SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C. 20549
EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
ACT OF 1934
For the fiscal year ended
ACT OF 1934
EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934
Date of event requiring this shell company report:
For the transition period from to
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(Exact name of Registrant as specified in its charter)
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(+49) 381 80113 500
(Address of principal executive offices)
Chief Executive Officer
(Name, Telephone, E-mail and/or Facsimile number and Address of Company Contact Person)
Securities registered or to be registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
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The number of outstanding common shares as of December 31, 2021 was:
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Common shares, par value of €0.12 per share
Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.
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Note—Checking the box above will not relieve any registrant required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 from their obligations under those Sections.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days.
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T (§232.405 of this chapter) during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files).
Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, or an emerging growth company. See definition of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act.
Large Accelerated Filer ☐
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Emerging growth company
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Yes ☐ No
If an emerging growth company that prepares its financial statements in accordance with U.S. GAAP, indicate by check mark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards† provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act.
† The term “new or revised financial accounting standard” refers to any update issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board to its Accounting Standards Codification after April 5, 2012.
Indicate by check mark which basis of accounting the registrant has used to prepare the financial statements included in this filing:
☐ U.S. GAAP
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☐ Item 17 ☐ Item 18
If this is an annual report, indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Except otherwise indicated and except where the context otherwise requires, references in this Annual Report on Form 20-F to:
“Centogene”, the “Company”, the “Group”, “we”, “our”, “ours”, “us” or similar terms
are to Centogene N.V. or Centogene N.V. together with its subsidiaries, as the context may require;
are to the United States Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended;
are to the United States Food and Drug Administration;
are to International Accounting Standards Board;
are to International Financial Reporting Standards;
are to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission;
are to the Securities Act of 1933, as amended;
“€”, “EUR” and “euro”
are to the European currency euro; and
“$,” “USD,” “US$” and “U.S. dollar”
are to the United States dollar.
PRESENTATION OF FINANCIAL INFORMATION
We report under International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”), as issued by the International Accounting Standards Board (the “IASB”). We present our consolidated financial statements in accordance with IFRS. We have made rounding adjustments to some of the figures included in this Annual Report. Accordingly, numerical figures shown as totals in some tables may not be an arithmetic aggregation of the figures that preceded them.
Our financial statements included in this Annual Report are presented in euro and, unless otherwise specified, all monetary amounts are in euro. All references in this Annual Report to “$”, “U.S. dollars” and “dollars” means U.S. dollars and all references to “€”, “EUR” and “euro” mean euro, unless otherwise noted.
In this Annual Report, unless otherwise indicated, some euro amounts as of December 31, 2021 have been translated into U.S. dollars at the rate of $1.1326 to €1.00, the official exchange rate quoted by the European Central Bank. For information related to our initial public offering, which closed on November 8, 2019, some euro amounts have been translated into U.S. dollars at the rate of $1.1129 to €1.00, the official exchange rate quoted as of October 17, 2019 by the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank. For information related to the follow-on equity offering, which closed on July 24, 2020, some euro amounts have been translated into U.S. dollars at the rate of $1.1340 to €1.00. For information on the exchange rate used for the Group’s consolidated financial statements as of December 31, 2021 and 2020 and for the three years ended December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019, included in this Annual Report, please see “Note 5(a)—Foreign currency and currency translations” to such financial statements.
We have historically conducted our business through Centogene AG (which is now known as Centogene GmbH), and therefore our historical financial statements present the results of operations and financial condition of Centogene AG and its controlled subsidiaries. In connection with our initial public offering, Centogene AG was acquired by Centogene B.V., which subsequently converted into Centogene N.V., on November 7, 2019, as part of our corporate reorganization in connection with our initial public offering, and the historical consolidated financial statements of Centogene AG included in this Annual Report became the historical consolidated financial statements of Centogene N.V. On March 5, 2020, the Company resolved that Centogene AG shall be converted into a German limited liability company and renamed Centogene GmbH. Such conversion became effective upon the registration in the German commercial register on June 29, 2020, and was therefore completed in the financial year ending December 31, 2020.
USE OF TRADEMARKS, TRADE NAMES AND SERVICE MARKS
CENTOGENE™ is our main trademark. The trademarks, trade names and service marks appearing in this Annual Report are property of their respective owners. Solely for convenience, the trademarks and trade names in this Annual Report are referred to without the symbols ® and ™, but such references should not be construed as any indication that their respective owners will not assert, to the fullest extent under applicable law, their rights thereto.
