advisors are generally employed by employers other than us and may have commitments under agreements with other entities that may limit their availability to us.
The loss of a key employee, the failure of a key employee to perform in his or her current position or our inability to attract and retain skilled employees could result in our inability to continue to grow our business or to implement our business st
There is a scarcity of experienced professionals in our industry. If we are not able to retain and recruit personnel with the requisite technical skills, we may be unable to successfully execute our business strategy.
The specialized nature of our industry results in an inherent scarcity of experienced personnel in the field. Our future success depends upon our ability to attract and retain highly skilled personnel, including scientific, technical, commercial, business, regulatory and administrative personnel, necessary to support our anticipated growth, develop our business and perform certain contractual obligations. Given the scarcity of professionals with the scientific knowledge that we require and the competition for qualified personnel among life science businesses, we may not succeed in attracting or retaining the personnel we require to continue and grow our operations.
Our failure to continue to attract, hire and retain a sufficient number of qualified sales professionals would hamper our ability to increase demand for our cancer diagnostic assays, to expand geographically and to successfully commercialize any other assays or products we may develop.
To succeed in selling our diagnostic assays and any other assays or products that we are able to develop, we must expand our sales force in the United States and/or internationally by recruiting additional sales representatives with extensive experience in oncology and established relationships with medical oncologists, surgeons, oncology nurses, pathologists and other hospital personnel. To achieve our marketing and sales goals, we will need to continue to build our sales and commercial infrastructure, with which to date we have had limited experience. Sales professionals with the necessary technical and business qualifications are in high demand, and there is a risk that we may be unable to attract, hire and retain the number of sales professionals with the right qualifications, scientific backgrounds and relationships with decision-makers at potential customers needed to achieve our sales goals. We expect to face competition from other companies in our industry, some of whom are much larger than us and who can pay greater compensation and benefits than we can, in seeking to attract and retain qualified sales and marketing employees. If we are unable to hire and retain qualified sales and marketing personnel, our business will suffer.
Our dependence on commercialization partners for sales of assays could limit our success in realizing revenue growth.
We intend to grow our business through the use of commercialization partners for the sales, marketing and commercialization of our current assays and our planned future assays, and to do so we must enter into agreements with these partners to sell, market or commercialize our assays. These agreements may contain exclusivity provisions and generally cannot be terminated without cause during the term of the agreement. We may need to attract additional partners to expand the markets in which we sell assays. These partners may not commit the necessary resources to market and sell our cancer diagnostics assays to the level of our expectations, and we may be unable to locate suitable alternatives should we terminate our agreement with such partners or if such partners terminate their agreement with us.
If current or future commercialization partners do not perform adequately, or we are unable to locate commercialization partners, we may not realize revenue growth.
We depend on third parties for the supply of blood samples and other biological materials that we use in our research and development efforts. If the costs of such samples and materials increase or our third party suppliers terminate their relationship with us, our business may be materially harmed.
We have relationships with suppliers and institutions that provide us with blood samples and other biological materials that we use in developing and validating our current assays and our planned future assays. If one or more suppliers terminate their relationship with us or are unable to meet our requirements for samples, we will need to identify other third parties to provide us with blood samples and biological materials, which could result in a delay
in our research and development activities and negatively affect our business. In addition, as we grow, our research and academic institution collaborators may seek additional financial contributions from us, which may negatively affect our results of ope
We currently rely on third-party suppliers for critical materials needed to perform our current assays and our planned future assays and any problems experienced by them could result in a delay or interruption of their supply to us.
We currently purchase raw materials for our microfluidic channels and testing reagents under purchase orders and do not have long-term contracts with most of the suppliers of these materials. If suppliers were to delay or stop producing our materials or reagents, or if the prices they charge us were to increase significantly, or if they elected not to sell to us, we would need to identify other suppliers. We could experience delays in manufacturing the microfluidic channels or performing assays while finding another acceptable supplier, which could impact our results of operations. The changes could also result in increased costs associated with qualifying the new materials or reagents and in increased operating costs. Further, any prolonged disruption in a supplier
s operations could have a significant negative impact on our ability to perform cancer diagnostic assays in a timely manner.
Some of the components used in our current or planned products are currently sole-source, and substitutes for these components might not be able to be obtained easily or may require substantial design or manufacturing modifications. Any significant problem experienced by one of our sole source suppliers may result in a delay or interruption in the supply of components to us until that supplier cures the problem or an alternative source of the component is located and qualified. Any delay or interruption would likely lead to a delay or interruption in our manufacturing operations. The inclusion of substitute components must meet our product specifications and could require us to qualify the new supplier with the appropriate government regulatory authorities.
If we were sued for product liability or professional liability, we could face substantial liabilities that exceed our resources.
The marketing, sale and use of our current assays and our planned future assays could lead to the filing of product liability claims against us if someone alleges that our assays failed to perform as designed. We may also be subject to liability for errors in the test results we provide to physicians or for a misunderstanding of, or inappropriate reliance upon, the information we provide. A product liability or professional liability claim could result in substantial damages and be costly and time-consuming for us to defend.
Although we believe that our existing product and professional liability insurance is adequate, our insurance may not fully protect us from the financial impact of defending against product liability or professional liability claims. Any product liability or professional liability claim brought against us, with or without merit, could increase our insurance rates or prevent us from securing insurance coverage in the future. Additionally, any product liability lawsuit could damage our reputation, result in the recall of assays, or cause current partners to terminate existing agreements and potential partners to seek other partners, any of which could impact our results of operations.
If we use biological and hazardous materials in a manner that causes injury, we could be liable for damages.
Our activities currently require the controlled use of potentially harmful biological materials and chemicals. We cannot eliminate the risk of accidental contamination or injury to employees or third parties from the use, storage, handling or disposal of these materials. In the event of contamination or injury, we could be held liable for any resulting damages, and any liability could exceed our resources or any applicable insurance coverage we may have. Additionally, we are subject to, on an ongoing basis, federal, state and local laws and regulations governing the use, storage, handling and disposal of these materials and specified waste products. The cost of compliance with these laws and regulations may become significant and could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. In the event of an accident or if we otherwise fail to comply with applicable regulations, we could lose our permits or approvals or be held liable for damages or penalized with fines.
We may acquire other businesses or form joint ventures or make investments in other companies or
technologies that could harm our operating results, dilute our stockholders’ ownership, increase our debt or cause us to incur significant expense.
As part of our business strategy, we may pursue acquisitions of businesses and assets. We also may pursue strategic alliances and joint ventures that leverage our core technology and industry experience to expand our offerings or distribution. We have no experience with acquiring other companies and limited experience with forming strategic alliances and joint ventures. We may not be able to find suitable partners or acquisition candidates, and we may not be able to complete such transactions on favorable terms, if at all. If we make any acquisitions, we may not be able to integrate these acquisitions successfully into our existing business, and we could assume unknown or contingent liabilities. Any future acquisitions also could result in significant write-offs or the incurrence of debt and contingent liabilities, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Integration of an acquired company also may disrupt ongoing operations and require management resources that would otherwise focus on developing our existing business. We may experience losses related to investments in other companies, which could have a material negative effect on our results of operations. We may not identify or complete these transactions in a timely manner, on a cost-effective basis, or at all, and we may not realize the anticipated benefits of any acquisition, technology license, strategic alliance or joint venture.
To finance any acquisitions or joint ventures, we may choose to issue shares of our common stock as consideration, which would dilute the ownership of our stockholders. If the price of our common stock is low or volatile, we may not be able to acquire other companies or fund a joint venture project using our stock as consideration. Alternatively, it may be necessary for us to raise additional funds for acquisitions through public or private financings. Additional funds may not be available on terms that are favorable to us, or at all.
If we cannot support demand for our current assays and our planned future assays, including successfully managing the evolution of our technology and manufacturing platforms, our business could suffer.
As our assay volume grows, we will need to increase our testing capacity, implement automation, increase our scale and related processing, customer service, billing, collection and systems process improvements and expand our internal quality assurance program and technology to support testing on a larger scale. We will also need additional clinical laboratory scientists and other scientific and technical personnel to process these additional assays. Any increases in scale, related improvements and quality assurance may not be successfully implemented and appropriate personnel may not be available. As additional assays are commercialized, we may need to bring new equipment on line, implement new systems, technology, controls and procedures and hire personnel with different qualifications. Failure to implement necessary procedures or to hire the necessary personnel could result in a higher cost of processing or an inability to meet market demand. We cannot assure you that we will be able to perform assays on a timely basis at a level consistent with demand, that our efforts to scale our commercial operations will not negatively affect the quality of our test results or that we will respond successfully to the growing complexity of our testing operations. If we encounter difficulty meeting market demand or quality standards for our current assays and our planned assays, our reputation could be harmed and our future prospects and business could suffer, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
We may encounter manufacturing problems or delays that could result in lost revenue.
We currently manufacture our proprietary microfluidic channels at our San Diego facility and intend to continue to do so. We believe we currently have adequate manufacturing capacity for our microfluidic channels. If demand for our current assays and our planned future assays increases significantly, we will need to either expand our manufacturing capabilities or outsource to other manufacturers. If we or third party manufacturers engaged by us fail to manufacture and deliver our microfluidic channels or certain reagents in a timely manner, our relationships with our customers could be seriously harmed. We cannot assure you that manufacturing or quality control problems will not arise as we attempt to increase the production of our microfluidic channels or reagents or that we can increase our manufacturing capabilities and maintain quality control in a timely manner or at commercially reasonable costs. If we cannot manufacture our microfluidic channels consistently on a timely basis because of these or other factors, it could have a significant negative impact on our ability to perform assays and generate revenues.
International expansion of our business would expose us to business, regulatory, politica
l, operational, financial and economic risks associated with doing business outside of the United States.
Our business strategy contemplates possible international expansion, including partnering with academic and commercial testing laboratories, and introducing our technology outside the United States as part of CE-marked IVD test kits and/or testing systems utilizing our technologies. Doing business internationally involves a number of risks, including:
multiple, conflicting and changing laws and regulations such as tax laws, export and import restrictions, employment laws, regulatory requirements and other governmental approvals, permits and licenses;
failure by us or our distributors to obtain regulatory approvals for the sale or use of our current assays and our planned future assays in various countries;
difficulties in managing foreign operations;
complexities associated with managing government payor systems, multiple payor-reimbursement regimes or self-pay systems;
logistics and regulations associated with shipping blood samples, including infrastructure conditions and transportation delays;
limits on our ability to penetrate international markets if our current assays and our planned future assays cannot be processed by an appropriately qualified local laboratory;
financial risks, such as longer payment cycles, difficulty enforcing contracts and collecting accounts receivable and exposure to foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations;
reduced protection for intellectual property rights, or lack of them in certain jurisdictions, forcing more reliance on our trade secrets, if available;
natural disasters, political and economic instability, including wars, terrorism and political unrest, outbreak of disease, boycotts, curtailment of trade and other business restrictions;
failure to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, including its books and records provisions and its anti-bribery provisions, by maintaining accurate information and control over sales activities and distributors
Any of these risks, if encountered, could significantly harm our future international expansion and operations and, consequently, have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
General economic or business conditions may have a negative impact on our business.
Continuing concerns over United States health care reform legislation and energy costs, geopolitical issues, the availability and cost of credit and government stimulus programs in the United States and other countries have contributed to increased volatility and diminished expectations for the global economy. These factors, combined with low business and consumer confidence and high unemployment, precipitated an economic slowdown and recession. If the economic climate does not improve, or it deteriorates, our business, including our access to patient samples and the addressable market for diagnostic assays that we may successfully develop, as well as the financial condition of our suppliers and our third-party payors, could be adversely affected, resulting in a negative impact on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Intrusions into our computer systems could result in compromise of confidential information.
Despite the implementation of security measures, our technology or systems that we interface with, including the Internet and related systems, may be vulnerable to physical break-ins, hackers, improper employee or contractor access, computer viruses, programming errors, or similar problems. Any of these might result in confidential medical, business or other information of other persons or of ourselves being revealed to unauthorized persons.
There are a number of state, federal and international laws protecting the privacy and security of health information and personal data. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, or ARRA, Congress amended the privacy and security provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. HIPAA imposes limitations on the use and disclosure of an individual
s healthcare information by healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses, and health insurance plans, collectively referred to as covered entities, and also grants individuals rights with respect to their health information. HIPAA also imposes compliance obligations and corresponding penalties for non-compliance on individuals and entities that provide services to healthcare providers and other covered entities, collectively referred to as business associates. ARRA also made significant increases in the penalties for improper use or disclosure of an individual
s health information under HIPAA and extended enforcement authority to state attorneys general. As amended by ARRA and subsequently by the final omnibus rule adopted in 2013, or Final Omnibus Rule, HIPAA also imposes notification requirements on covered entities in the event that certain health information has been inappropriately accessed or disclosed: notification requirements to individuals, federal regulators, and in some cases, notification to local and national media. Notification is not required under HIPAA if the health information that is improperly used or disclosed is deemed secured in accordance with encryption or other standards developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS. Most states have laws requiring notification of affected individuals and/or state regulators in the event of a breach of personal information, which is a broader class of information than the health information protected by HIPAA. Many state laws impose significant data security requirements, such as encryption or mandatory contractual terms to ensure ongoing protection of personal information. Activities outside of the United States implicate local and national data protection standards, impose additional compliance requirements and generate additional risks of enforcement for non-compliance. We may be required to expend significant capital and other resources to ensure ongoing compliance with applicable privacy and data security laws, to protect against security breaches and hackers or to alleviate problems caused by such breaches.
We depend on our information technology and telecommunications systems, and any failure of these systems could harm our business.
We depend on information technology and telecommunications systems for significant aspects of our operations. In addition, our third-party billing and collections provider depends upon telecommunications and data systems provided by outside vendors and information we provide on a regular basis. These information technology and telecommunications systems support a variety of functions, including test processing, sample tracking, quality control, customer service and support, billing and reimbursement, research and development activities and our general and administrative activities. Information technology and telecommunications systems are vulnerable to damage from a variety of sources, including telecommunications or network failures, malicious human acts and natural disasters. Moreover, despite network security and back-up measures, some of our servers are potentially vulnerable to physical or electronic break-ins, computer viruses and similar disruptive problems. Despite the precautionary measures we have taken to prevent unanticipated problems that could affect our information technology and telecommunications systems, failures or significant downtime of our information technology or telecommunications systems or those used by our third-party service providers could prevent us from processing assays, providing test results to oncologists, pathologists, billing payors, processing reimbursement appeals, handling patient or physician inquiries, conducting research and development activities and managing the administrative aspects of our business. Any disruption or loss of information technology or telecommunications systems on which critical aspects of our operations depend could have an adverse effect on our business.
Regulatory Risks Relating to Our Business
Healthcare policy changes, including recently enacted legislation reforming the U.S. health care system, may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, as amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, or collectively the ACA, enacted in March 2010, makes a number of substantial changes in the way health care is financed by both governmental and private insurers. Among other things, the ACA:
Mandates a reduction in payments for clinical laboratory services paid under the Medicare Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule, or CLFS, annual Consumer Price Index update of 1.75% for the years 2011 through 2015. In addition, a multifactor productivity adjustment is made to the fee schedule payment amount, which could
further reduce payment rates. These changes in payments may apply to some or all of the tests we furnish to Medicare beneficiaries.
Establishes an Independent Payment Advisory Board to reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending if spending exceeds a target growth rate. The Independent Payment Advisory Board has broad discretion to propose policies, which may have a negative impact on payment rates for services, including clinical laboratory services, beginning in 2016, and for hospital services beginning in 2020.
Requires each medical device manufacturer to pay an excise tax equal to 2.3% of the price for which such manufacturer sells its medical devices that are listed with the FDA. We believe that at this time this tax does not apply to our current cancer diagnostic test or to our products that are in development; nevertheless, this could change in the future if either the FDA or the Internal Revenue Service, which regulates the payment of this excise tax, changes its position.
Although some of these provisions may negatively impact payment rates for clinical laboratory tests, the ACA also extends coverage to over 30 million previously uninsured people, which may result in an increase in the demand for our current assays and our planned future assays. The mandatory purchase of insurance has been strenuously opposed by a number of state governors, resulting in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of certain provisions of the ACA. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the ACA, with the exception of certain provisions dealing with the expansion of Medicaid coverage under the law.
In addition, other legislative changes have been proposed and adopted since the ACA was enacted. The Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014, or PAMA, was signed to law, which, among other things, significantly alters the current payment methodology under the CLFS. Under the new law, starting January 1, 2016 and every three years thereafter (or annually in the case of advanced diagnostic lab tests), clinical laboratories must report laboratory test payment data for each Medicare-covered clinical diagnostic lab test that it furnishes during a time period to be defined by future regulations. The reported data must include the payment rate (reflecting all discounts, rebates, coupons and other price concessions) and the volume of each test that was paid by each private payor (including health insurance issuers, group health plans, Medicare Advantage plans and Medicaid managed care organizations). Beginning in 2017, the Medicare payment rate for each clinical diagnostic lab test will be equal to the weighted median amount for the test from the most recent data collection period. The payment rate will apply to laboratory tests furnished by a hospital laboratory if the test is separately paid under the hospital outpatient prospective payment system. Although the PAMA changes are generally viewed by industry as a favorable alternative to other proposals to update the CLFS payment methodology, it is too early to predict the impact on reimbursement for our products. Also under PAMA, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, is required to adopt temporary billing codes to identify new tests and new advanced diagnostic laboratory tests that have been cleared or approved by the FDA. For an existing test that is cleared or approved by the FDA and for which Medicare payment is made as of April 1, 2014, CMS is required to assign a unique billing code if one has not already been assigned by the agency. In addition to assigning the code, CMS was required to publicly report payment for the tests no later than January 1, 2016. Also under PAMA, CMS is required to adopt temporary billing codes to identify new tests and new advanced diagnostic laboratory tests that have been cleared or approved by the FDA. We cannot determine at this time the full impact of PAMA on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Additionally, the Budget Control Act of 2011, among other things, created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to recommend proposals in spending reductions to Congress. The Joint Select Committee did not achieve its targeted deficit reduction of at least $1.2 trillion for the years 2013 through 2021, triggering the legislation
s automatic reduction to several government programs. This includes aggregate reductions to Medicare payments to providers and suppliers of up to 2% per fiscal year, starting in 2013, and will remain in effect through 2024 unless additional congressional action is taken. The full impact on our business of the ACA and the sequester law is uncertain. In addition, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, or MCTRJCA, mandated an additional change in Medicare reimbursement for clinical laboratory tests.