FORWARD LOOKING STATEMENTS
This Annual Report contains statements that constitute forward-looking statements. All statements other than present and historical facts and conditions contained in this Annual Report, including statements regarding our future results of operations and financial position, business strategy, plans and our objectives for future operations, are forward-looking statements. When used in this Annual Report, the words “anticipate,” “believe,” “can,” “could,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “is designed to,” “may,” “might,” “plan,” “potential,” “predict,” “objective,” “should,” or the negative of these and similar expressions identify forward-looking statements.
Forward-looking statements are based on our management’s beliefs and assumptions and on information currently available to our management. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially from those expressed or implied in the forward-looking statements due to various factors, including, but not limited to, those identified under “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” in this Annual Report. These risks and uncertainties include factors relating to:
our ability to generate cash from operations and attract financing;
our strategic restructuring initiative and the related restructuring cost;
our ability to effectively manage our future growth and to execute our business strategy;
our ability to generate sufficient revenue from our relationships with our pharmaceutical partners and clients, and to otherwise maintain our current relationships, or enter into new relationships, with pharmaceutical partners and clients;
the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our business and results of operations;
economic, political or social conditions and the effects of these conditions on our pharmaceutical partners’ and diagnostics clients’ businesses and levels of business activity;
our expectations for our products and solutions achieving commercial market acceptance, and our ability to keep pace with the rapidly evolving industry in which we operate;
our assumptions regarding market size in the rare disease industry and our growth potential;
our pharmaceutical partners’ and clients’ need for rare disease information products and solutions and any perceived advantage of our products over those of our competitors;
our ability to manage our international expansion, including our exposure to new and complex business, regulatory, political, operational, financial, and economic risks, and numerous and conflicting legal and regulatory requirements;
our continued reliance on our senior management team and other qualified personnel and our ability to retain such personnel;
our ability to obtain, maintain, protect and enforce sufficient patent and other intellectual property protection for any products or solutions we develop and for our technology;
the ongoing protection of our trade secrets, know-how, and other confidential and proprietary information;
our ability to remediate our material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting;
general economic, political, demographic and business conditions in North America, the Middle East, Europe and other regions in which we operate;
changes in government and industry regulation and tax matters;
other factors that may affect our financial condition, liquidity and results of operations; and
other risk factors discussed under “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors.”
You should refer to the section of this Annual Report titled “Item 3. Key Information—D. Risk Factors” for a discussion of important factors that may cause our actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied by our forward-looking statements. As a result of these factors, we cannot assure you that the forward-looking statements in this Annual Report will prove to be accurate. Furthermore, if our forward-looking statements prove to be inaccurate, the inaccuracy may be material. In light of the significant uncertainties in these forward-looking statements, you should not regard these statements as a representation or warranty by us or any other person that we will achieve our objectives and plans in any specified time frame or at all. We undertake no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.
ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENTS
We are organized and existing under the laws of the Netherlands, and, as such, under Dutch private international law rules the rights of our shareholders and the civil liability of our directors and executive officers are governed in certain respects by the laws of the Netherlands. The ability of our shareholders in certain countries other than the Netherlands to bring actions against us, our directors and executive officers may be limited under applicable law. In addition, substantially all of our assets are located outside the United States.
As a result, it may not be possible for investors to effect service of process within the United States upon us or our directors and executive officers or to enforce against them or us in U.S. courts, including judgments predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the federal securities laws of the United States. In addition, it is not clear whether a Dutch court would impose civil liability on us or any of our directors and executive officers in an original action based solely upon the federal securities laws of the United States brought in a court of competent jurisdiction in the Netherlands.
As of the date of this Annual Report, the United States and the Netherlands do not have a treaty providing for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments, other than arbitration awards, in civil and commercial matters. With respect to choice of court agreements in civil or commercial matters, it is noted that the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements entered into force for the Netherlands, but has not entered into force for the United States. Accordingly, a judgment rendered by a court in the United States, whether or not predicated solely upon U.S. securities laws, would not automatically be recognized and enforced by the competent Dutch courts. However, if a person has obtained a judgment rendered by a court in the United States that is enforceable under the laws of the United States and files a claim with the competent Dutch court, the Dutch court will in principle give binding effect to a foreign judgment if (i) the jurisdiction of the foreign court was based on a ground of jurisdiction that is generally acceptable according to international standards, (ii) the judgment by the foreign court was rendered in legal proceedings that comply with the Dutch standards of proper administration of justice including sufficient safeguards (behoorlijke rechtspleging), (iii) binding effect of such foreign judgment is not contrary to Dutch public order (openbare orde) and (iv) the judgment by the foreign court is not incompatible with a decision rendered between the same parties by a Dutch court, or with a previous decision rendered between the same parties by a foreign court in a dispute that concerns the same subject and is based on the same cause, provided that the previous decision qualifies for recognition in the Netherlands. Even if such a foreign judgment is given binding effect, a claim based thereon may, however, still be rejected if the foreign judgment is not or no longer formally enforceable.
Based on the lack of a treaty as described above, U.S. investors may not be able to enforce against us or our directors, representatives or certain experts named herein who are residents of the Netherlands or countries other than the United States any judgments obtained in U.S. courts in civil and commercial matters, including judgments under the U.S. federal securities laws.
The United States and Germany currently do not have a treaty providing for the reciprocal recognition and enforcement of judgments, in civil and commercial matters. Consequently, a final judgment for payment or declaratory judgments given by a court in the United States, whether or not predicated solely upon U.S. securities laws, would not automatically be recognized or enforceable in Germany. German courts may deny the recognition and enforcement of a judgment rendered by a U.S. court if they consider the U.S. court not to be competent or the decision to be in violation of German public policy principles. For example, judgments awarding punitive damages are generally not enforceable in Germany. A German court may reduce the amount of damages granted by a U.S. court and recognize damages only to the extent that they are necessary to compensate actual losses or damages.
In addition, actions brought in a German court against us, our management board and supervisory board and the experts named herein to enforce liabilities based on U.S. federal securities laws may be subject to certain restrictions. In particular, German courts generally do not award punitive damages. Litigation in Germany is also subject to rules of procedure that differ from the U.S.
rules, including with respect to the taking and admissibility of evidence, the conduct of the proceedings and the allocation of costs. German procedural law does not provide for pre-trial discovery of documents, nor does Germany support pre-trial discovery of documents under the 1970 Hague Evidence Convention. Proceedings in Germany would have to be conducted in the German language and all documents submitted to the court would, in principle, have to be translated into German. For these reasons, it may be difficult for a U.S. investor to bring an original action in a German court predicated upon the civil liability provisions of the U.S. federal securities laws against us, our management board and supervisory board and the experts named in this Annual Report.
Item 1. Identity of Directors, Senior Management and Advisers
Item 2. Offer Statistics and Expected Timetable
Item 3. Key Information
A.Selected Financial Data
The following selected consolidated statements of financial position as of December 31, 2021 and 2020, and the consolidated statements of comprehensive loss for the years ended December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019 are derived from the consolidated financial statements appearing elsewhere in this Annual Report, which have been audited by Ernst & Young GmbH Wirtschaftsprüfungsgesellschaft (“Ernst & Young”). The selected consolidated statements of financial position as of December 31, 2019 and December 31, 2018 and the selected consolidated statements of comprehensive loss for the years ended December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2017 are derived from audited consolidated financial statements not included in this Annual Report. As an emerging growth company, the presentation of selected historic financial data is limited to periods for which audited financial statements have been presented in connection with our first registration statement, filed on Form F-1 (File No. 333-234177), that became effective under the Securities Act.
Financial information presented in the consolidated financial statements of Centogene N.V. for periods prior to the completion of our corporate reorganization is that of Centogene AG (which is now known as Centogene GmbH), our wholly-owned subsidiary. The consolidated financial statements of Centogene N.V. are a continuation of the historical consolidated financial statements of Centogene AG.
The information presented below is qualified by the more detailed historical consolidated financial statements set forth in this Annual Report, and should be read in conjunction with those consolidated financial statements, the notes thereto and the discussion under “Item 5. Operating and Financial Review and Prospects” included elsewhere in this Annual Report.
We maintain our books and records in euros, and we prepare our financial statements under IFRS as issued by the IASB.
For the Years Ended December 31,
(€ in thousands, except number of shares)
Consolidated statement of comprehensive loss:
Cost of sales
Research and development expenses
General administrative expenses
Impairment of financial assets
Other operating income
Other operating expenses
Real estate transfer tax expenses
Interest and similar income
Interest and similar expense
Finance costs, net
Loss before taxes
Income tax (benefits)/expenses
Loss for the year
Other comprehensive income/(loss)
Total comprehensive loss for the period
Loss per share—Basic and diluted (in EUR) (2)
Weighted average number of outstanding shares
(1) Restated for 2020 to reflect the impact of the reclassification of certain costs from cost of goods sold to general administrative expenses and selling expenses. (See note 2.4 to our consolidated financial statements as of December 31, 2021 and 2020 and for the three years ended December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019 included elsewehere in this Annual Report).