Some of our laboratory test business is subject to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and, under the current statutory formula, the rates for these services are updated annually. For the past several years, the application of the statutory formula would have resulted in substantial payment reductions if Congress failed to intervene. In the past, Congress passed interim legislation to prevent the decreases. A recent legislative intervention was passed with PAMA, which provided for a 0.5% update from 2013 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule payment rates through 2014
and a 0% update from January 1 until April 1, 2015. If Congress fails to intervene to prevent the nega
tive update factor in future years, the resulting decrease in payment may adversely affect our revenue and results of operations. If in future years Congress does not adopt interim legislation to block or offset, and/or CMS does not moderate, any substanti
al CMS-proposed reimbursement reductions, the resulting decrease in payments from Medicare could adversely impact our revenues and results of operations.
We cannot predict whether future health care initiatives will be implemented at the federal or state level, or how any future legislation or regulation may affect us. The expansion of government
s role in the U.S. health care industry as a result of the ACA
s implementation, and changes to the reimbursement amounts paid by Medicare and other payors for our current assays and our planned future assays, may reduce our profits, if any, and have a materially adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. Moreover, Congress has proposed on several occasions to impose a 20% coinsurance payment requirement on patients for clinical laboratory tests reimbursed under the Medicare Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule, which would require us to bill patients for these amounts. In the event that Congress were to ever enact such legislation, the cost of billing and collecting for our assays could often exceed the amount actually received from the patient.
Our commercial success could be compromised if hospitals or other clients do not pay our invoices or if third-party payors, including managed care organizations and Medicare, do not provide coverage and reimbursement, breach, rescind or modify their contracts or reimbursement policies or delay payments for our current assays and our planned future assays.
Oncologists and other physicians may not order our current assays and our planned future assays unless third-party payors, such as managed care organizations and government payors (e.g., Medicare and Medicaid), pay a substantial portion of the test price. Coverage and reimbursement by a third-party payor may depend on a number of factors, including a payor
s determination that tests using our technologies are:
not experimental or investigational;
appropriate for the specific patient;
supported by peer-reviewed publications; and
included in clinical practice guidelines.
Uncertainty surrounds third-party payor coverage and adequate reimbursement of any test incorporating new technology, including tests developed using our technologies. Technology assessments of new medical tests conducted by research centers and other entities may be disseminated to interested parties for informational purposes. Third-party payors and health care providers may use such technology assessments as grounds to deny coverage for a test or procedure. Technology assessments can include evaluation of clinical utility studies, which define how a test is used in a particular clinical setting or situation.
Because each payor generally determines for its own enrollees or insured patients whether to cover or otherwise establish a policy to reimburse our cancer diagnostic assays, seeking payor approvals is a time-consuming and costly process. We cannot be certain that coverage for our current assays and our planned future assays will be provided in the future by additional third-party payors or that existing agreements, policy decisions or reimbursement levels will remain in place or be fulfilled under existing terms and provisions. If we cannot obtain coverage and adequate reimbursement from private and governmental payors such as Medicare and Medicaid for our current assays, or new assays or assay enhancements that we may develop in the future, our ability to generate revenues could be limited, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flow. Further, we may experience delays and interruptions in the receipt of payments from third-party payors due to missing documentation and/or other issues, which could cause delay in collecting our revenue.
In addition, to the extent that our testing is ordered for Medicare inpatients and outpatients, only the hospital may receive payment from the Medicare program for the technical component of pathology services and any clinical
laboratory services that we perform, unless the testing is ordered at least 14 days after discharge and certain other requiremen
ts are met. We therefore must look to the hospital for payment for these services under these circumstances. If hospitals refuse to pay for the services or fail to pay in a timely manner, our ability to generate revenues could be limited, which may have a
We expect to depend on Medicare and a limited number of private payors for a significant portion of our revenues and if these or other payors stop providing reimbursement or decrease the amount of reimbursement for our current assays and our planned future assays, our revenues could decline.
For commercial accessions received from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015, the expected price to be collected at 2015 Medicare schedule rates ranged from approximately $179 to $2,265 per accession, and the weighted-average expected price to be collected is approximately $759 per accession, although such reimbursement experience has not yet been achieved. Relatively higher reimbursement rates are expected to be achieved for cases billed to private payors. Approximately 48% of commercial accessions billed from January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015 were subject to Medicare reimbursement, and approximately 47% and 42% of commercial revenues and total revenues, respectively, during the twelve months ended December 31, 2015 were associated with Medicare. We were not reimbursed at these average rates in 2015 for a variety of reasons, including billing challenges related to changes in Medicare CPT codes for our FISH assays in early 2015 and because we were setting up our internal processes and managing an external
billing company. We cannot assure you that, even if our current assays and our planned future assays are otherwise successful, reimbursement for the currently Medicare-covered portions of our current assays and our planned future assays would, without Medicare reimbursement for the capture/enumeration portion, produce sufficient revenues to enable us to reach profitability and achieve our other commercial objectives.
Medicare and other third-party payors may change their coverage policies or cancel future contracts with us at any time, review and adjust the rate of reimbursement or stop paying for our assays altogether, which would reduce our total revenues. Payors have increased their efforts to control the cost, utilization and delivery of health care services. In the past, measures have been undertaken to reduce payment rates for and decrease utilization of the clinical laboratory testing generally. Because of the cost-trimming trends, third-party payors that currently cover and provide reimbursement for our current assays and our planned future assays may suspend, revoke or discontinue coverage at any time, or may reduce the reimbursement rates payable to us. Any such action could have a negative impact on our revenues, which may have a material adverse effect on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
In addition, we are currently considered a
by the majority of private payors because we have not entered into a specific contract to provide cancer diagnostic assays to their insured patients at specified rates of reimbursement. A significant amount of our non-Medicare business (private payors) for a good portion of 2015 was not contracted and reimbursement for this business was not at
rates and can be inconsistent. We did begin to contract private payor networks in 2015 and our number of accessions treated as
increased and reimbursement is improving. We are currently contracted with six Preferred Provider Organization networks and one large health plan and expect to continue to gain contracts in order to be considered as an
provider with additional plans. If we were to become a contracted provider with additional payors in the future, the amount of overall reimbursement we receive would likely decrease because we could be reimbursed less money per assay performed at a contracted rate than at a non-contracted rate, which could have a negative impact on our revenues. Further, we typically are unable to collect payments from patients beyond that which is paid by their insurance and will continue to experience lost revenue as a result.
Because of certain Medicare billing policies, we may not receive complete reimbursement for assays provided to Medicare patients. Medicare reimbursement revenues are an important component of our business model, and private payors sometimes look to Medicare determinations when making their own payment determinations; therefore, incomplete or inadequate reimbursement from Medicare would negatively affect our business.
Medicare has coverage policies that can be national or regional in scope. Coverage means that assay is approved as a benefit for Medicare beneficiaries. If there is no coverage, neither the supplier nor any other party, such as a
reference laboratory, may receive reimbursement from Medica
re for the service. There is currently no national coverage policy regarding the CTC enumeration portion of our testing. Because our laboratory is in California, the regional Medicare Administrative Contractor, or MAC, for California is the relevant MAC fo
r all our testing. The previous MAC for California, Palmetto GBA, LLC, adopted a negative coverage policy for CTC enumeration. The current MAC for California, Noridian Healthcare Solutions, LLC, is adopting the coverage policies from Palmetto GBA. Therefor
e, the enumeration portion of our testing is not currently covered and we will receive no payment from Medicare for this portion of the service unless and until the coverage policy is changed. Although approximately 75% of commercial cases received in 2015
relate to our Target-Selector biomarker assays, we continue to receive orders for traditional enumeration testing, which counts disease burden, and therefore the enumeration testing receives no payment from Medicare based upon the existing coverage decisi
on. On November 4, 2013, we submitted a comprehensive dossier explaining to Palmetto GBA and Noridian the benefits of the enumeration testing in order to seek to persuade the MACs to allow coverage for this portion of our testing. Palmetto GBA responded on
November 27, 2013, denying our request for Medicare coverage for the CTC enumeration portion of our testing. We have not received any other indications to suggest that the negative coverage determination will be reversed. We have not received any other in
dications to suggest that the negative coverage determination will be reversed. The CTC enumeration counts disease burden and is a prognostic test, and although valuable, it does not meet many of the medical necessity requirements of Medicare and the payor
s. We intend to pursue payment for the capture portion of our CTC technology that allows us to run our diagnostic testing for some of our Target-Selector assays.
The processing of Medicare claims is subject to change at CMS
discretion at any time. Cost containment initiatives may be a threat to Medicare reimbursement levels (including for the covered components of our current assays and our planned assays, including FISH analysis and molecular testing) for the foreseeable future.
Long payment cycles of Medicare, Medicaid and/or other third-party payors, or other payment delays, could hurt our cash flows and increase our need for working capital.
Medicare and Medicaid have complex billing and documentation requirements that we must satisfy in order to receive payment, and the programs can be expected to carefully audit and monitor our compliance with these requirements. We must also comply with numerous other laws applicable to billing and payment for healthcare services, including, for example, privacy laws. Failure to comply with these requirements may result in, among other things, non-payment, refunds, exclusion from government healthcare programs, and civil or criminal liabilities, any of which may have a material adverse effect on our revenues and earnings. In addition, failure by third-party payors to properly process our payment claims in a timely manner could delay our receipt of payment for our products and services, which may have a material adverse effect on our cash flows.
Complying with numerous regulations pertaining to our business is an expensive and time-consuming process, and any failure to comply could result in substantial penalties.
We are subject to CLIA, a federal law regulating clinical laboratories that perform testing on specimens derived from humans for the purpose of providing information for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of disease. Our clinical laboratory must be certified under CLIA in order for us to perform testing on human specimens. CLIA is intended to ensure the quality and reliability of clinical laboratories in the United States by mandating specific standards in the areas of personnel qualifications, administration, and participation in proficiency testing, patient test management, quality control, quality assurance and inspections. We have a current certificate of accreditation under CLIA to perform high complexity testing, and our laboratory is accredited by the College of American Pathologists, or CAP, one of six CLIA-approved accreditation organizations. To renew this certificate, we are subject to survey and inspection every two years. Moreover, CLIA inspectors may make periodic inspections of our clinical laboratory outside of the renewal process. The failure to comply with CLIA requirements can result in enforcement actions, including the revocation, suspension, or limitation of our CLIA certificate of accreditation, as well as a
directed plan of correction, state on-site monitoring, civil money penalties, civil injunctive suit and/or criminal penalties. We must maintain CLIA compliance and certification to be el
igible to bill for tests provided to Medicare beneficiaries. If we were to be found out of compliance with CLIA program requirements and subjected to sanctions, our business and reputation could be harmed. Even if it were possible for us to bring our labor
atory back into compliance, we could incur significant expenses and potentially lose revenue in doing so.
In addition, our laboratory is located in California and is required by state law to have a California state license; as we expand our geographic focus, we may need to obtain laboratory licenses from additional states. California laws establish standards for operation of our clinical laboratory, including the training and skills required of personnel and quality control. In addition, we hold licenses from the states of Pennsylvania, Florida, Maryland and Rhode Island to test specimens from patients in those states or received from ordering physicians in those states. In addition, our clinical reference laboratory is required to be licensed on a product-specific basis by New York as an out of state laboratory and our products, as laboratory developed tests, must be approved by the New York State Department of Health before they are offered in New York. As part of this process, the State of New York requires validation of our tests. We currently do not have the necessary New York license, but we are in the process of addressing the requirements for licensure in New York. Other states may have similar requirements or may adopt similar requirements in the future. Finally, we may be subject to regulation in foreign jurisdictions if we seek to expand international distribution of our tests outside the United States.
If we were to lose our CLIA certification or California laboratory license, whether as a result of a revocation, suspension or limitation, we would no longer be able to offer our tests, which would limit our revenues and harm our business. If we were to lose, or fail to obtain, a license in any other state where we are required to hold a license, we would not be able to test specimens from those states.
If the FDA were to begin requiring approval or clearance of our current assays and our planned future assays, we could incur substantial costs and time delays associated with meeting requirements for pre-market clearance or approval or we could experience decreased demand for, or reimbursement of, our assays.
We provide our assays as LDTs. Historically; the FDA has exercised enforcement discretion with respect to most LDTs and has not required laboratories that offer LDTs to comply with the agency
s requirements for medical devices (e.g., establishment registration, device listing, quality systems regulations, premarket clearance or premarket approval, and post-market controls). In recent years, however, the FDA has stated it intends to end its policy of enforcement discretion and regulate certain LDTs as medical devices. To this end, on October 3, 2014, the FDA issued two draft guidance documents, entitled
Framework for Regulatory Oversight of Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs)
FDA Notification and Medical Device Reporting for Laboratory Developed Tests (LDTs)
, respectively, that set forth a proposed risk-based regulatory framework that would apply varying levels of FDA oversight to LDTs. The FDA has indicated that it does not intend to modify its policy of enforcement discretion until the draft guidance documents are finalized. It is unclear at this time when, or if, the draft guidance documents will be finalized, and even then, the new regulatory requirements are proposed to be phased-in consistent with the schedule set forth in the guidance (in as little as 12 months after the draft guidance is finalized for certain high-priority LDTs). Nevertheless, the FDA may decide to regulate certain LDTs on a case-by-case basis at any time. LDTs with the same intended use as a cleared or approved companion diagnostic are defined in FDA
s draft guidance as
high-risk LDTs (Class III medical devices)
for which premarket review would be first to occur.
The container we provide for collection and transport of blood samples from a health care provider to our clinical laboratory may be a medical device subject to the FDA regulation but is currently exempt from pre-market review by the FDA. While we believe that we are currently in material compliance with applicable laws and regulations, we cannot assure you that the FDA or other regulatory agencies would agree with our determination, and a determination that we have violated these laws, or a public announcement that we are being investigated for possible violations of these laws, could adversely affect our business, prospects, results of operations or financial condition.
In addition, HHS requested that its Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health and Society make recommendations about the oversight of genetic testing. A final report was published in April 2008. If the report
s recommendations for increased oversight of genetic testing were to result in further regulatory burdens, they could negatively affect our business and delay the commercialization of assays in development.
The requirement of pre-market review could negatively affect our business until such review is completed and clearance to market or approval
is obtained. The FDA could require that we stop selling our cancer diagnostic assays pending pre-market clearance or approval. If the FDA allows our assays to remain on the market but there is uncertainty about our assays, if they are labeled investigation
al by the FDA or if labeling claims the FDA allows us to make are very limited, orders from physicians or reimbursement may decline. The regulatory approval process may involve, among other things, successfully completing additional clinical trials and mak
ing a 510(k) submission, or filing a pre-market approval application with the FDA. If the FDA requires pre-market review, our assays may not be cleared or approved on a timely basis, if at all. We may also decide voluntarily to pursue FDA pre-market review
of our assays if we determine that doing so would be appropriate.
Additionally, should future regulatory actions affect any of the reagents we obtain from suppliers and use in conducting our assays, our business could be adversely affected in the form of increased costs of testing or delays, limits or prohibitions on the purchase of reagents necessary to perform our testing.
If we were required to conduct additional clinical studies or trials before continuing to offer assays that we have developed or may develop as LDTs, those studies or trials could lead to delays or failure to obtain necessary regulatory approval, which could cause significant delays in commercializing any future products and harm our ability to achieve sustained profitability.
We may find it necessary to engage contract research organizations to perform data collection and analysis and other aspects of our clinical trials, which might increase the cost and complexity of our trials. We may also depend on clinical investigators, medical institutions and contract research organizations to perform the trials properly. If these parties do not successfully carry out their contractual duties or obligations or meet expected deadlines, or if the quality, completeness or accuracy of the clinical data they obtain is compromised due to the failure to adhere to our clinical protocols or for other reasons, our clinical trials may have to be extended, delayed or terminated. Many of these factors would be beyond our control. We may not be able to enter into replacement arrangements without undue delays or considerable expenditures. If there are delays in testing or approvals as a result of the failure to perform by third parties, our research and development costs would increase, and we may not be able to obtain regulatory clearance or approval for our current assays and our planned future assays. In addition, we may not be able to establish or maintain relationships with these parties on favorable terms, if at all. Each of these outcomes would harm our ability to market our assays or to achieve sustained profitability.
We are subject to federal and state healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations and could face substantial penalties if we are unable to fully comply with such laws.
We are subject to health care fraud and abuse regulation and enforcement by both the federal government and the states in which we conduct our business. These health care laws and regulations include, for example:
the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits, among other things, persons or entities from soliciting, receiving, offering or providing remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, in return for or to induce either the referral of an individual for, or the purchase, lease, order or recommendation of, any good, facility, item or services for which payment may be made under a federal health care program such as the Medicare and Medicaid programs;
the federal physician self-referral prohibition, commonly known as the Stark Law, which prohibits physicians from referring Medicare or Medicaid patients to providers of
designated health services
with whom the physician or a member of the physician
s immediate family has an ownership interest or compensation arrangement, unless a statutory or regulatory exception applies;
HIPAA, which established federal crimes for, among other things, knowingly and willfully executing a scheme to defraud any health care benefit program or making false statements in connection with the delivery of or payment for health care benefits, items or services;
HIPAA, as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, or HITECH, and its implementing regulations, which imposes certain requirements relating to the privacy, security and transmission of individually identifiable health information;
federal false claims and civil monetary penalties laws, which, prohibit, among other things, individuals or entities from knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, false or fraudulent claims for payment to the federal government;
The federal Physician Payment Sunshine Act requirements under the ACA, which require certain manufacturers of drugs, devices, biologics and medical supplies to report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services information related to payments and other transfers of value made to or at the request of covered recipients, such as physicians and teaching hospitals, and certain physician ownership and investment interests in such manufacturers; and
state law equivalents of each of the above federal laws, such as anti-kickback and false claims laws, which may apply to items or services reimbursed by any third-party payor, including commercial insurers.