(2) Basic and diluted loss per share is calculated by dividing loss for the year attributable to our equity holders by the weighted average number of shares outstanding during the same period, adjusted for the effect of the corporate reorganization and is represented in euros per share.
As of December 31,
(€ in thousands)
Consolidated statement of financial position:
Cash and cash equivalents
Total current liabilities
Total non‑current liabilities
B.Capitalization and Indebtedness
C.Reason for the Offer and Use of Proceeds
Summary Risk Factors
In the course of conducting our business operations, we are exposed to a variety of risks, some of which are inherent in our industry and others of which are more specific to our own businesses. The discussion below addresses the material factors, of which we are currently aware, that could affect our businesses, results of operations and financial condition and make an investment in the Company speculative or risky.
Some of these risks include:
|●||Our strategic restructuring initiative may not achieve intended benefits and the related restructuring cost could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.|
|●||We may fail to maintain, enter into or generate sufficient revenue from relationships with our clients or pharmaceutical partners to achieve and maintain profitability.|
|●||The COVID-19 pandemic as well as potential future pandemics and measures taken in response thereto.|
|●||Difficulty in successfully identifying patients for our pharmaceutical partners due to relatively small patient populations for rare diseases.|
|●||Failure to generate sufficient volumes of data from our diagnostic tests for inclusion in our data repository.|
|●||Supply chain challenges, including limited supply of critical equipment, consumables or services.|
|●||Many events beyond our control, including geopolitical events, may adversely affect our business.|
|●||We derive a large proportion of our revenues and equipment from agreements with a limited number of pharmaceutical partners and suppliers, respectively.|
|●||Volatile, negative or uncertain economic, political or social conditions and the effects of these conditions on our pharmaceutical partners’ and diagnostics clients’ businesses and levels of business activity.|
|●||Restrictions or delays in the receipt of patient samples to our laboratories for diagnostic testing.|
|●||Substantial product liability or professional liability claims that could exceed our resources.|
|●||Interruption of access or damage to our highly specialized laboratory facilities, storage facilities or equipment.|
|●||Challenges to patient consent validity could impede our rare disease information development efforts.|
|●||Failure in our information technology systems.|
|●||Inability to attract and retain new talent, including members of our senior management team.|
|●||New and complex business, regulatory, political, operational, financial, and economic risks as a result of international business expansion.|
|●||Unanticipated difficulties involved in the Implementation of partnership agreements with our pharmaceutical partners.|
|●||Failure to achieve or maintain sales of our products and solutions.|
|●||Failure to manage our future growth effectively, which could make it difficult to execute our business strategy.|
|●||Inability to successfully commercialize new products or solutions on a timely basis or at all.|
|●||Failure to expand our direct sales and marketing force to adequately address our pharmaceutical partners’ and clients’ needs.|
|●||The knowledge and interpretation based solutions we provide to our pharmaceutical partners may not achieve significant commercial market acceptance.|
|●||Failure to keep pace with the rapidly evolving industry in which we operate.|
|●||We may fail to successfully respond to increasing demand for our products and solutions.|
|●||Failure to obtain favorable pricing for our products and to meet our profitability expectations.|
|●||Ethical, legal and social concerns related to the use of genomic information could reduce demand for our genetic rare disease knowledge and interpretation based products and solutions.|
|●||Our resource allocation decisions may lead us to focus on research and development programs that are not commercially viable, and as a result we may be unable to recover the costs incurred under these efforts.|
|●||Failure to compete successfully with competitors, including new entrants in the market.|
|●||If our pharmaceutical partners experience any of a number of possible unforeseen events in connection with their clinical trials, our ability to commercialize future solutions or improvements to existing solutions could be delayed or prevented.|
|●||Our employees, principal investigators, consultants, and commercial partners may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including noncompliance with regulatory standards and requirements, insider trading, misappropriation of trade secrets and wrongful use or disclosure of confidential information.|
|●||We may lose the support of key thought leaders and fail to establish our products and solutions as a standard of care for patients with rare, metabolic, and neurodegenerative diseases.|
|●||Security breaches, loss of data, and other disruptions could compromise sensitive information related to our business or prevent us from accessing critical information and expose us to liability, which could adversely affect our business and our reputation.|
|●||We are subject to significant foreign currency exchange controls in certain countries in which we operate.|
|●||We may acquire assets or other businesses that could negatively affect our operating results, dilute our shareholders’ ownership or increase our debt.|