Further, the ACA, among other things, amends the intent requirement of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute and certain criminal health care fraud statutes. Where the intent requirement has been lowered, a person or entity no longer needs to have actual knowledge of this statute or specific intent to violate it. In addition, the government may now assert that a claim including items or services resulting from a violation of the federal Anti-Kickback Statute constitutes a false or fraudulent claim for purposes of the false claims statutes. Any action brought against us for violation of these laws or regulations, even if we successfully defend against it, could cause us to incur significant legal expenses and divert our management
s attention from the operation of our business. If our operations are found to be in violation of any of these laws and regulations, we may be subject to any applicable penalty associated with the violation, including, among others, administrative, civil and criminal penalties, damages and fines, and/or exclusion from participation in Medicare, Medicaid programs, including the California Medical Assistance Program (Medi-Cal-the California Medicaid program) or other state or federal health care programs. Additionally, we could be required to refund payments received by us, and we could be required to curtail or cease our operations. Any of the foregoing consequences could seriously harm our business and our financial results.
We may be required to comply with laws governing the transmission, security and privacy of health information that require significant compliance costs, and any failure to comply with these laws could result in material criminal and civil penalties.
Under the administrative simplification provisions of HIPAA, HHS has issued regulations which establish uniform standards governing the conduct of certain electronic health care transactions and protecting the privacy and security of Protected Health Information used or disclosed by health care providers and other covered entities.
The privacy regulations regulate the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information by covered entities engaging in certain electronic transactions or
They also set
forth certain rights that an individual has with respect to his or her Protected Health Information maintained by a covered entity, including the right to access or amend certain records containing Protected Health Information or to request restrictions on
the use or disclosure of Protected Health Information. The HIPAA security regulations establish administrative, physical and technical standards for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity and availability of Protected Health Information in electronic
form. These standards apply to covered entities and also to
or third parties providing services to covered entities involving the use or disclosure of Protected Health Information. The HIPAA privacy and security regulations establish
a uniform federal
and do not supersede state laws that are more stringent or provide individuals with greater rights with respect to the privacy or security of, and access to, their records containing Protected Health Information. As a result, we m
ay be required to comply with both HIPAA privacy regulations and varying state privacy and security laws.
Moreover, HITECH, enacted as part of ARRA, among other things, established certain health information security breach notification requirements, which were later further modified by the Final Omnibus Rule. In the event of a breach of unsecured Protected Health Information, a covered entity must notify each individual whose Protected Health Information is breached, federal regulators and in some cases, must publicize the breach in local or national media. Breaches affecting 500 individuals or more may be publicized by federal regulators who publicly identify the breaching entity, the circumstances of the breach and the number of individuals affected.
These laws contain significant fines and other penalties for wrongful use or disclosure of Protected Health Information. Given the complexity of HIPAA and HITECH and their overlap with state privacy and security laws, and the fact that these laws are rapidly evolving and are subject to changing and potentially conflicting interpretation, our ability to comply with the HIPAA, HITECH and state privacy requirements is uncertain and the costs of compliance are significant. Adding to the complexity is that our operations are evolving and the requirements of these laws will apply differently depending on such things as whether or not we bill electronically for our services. The costs of complying with any changes to the HIPAA, HITECH and state privacy restrictions may have a negative impact on our operations. Noncompliance could subject us to criminal penalties, civil sanctions and significant monetary penalties as well as reputational damage.
Clinical research is heavily regulated and failure to comply with human subject protection regulations may disrupt our research program leading to significant expense, regulatory enforcement, private lawsuits and reputational damage.
Clinical research is subject to federal, state and, for studies conducted outside of the United States, international regulation. At the federal level, the FDA imposes regulations for the protection of human subjects and requirements such as initial and ongoing institutional review board review; informed consent requirements, adverse event reporting and other protections to minimize the risk and maximize the benefit to research participants. Many states impose human subject protection laws that mirror or in some cases exceed federal requirements. HIPAA also regulates the use and disclosure of Protected Health Information in connection with research activities. Research conducted overseas is subject to a variety of national protections such as mandatory ethics committee review, as well as laws regulating the use, disclosure and cross-border transfer of personal data. The costs of compliance with these laws may be significant and compliance with regulatory requirements may result in delay. Noncompliance may disrupt our research and result in data that is unacceptable to regulatory authorities, data lock or other sanctions that may significantly disrupt our operations.
Violation of a state’s prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine could result in a material adverse effect on our business.
A number of states, including California, do not allow business corporations to employ physicians to provide professional services. This prohibition against the
is aimed at preventing corporations such as us from exercising control over the medical judgments or decisions of physicians. The state licensure statutes and regulations and agency and court decisions that enumerate the specific corporate practice rules vary considerably from state to state and are enforced by both the courts and regulatory authorities, each with broad discretion. If regulatory authorities or other parties in any jurisdiction successfully assert that we are engaged in the
unauthorized corporate practice of medicine, we could be required to restructure ou
r contractual and other arrangements. In addition, violation of these laws may result in sanctions imposed against us and/or the professional through licensure proceedings, and we could be subject to civil and criminal penalties that could result in exclus
ion from state and federal health care programs.
Intellectual Property Risks Related to Our Business
If we are unable to obtain and maintain effective patent rights for our products or services, we may not be able to compete effectively in our markets.
We rely upon a combination of patents, trade secret protection, and confidentiality agreements to protect the intellectual property related to our technologies, products and services. Our success depends in large part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection in the United States and in other countries with respect to our proprietary technology and products.
We have sought to protect our proprietary position by filing patent applications in the United States and abroad related to our novel technologies and products that are important to our business. This 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. 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.
The patent position of diagnostic companies generally is highly uncertain and involves complex legal and factual questions for which legal principles remain unsolved. The patent applications that we own or in-license may fail to result in issued patents with claims that cover our products or services in the United States or in other foreign countries. There is no assurance that all potentially relevant prior art relating to our patents and patent applications has been found, which can invalidate a patent or prevent a patent from issuing from a pending patent application. Even if patents do successfully issue, and even if such patents cover our products and services, third parties may challenge their validity, enforceability, or scope, which may result in such patents being narrowed, found unenforceable or invalidated. Furthermore, even if they are unchallenged, our patents and patent applications may not adequately protect our intellectual property, provide exclusivity for our products and services, or prevent others from designing around our claims. Any of these outcomes could impair our ability to prevent competition from third parties, which may have an adverse impact on our business.
We, independently or together with our licensors, have filed several patent applications covering various aspects of our products and services. We cannot offer any assurances about which, if any, patents will issue, the breadth of any such patent or whether any issued patents will be found invalid and unenforceable or will be threatened by third parties. Any successful opposition to these patents or any other patents owned by or licensed to us after patent issuance could deprive us of rights necessary for the successful commercialization of any products and services that we may offer. Further, if we encounter delays in regulatory approvals, the period of time during which we could market a product or service under patent protection could be reduced.
Patent policy and rule changes could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents.
Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of the patent laws in the United States and other countries may diminish the value of our patents or narrow the scope of our patent protection. The laws of foreign countries may not protect our rights to the same extent as the laws of the United States. Publications of discoveries in the scientific literature often lag behind the actual discoveries, and patent applications in the United States and other jurisdictions are typically not published until 18 months after filing, or in some cases not at all. We therefore cannot be certain that we or our licensors were the first to make the invention claimed in our owned and licensed patents or pending applications, or that we or our licensor were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions. Assuming the other requirements for patentability are met, in the United States prior to March 15, 2013, the first to make the claimed invention is entitled to the patent, while outside the United States, the first to file a patent application is entitled to the patent. After March 15, 2013, under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, or the Leahy-Smith Act, enacted on September 16, 2011, the United States has moved to a first to file system. The Leahy-Smith Act also
includes a number of significant changes that affect the way patent applications will be prosecuted and may also affect patent litigation. The effects of these changes are current
ly unclear as the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, must still implement various regulations, the courts have yet to address any of these provisions and the applicability of the act and new regulations on specific patents discussed herei
n have not been determined and would need to be reviewed. In general, the Leahy-Smith 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.
If we are unable to maintain effective proprietary rights for our products or services, we may not be able to compete effectively in our markets.
In addition to the protection afforded by patents, we rely on trade secret protection and confidentiality agreements to protect proprietary know-how that is not patentable or that we elect not to patent, processes for which patents are difficult to enforce and any other elements of our products and services that involve proprietary know-how, information or technology that is not covered by patents. However, trade secrets can be difficult to protect. We seek to protect our proprietary technology and processes, in part, by entering into confidentiality agreements with our employees, consultants, scientific advisors, and contractors. We also seek to preserve the integrity and confidentiality of our data and trade secrets by maintaining physical security of our premises and physical and electronic security of our information technology systems. While we have confidence in these individuals, organizations and systems, agreements or security measures may be breached, and we may not have adequate remedies for any breach. In addition, our trade secrets may otherwise become known or be independently discovered by competitors.
Although we expect all of our employees and consultants to assign their inventions to us, and all of our employees, consultants, advisors, and any third parties who have access to our proprietary know-how, information, or technology to enter into confidentiality agreements, we cannot provide any assurances that all such agreements have been duly executed or that our trade secrets and other confidential proprietary information will not be disclosed or that competitors will not otherwise gain access to our trade secrets or independently develop substantially equivalent information and techniques. Misappropriation or unauthorized disclosure of our trade secrets could impair our competitive position and may have a material adverse effect on our business. Additionally, if the steps taken to maintain our trade secrets are deemed inadequate, we may have insufficient recourse against third parties for misappropriating the trade secret.
Third-party claims of intellectual property infringement may prevent or delay our development and commercialization efforts.
Our commercial success depends in part on our avoiding infringement of the patents and proprietary rights of third parties. There have been many lawsuits and other proceedings involving patent and other intellectual property rights in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, including patent infringement lawsuits, interferences, oppositions, and reexamination proceedings before the USPTO and corresponding foreign patent offices. 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 products and services. As the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries expand and more patents are issued, the risk increases that our products and services may be subject to claims of infringement of the patent rights of third parties.
Third parties may assert that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization. There may be third-party patents or patent applications with claims to materials, formulations, methods of manufacture, or methods for treatment related to the use or manufacture of our products and services. We have conducted freedom to operate analyses with respect to only certain of our products and services, and therefore we do not know whether there are any third-party patents that would impair our ability to commercialize these products and services. We also cannot guarantee that any of our analyses are complete and thorough, nor can we be sure that we have identified each and every patent and pending application in the United States and abroad that is relevant or necessary to the commercialization of our products and services. Because patent applications can take many years to issue, there may be currently pending patent applications that may later result in issued patents that our products or services may infringe.
in August 2016, we received a letter from MolecularMD Corp. offering a license to two U.S. Patents owned by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and licensed
to MolecularMD Corp., that are relevant to one of the biomarkers we detect in our Liquid Biopsy Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Profile Target Selector™ Assay and our Liquid Biopsy Lung Cancer Resistance Profile Target Selector™ Assay. One of the two patents is
expected to expire in 2026. The other patent is expected to expire in 2028. Although we believe that the claims of both patents relevant to our assays would likely be held invalid, we cannot provide any assurances that a court or an administrative agency
would agree with our assessment. If the validity of the relevant claims in question is upheld upon a validity challenge, then we may be liable for past damages and would need a license in order to continue commercializing our Liquid Biopsy Non-Small Cell L
ung Cancer Profile Target Selector™ Assay and our Liquid Biopsy Lung Cancer Resistance Profile Target Selector™ Assay in the United States. However, such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all, which could materially and
adversely affect our business.
In addition, we are aware of a U.S. Patent owned by Amgen, Inc. that is relevant to one of the biomarkers we detect in our Liquid Biopsy Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Profile Target Selector™ Assay and our Liquid Biopsy Lung Cancer Resistance Profile Target Selector™ Assay. The patent is expected to expire in 2028. Although we believe that the claims of the patent relevant to our assays would likely be held invalid, we cannot provide any assurances that a court or an administrative agency would agree with our assessment. If the validity of the relevant claims in question is upheld upon a validity challenge, then we may be liable for past damages and would need a license in order to continue commercializing our Liquid Biopsy Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Profile Target Selector™ Assay and our Liquid Biopsy Lung Cancer Resistance Profile Target Selector™ Assay in the United States. However, such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all, which could materially and adversely affect our business.
We are also aware of a U.S. Patent owned by Genentech, Inc. that is relevant to one of the biomarkers we detect in our Liquid Biopsy Lung Cancer Resistance Profile Target Selector™ Assay and our Liquid Biopsy Colon Cancer Profile Target Selector™ Assay. The patent is expected to expire in 2025. Although we believe that the claims of the patent relevant to our assays would likely be held invalid, we cannot provide any assurances that a court or an administrative agency would agree with our assessment. If the validity of the relevant claims in question is upheld upon a validity challenge, then we may be liable for past damages and would need a license in order to continue commercializing our Liquid Biopsy Lung Cancer Resistance Profile Target Selector™ Assay and our Liquid Biopsy Colon Cancer Profile Target Selector™ Assay in the United States. However, such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all, which could materially and adversely affect our business.
In addition, in July 2016, we received a communication from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (“Mayo”) offering a license to a U.S. Patent owned by Mayo that is relevant to an antibody that we use in our Liquid Biopsy Immuno-Oncology PD-L1 Test. The patent is expected to expire in 2021. At present, we believe that we will need a license to this patent to continue commercializing our Liquid Biopsy Immuno-Oncology PD-L1 Test. We are currently in discussions with Mayo and believe a license can be obtained on commercially reasonable terms. However, if we are unable to secure such a license, we may be liable for past damages, and our business could be materially and adversely affected.
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 patents were held by a court of competent jurisdiction to cover aspects of our products or services, the holders of any such patents may be able to block our ability to commercialize such products or services unless we obtained a license under the applicable patents, or until such patents expire or are finally determined to be invalid or unenforceable. Such a license may not be available on commercially reasonable terms or at all.
Parties making claims against us may obtain injunctive or other equitable relief, which could effectively block our ability to further develop and commercialize one or more of our products or services. 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, pay royalties, redesign our infringing products or obtain one or more licenses from third parties, which may be impossible or require substantial time and monetary expenditure.
We may not be successful in obtaining or maintaining necessary rights to our products or services through acquisitions and in-licenses.
We currently have rights to the intellectual property, through licenses from third parties and under patents that we own, to develop our products and services. Because our programs may require the use of proprietary rights held by third parties, the growth of our business will likely depend in part on our ability to acquire, in-license, or use these proprietary rights. 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 for our products or services. The licensing and acquisition of third-party intellectual property rights is a competitive area, and a number of more established companies are also pursuing strategies to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights that we may consider attractive. These established companies may have a competitive advantage over us due to their size, cash resources, and greater clinical development and commercialization capabilities. In addition, companies that perceive us to be a competitor may be unwilling to assign or license rights to us. We also may be unable to license or acquire third-party intellectual property rights on terms that would allow us to make an appropriate return on our investment.
We sometimes collaborate with U.S. and foreign institutions to accelerate our research or development under written agreements with these institutions. Typically, 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 other parties, potentially blocking our ability to pursue our program.
If we are unable to successfully obtain rights to required third-party intellectual property rights or maintain the existing intellectual property rights we have, we may have to abandon development of that program and our business and financial condition could suffer.
Although we are not currently involved in any litigation, 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 licensors. Although we are not currently involved in any litigation, if we or one of our licensing partners were to initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering one of our products or services, the defendant could counterclaim that the patent covering our product or service is invalid and/or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity and/or unenforceability are commonplace. Grounds for a validity challenge could be an alleged failure to meet any of several statutory requirements, including lack of novelty, obviousness, or non-enablement. Grounds for an unenforceability assertion could be an allegation that someone connected with prosecution of the patent withheld relevant information from the USPTO, or made a misleading statement, during prosecution. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable.
Interference 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 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. Our defense of litigation or interference proceedings may fail and, even if successful, may result in substantial costs and distract our management and other employees. In addition, the uncertainties associated with litigation could have a material adverse effect on our ability to raise sufficient capital to continue our research programs, license necessary technology from third parties, or enter into development partnerships that would help commercialize our products or services.
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. There could also be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments. If securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a material adverse effect on the price of our common stock.
We may be subject to claims that our employees, consultants, or independent contractors have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information of third parties or that our employees have wrongfully used or disclosed alleged trade s
ecrets of their former employers.
We employ certain individuals who were previously employed at universities or other biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies, including our competitors or potential competitors. Although we try to ensure that our employees, consultants, and independent contractors do not use the proprietary information or know-how of others in their work for us, and we are not currently subject to any claims that our employees, consultants, or independent contractors have wrongfully used or disclosed confidential information of third parties, we may in the future be subject to such claims. 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, which could adversely impact our business. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees.
We may be subject to claims challenging the inventorship of our patents and other intellectual property.
Although we are not currently experiencing any claims challenging the inventorship of our patents or ownership of our intellectual property, we may in the future be subject to claims that former employees, collaborators or other third parties have an interest in our patents or other intellectual property as an inventor or co-inventor. For example, we may have inventorship disputes arise from conflicting obligations of consultants or others who are involved in developing our products or services. Litigation may be necessary to defend against these and other claims challenging inventorship. If we fail in defending any such claims, in addition to paying monetary damages, we may lose valuable intellectual property rights, such as exclusive ownership of, or right to use, valuable intellectual property. Such an outcome could have a material adverse effect on our business. Even if we are successful in defending against such claims, litigation could result in substantial costs and be a distraction to management and other employees.
Changes in U.S. patent law could diminish the value of patents in general, thereby impairing our ability to protect our products.
As is the case with other biopharmaceutical companies, our success is heavily dependent on intellectual property, particularly patents. Obtaining and enforcing patents in the biotechnology industry involves both technological and legal complexity. Therefore, obtaining and enforcing biotechnology patents is costly, time consuming, and inherently uncertain. In addition, the United States has recently enacted and is currently implementing wide-ranging patent reform legislation. 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. In addition to increasing uncertainty with regard to our ability to obtain patents in the future, this combination of events has created uncertainty with respect to the value 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 would weaken our ability to obtain new patents or to enforce our existing patents and patents that we might obtain in the future.
We may not be able to protect our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
Filing, prosecuting, and defending patents on products and services 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 may also export infringing products to territories where we have patent protection, but enforcement is not as strong as that in the United States. These products may compete with our products and our patents 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 d
efending intellectual property rights in foreign jurisdictions. The legal systems of certain countries, particularly certain developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents, trade secrets, and other intellectual property protection, particula
rly those relating to biotechnology products, which could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or marketing of competing products in violation of our proprietary rights generally. Proceedings to enforce our patent rights in fore
ign jurisdictions, whether or not successful, 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 enfor
ce 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.
Our collaborators may assert ownership or commercial rights to inventions we develop from our use of the biological materials which they provide to us, or otherwise arising from the collaboration.
We collaborate with several institutions, physicians and researchers in scientific matters. We do not have written agreements with certain of such collaborators, or the written agreements we have do not cover intellectual property rights. Also, we rely on numerous third parties to provide us with blood samples and biological materials that we use to develop tests. 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.
Risks Relating to Our Common Stock
The price of our common stock may be volatile.
Before our initial public offering, there was no public market for our common stock. Market prices for securities of early-stage life sciences companies have historically been particularly volatile. The factors that may cause the market price of our common stock to fluctuate include, but are not limited to:
progress, or lack of progress, in developing and commercializing our current assays and our planned future assays;
favorable or unfavorable decisions about our assays from government regulators, insurance companies or other third-party payors;
our ability to remain compliant with the terms of our April 2014 Credit Facility;
our ability to recruit and retain qualified research and development personnel;
changes in investors
and securities analysts
perception of the business risks and conditions of our business;
changes in our relationship with key collaborators;
changes in the market valuation or earnings of our competitors or companies viewed as similar to us;
changes in key personnel;
depth of the trading market in our common stock;
changes in our capital structure, such as future issuances of securities or the incurrence of additional debt;
the granting or exercise of employee stock options or other equity awards;
realization of any of the risks described herein; and
general market and economic conditions.
In addition, the equity markets have experienced significant price and volume fluctuations that have affected the market prices for the securities of newly public companies for a number of reasons, including reasons that may be
unrelated to our business or operating performance. These broad market fluctuations may result in a material decline in the market price of our common stock and you may not be able to sell your shares at prices you deem acceptable. In the past
, following periods of volatility in the equity markets, securities class action lawsuits have been instituted against public companies. Such litigation, if instituted against us, could result in substantial cost and the diversion of management attention.
Our failure to meet the continued listing requirements of The NASDAQ Capital Market could result in a de-listing of our common stock.
If we fail to satisfy the continued listing requirements of The NASDAQ Capital Market, such as the corporate governance requirements, the minimum closing bid price requirement, or the minimum stockholders
equity requirement, NASDAQ may take steps to de-list our common stock. For example, in May 2016, we received a letter from NASDAQ indicating that we are not in compliance with the minimum stockholders
equity requirement of NASDAQ Listing Rule 5550(b)(1), and in June 2016, we received a letter from NASDAQ indicating that we are not in compliance with the minimum bid price requirement of NASDAQ Listing Rule 5550(a)(2). If we fail to regain compliance with these, or any other of the continued listing requirements of The NASDAQ Capital Market, NASDAQ may take steps to de-list our common stock. Such a de-listing would likely have a negative effect on the price of our common stock and would impair your ability to sell or purchase our common stock when you wish to do so. In the event of a de-listing, we would take actions to restore our compliance with NASDAQ
s listing requirements, but we can provide no assurance that any such action taken by us would allow our common stock to become listed again, stabilize the market price or improve the liquidity of our common stock, or prevent future non-compliance with NASDAQ
s listing requirements.
If our shares become subject to the penny stock rules, it would become more difficult to trade our shares.
The SEC has adopted rules that regulate broker-dealer practices in connection with transactions in penny stocks. Penny stocks are generally equity securities with a price of less than $5.00, other than securities registered on certain national securities exchanges or authorized for quotation on certain automated quotation systems, provided that current price and volume information with respect to transactions in such securities is provided by the exchange or system. If we do not retain a listing on The NASDAQ Capital Market and if the price of our common stock is less than $5.00, our common stock will be deemed a penny stock. The penny stock rules require a broker-dealer, before a transaction in a penny stock not otherwise exempt from those rules, to deliver a standardized risk disclosure document containing specified information. In addition, the penny stock rules require that before effecting any transaction in a penny stock not otherwise exempt from those rules, a broker-dealer must make a special written determination that the penny stock is a suitable investment for the purchaser and receive (i) the purchaser
s written acknowledgment of the receipt of a risk disclosure statement; (ii) a written agreement to transactions involving penny stocks; and (iii) a signed and dated copy of a written suitability statement. These disclosure requirements may have the effect of reducing the trading activity in the secondary market for our common stock, and therefore stockholders may have difficulty selling their shares.
Our quarterly operating results may fluctuate significantly.
We expect our operating results to be subject to quarterly fluctuations. Our net loss and other operating results will be affected by numerous factors, including:
the rate of adoption and/or continued use of our current assays and our planned future assays by healthcare practitioners;
variations in the level of expenses related to our development programs;
addition or reduction of resources for sales and marketing;
addition or termination of clinical utility studies;
any intellectual property infringement lawsuit in which we may become involved;
third party payor determinations affecting our assays; and
regulatory developments affecting our assays.
If our quarterly operating results fall below the expectations of investors or securities analysts, the price of our common stock could
decline substantially. Furthermore, any quarterly fluctuations in our operating results may, in turn, cause the price of our stoc
k to fluctuate substantially.
Future sales of our common stock, or the perception that future sales may occur, may cause the market price of our common stock to decline, even if our business is doing well.
Sales of substantial amounts of our common stock, or the perception that these sales may occur, could materially and adversely affect the price of our common stock and could impair our ability to raise capital through the sale of additional equity securities. We had outstanding 19,683,402 shares of common stock as of March 3, 2016, 2,862,878 of which are restricted securities that may be sold only in accordance with the resale restrictions under Rule 144 of the Securities Act.
We have registered for sale the 165,000 commitment fee common shares and 625,000 initial purchase common shares that we have issued and 2,984,122 shares that we may sell to Aspire Capital under a common stock purchase agreement. Approximately $14.0 million, or up to 2,984,122 shares, remains available to be issued to Aspire Capital under this agreement as of March 3, 2016. Depending on a variety of factors, including market liquidity of our common stock, the sale of shares under the Aspire Capital common stock purchase agreement may cause the trading price of our common stock to decline. Aspire Capital may ultimately purchase all, some or none of the common stock that can be sold pursuant to the common stock purchase agreement. Aspire Capital may sell all, some or none of our shares that it holds or comes to hold under the common stock purchase agreement. Sales by Aspire Capital of shares acquired pursuant to the common stock purchase agreement may result in dilution to the interests of other holders of our common stock. The sale of a substantial number of shares of our common stock by Aspire Capital in such offering, or anticipation of such sales, could cause the trading price of our common stock to decline or make it more difficult for us to sell equity or equity-related securities in the future at a time and at a price that we might otherwise desire. However, we have the right under the common stock purchase agreement to control the timing and amount of sales of our shares to Aspire Capital, and the common stock purchase agreement may be terminated by us at any time at our discretion without any penalty or cost to us.
In addition, as of March 3, 2016, we had outstanding options to purchase 2,378,201 shares of our common stock, 32,769 shares of common stock were issuable upon the settlement of outstanding restricted stock units, or RSUs, and we had outstanding warrants to purchase 2,201,613 shares of our common stock. Shares issued upon the exercise of stock options or upon the settlement of outstanding RSUs generally will be eligible for sale in the public market, except that affiliates will continue to be subject to volume limitations and other requirements of Rule 144 under the Securities Act. The issuance or sale of such shares could depress the market price of our common stock.
In the future, we also may issue our securities if we need to raise additional capital. The number of new shares of our common stock issued in connection with raising additional capital could constitute a material portion of the then-outstanding shares of our common stock.
Our largest stockholder continues to have substantial influence over us and could delay or prevent a change in corporate control.
Claire K. T. Reiss beneficially owned approximately 10.3% of our common stock at March 3, 2016. Mrs. Reiss has significant influence over the outcome of matters submitted to our stockholders for approval, including the election of directors and any merger, consolidation or sale of all or substantially all of our assets. Accordingly, this concentration of ownership might harm the market price of our common stock by:
delaying, deferring or preventing a change in control;
impeding a merger, consolidation, takeover or other business combination involving us; or
discouraging a potential acquirer from making a tender offer or otherwise attempting to obtain control of us.
unable to favorably assess the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting, investors may lose confidence in our financial reporting and our stock price could be materially adversely affected.
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(a) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, or the subsequent testing by our independent registered public accounting firm conducted in connection with Section 404(b) of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act after we no longer qualify as an
emerging growth company,
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 consolidated 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 common stock.
We are required to disclose changes made in our internal control procedures on a quarterly basis and our management is required to assess the effectiveness of these controls annually. However, for as long as we are an
under the recently enacted JOBS Act, our independent registered public accounting firm will not be required to attest to the effectiveness of our internal control over financial reporting pursuant to Section 404. An independent assessment of the effectiveness of our internal controls could detect problems that our management
s assessment might not. Undetected material weaknesses in our internal controls could lead to financial statement restatements and require us to incur the expense of remediation.
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, as defined in the JOBS Act. For as long as we continue to be an emerging growth company, we may take advantage of exemptions from various reporting requirements that are applicable to other public companies that are not emerging growth companies, including not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in 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 emerging growth company until December 31, 2019, although circumstances could cause us to lose that status earlier, including if the market value of our common stock held by non-affiliates exceeds $700 million as of any June 30 before that time or if we have total annual gross revenue of $1.0 billion or more during any fiscal year before that time, in which cases we would no longer be an emerging growth company as of the following December 31 or, if we issue more than $1.0 billion in non-convertible debt during any three year period before that time, we would cease to be an emerging growth company immediately. Even after we no longer qualify as an emerging growth company, we may still qualify as a
smaller reporting company
which would allow us to take advantage of many of the same exemptions from disclosure requirements including not being required to comply with the auditor attestation requirements of Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and reduced disclosure obligations regarding executive compensation in our periodic reports and proxy statements. We cannot predict if investors find our common stock less attractive because we may rely on 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, emerging growth companies can also delay adopting new or revised accounting standards until such time as those standards apply to private companies. We have irrevocably elected not to avail ourselves of this exemption from new or revised accounting standards and, therefore, are subject to the same new or revised accounting standards as other public companies that are not emerging growth companies. As a result, changes in rules of U.S. generally accepted accounting principles or their interpretation, the adoption of new guidance or the application of existing guidance to changes in our business could significantly affect our financial position and results of operations.
We have incurred and will continue to 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 are subject to the reporting requirements of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or the Dodd-Frank Act, the listing requirements of The NASDAQ Stock Market and other applicable securities rules and regulations. Compliance with these rules and regulations has increased and will continue to increase our legal and financial compliance costs, make some activities more difficult, time-consuming or costly, and increase demand on our systems and resources. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires, among other things, that we maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting. In order to maintain and, if required, improve our disclosure controls and procedures and internal control over financial reporting to meet this standard, significant resources and management oversight may be required. As a result, management
s attention may be diverted from other business concerns, which could harm our business and operating results. Further, there are significant corporate governance and executive compensation related provisions in the Dodd-Frank Act, enacted in 2010, that require the SEC to adopt additional rules and regulations in these areas such as
say on pay
and proxy access. Recent legislation permits smaller
to implement many of these requirements over a longer period. We intend to continue taking advantage of this new legislation but cannot guarantee that we will not be required to implement these requirements sooner than budgeted or planned and thereby incur unexpected expenses. 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.
In addition, changing laws, regulations and standards relating to corporate governance and public disclosure are creating uncertainty for public companies, increasing legal and financial compliance costs and making some activities more time consuming. These laws, regulations and standards are subject to varying interpretations, in many cases due to their lack of specificity, and, as a result, their application in practice may evolve over time as new guidance is provided by regulatory and governing bodies. This could result in continuing uncertainty regarding compliance matters and higher costs necessitated by ongoing revisions to disclosure and governance practices. We intend to invest resources to comply with evolving laws, regulations and standards, and this investment may result in increased general and administrative expenses and a diversion of management
s time and attention from revenue-generating activities to compliance activities. If our efforts to comply with new laws, regulations and standards differ from the activities intended by regulatory or governing bodies due to ambiguities related to practice, regulatory authorities may initiate legal proceedings against us and our business may be harmed.
Anti-takeover provisions of our certificate of incorporation, our bylaws and Delaware law could make an acquisition of us, which may be beneficial to our stockholders, more difficult and may prevent attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove the current members of our board and management.
Certain provisions of our amended certificate of incorporation and amended and restated bylaws could discourage, delay or prevent a merger, acquisition or other change of control that stockholders may consider favorable, including transactions in which you might otherwise receive a premium for your shares. Furthermore, these provisions could prevent or frustrate attempts by our stockholders to replace or remove members of our Board of Directors. (For example, Delaware law provides that if a corporation has a classified board of directors, stockholders cannot remove any director during his or her term without cause.) These provisions also could limit the price that investors might be willing to pay in the future for our common stock, thereby depressing the market price of our common stock. Stockholders who wish to participate in these transactions may not have the opportunity to do so. These provisions, among other things:
classify our Board of Directors into three classes of equal (or roughly equal) size, with all directors serving for a three-year term and the directors of only one class being elected at each annual meeting of stockholders, so that the terms of the classes of directors are
allow the authorized number of directors to be changed only by resolution of our Board of Directors;
authorize our Board of Directors to issue, without stockholder approval, preferred stock, the rights of which will be determined at the discretion of the Board of Directors and that, if issued, could operate as a
to dilute the stock ownership of a potential hostile acquirer to prevent an acquisition that our Board of Directors does not approve;
establish advance notice requirements for stockholder nominations to our Board of Directors or for stockholder proposals that can be acted on at stockholder meetings; and
limit who may call a stockholders meeting.
In addition, we are governed by the provisions of Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, or DGCL, which may, unless certain criteria are met, prohibit large stockholders, in particular those owning 15% or more of the voting rights on our common stock, from merging or combining with us for a prescribed period of time.
Because we do not expect to pay cash dividends for the foreseeable future, you must rely on appreciation of our common stock price for any return on your investment. Even if we change that policy, we may be restricted from paying dividends on our common stock.
We do not intend to pay cash dividends on shares of our common stock for the foreseeable future. Any determination to pay dividends in the future will be at the discretion of our Board of Directors and will depend upon results of operations, financial performance, contractual restrictions, restrictions imposed by applicable law and other factors our Board of Directors deems relevant. Accordingly, you will have to rely on capital appreciation, if any, to earn a return on your investment in our common stock. Investors seeking cash dividends in the foreseeable future should not purchase our common stock.
Our ability to use our estimated net operating loss carryforwards and certain other tax attributes may be limited.
Our ability to utilize our estimated federal net operating loss, carryforwards and federal tax credits may be limited under Sections 382 and 383 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, or the Code. The limitations apply if an
as defined by Section 382 of the Code, occurs. If we have experienced an ownership change at any time since our formation, we may already be subject to limitations on our ability to utilize our existing net operating losses and other tax attributes to offset taxable income. In addition, future changes in our stock ownership (including in connection with future offerings, as well as other changes that may be outside of our control), may trigger an ownership change and, consequently, limitations under Sections 382 and 383 of the Code. As a result, if we earn net taxable income, our ability to use our estimated pre-change net operating loss carryforwards and other tax attributes to offset United States federal taxable income may be subject to limitations, which could potentially result in increased future tax liability to us. As of December 31, 2015, we had estimated federal and state net operating loss carryforwards of approximately $16.8 million and $8.5 million, respectively, and estimated federal and California research and development credits of $0.1 million and $3.3 million, respectively, which could be limited if we have experienced or do experience any
We have not completed a study to assess whether an ownership change has occurred or whether there have been multiple ownership changes since our formation, due to the complexity and cost associated with such a study, and the fact that there may be additional ownership changes in the future, however, we believe an ownership change likely occurred during 2015. As a result, we have estimated that the use of our net operating loss is limited and the amounts above represent the remaining net operating loss carryforwards and research and development credits we estimate can be used in the future, which remain fully offset by a valuation allowance to reduce the net asset to zero.
We could be subject to securities class action litigation.
In the past, securities class action litigation has often been brought against a company following a decline in the market price of its securities. This risk is especially relevant for us because early-stage life sciences companies have experienced significant stock price volatility in recent years. If we face such litigation, it could result in substantial costs and a diversion of management
s attention and resources, which could harm our business.
The above information was disclosed in a filing to the SEC. To see the filing, click here.
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Other recent filings from the company include the following:
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