|●||Regulatory risks including as a result of conflicting requirements, regulatory changes in the way that the FDA and the European Union regulate laboratory developed tests, non-compliance with FDA and EMA regulatory requirements and with evolving European and other data privacy laws, violations of worldwide anti bribery laws, transactions involving Iran or other sanctioned countries, and our inability to obtain timely regulatory approvals or adhere to regulations regarding our products and solutions.|
|●||We may fail to achieve coverage or adequate reimbursement for our products and solutions by commercial third party payors or government payors.|
|●||Inability to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection for any products or solutions we develop and for our technology, allowing our competitors to develop and commercialize products and solutions similar or identical to ours.|
|●||Additional intellectual property risks, including our inability to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, know how, and other confidential and proprietary information, the unenforceability of our patents and intellectual property rights, third party claims of intellectual property infringement or commercial rights to inventions we develop, non-compliance with patent agency requirement and dependence on licenses granted to us by others.|
|●||We have a history of losses and we may incur losses in the future.|
|●||We may need to raise additional capital to fund, develop and expand our operations. Raising additional capital may cause dilution to our shareholders, restrict our operations or require us to relinquish rights to our technologies or drug candidates.|
|●||We may be required to refund grants and subsidies, and may fail to meet covenants under loan facilities|
|●||We have identified two material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting and may identify additional material weaknesses in the future that may cause us to fail to meet our reporting obligations or result in material misstatements of our financial statements. If we fail to remediate our material weaknesses or establish and maintain an effective system of internal control over financial reporting, we may not be able to report our financial results accurately or to prevent fraud, and such failure could cause investors to lose confidence in our reported financial and other public information and have a negative effect on the trading price of our common shares.|
|●||Our results of operations could be materially adversely affected by fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates.|
|●||Risks relating to our common shares, including fluctuations in our share price, risk of dilution upon future issuances, multi-jurisdictional tax consequences, impacts of our Dutch public company status (including differing shareholder rights), risks resulting from our emerging growth company and foreign private issuer status, our non-payment of dividends and our broad discretion in the use of our cash on hand.|
Additional factors discussed below could affect our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. You should carefully consider the following risks and uncertainties and all of the other information in this Annual Report before making any investment decision. Our business, financial condition or results of operations could be materially and adversely affected if any of these risks occurs, and as a result, the market price of our common shares could decline and you could lose all or part of your investment. The risks described below are those that we currently believe may materially affect us. We may face additional risks and uncertainties not currently known to us or that we currently deem to be immaterial.
Certain Factors Relating to Our Business and Strategy
Our strategic restructuring initiative may not achieve intended benefits and the related restructuring cost could have a material adverse effect on our business and results of operations.
In November 2021, our Management Board and Supervisory Board approved a restructuring plan to further reduce operating costs and improve profitability. We estimate total restructuring charges, which consist of personnel costs and one-time severance charges, will be approximately € 640 thousand during 2021 and 2022. We anticipate this initiative will generate approximately € 6,2 million in annual net savings starting in 2022, plus additional planned savings in operating expenditure which will be allocated to support growth related initiatives. In addition, on February 1, 2022, we announced the resignation of Dr. Andrin Oswald as CEO due to prolonged medical leave of absence and the appointment of Kim Stratton as CEO.
There is also a risk that our restructuring plan will not capture all of the intended benefits or may not result in the expected cost savings. Further, the restructuring may yield unintended consequences such as attrition beyond our targeted workforce reduction. The Company’s success is dependent on the skills of our key personnel. Our restructuring plan involving workforce reduction may lead to an unintended loss of experienced employees or know-how. The loss of any member of our key personnel and actual or threatened work slowdowns or stoppages could lead to operational delays or cost increases. If these incidents occur or if we are unable to attract, retain and maintain productive relations with our employees and key professionals, our operating results and financial condition may be adversely affected. There is also a risk that our restructuring plan will not capture all of the intended benefits or may not result in the expected cost savings. Further, the restructuring may yield unintended consequences such as attrition beyond our targeted workforce reduction.
We may fail to generate sufficient revenue from our relationships with our clients or pharmaceutical partners to achieve and maintain profitability.
We believe our commercial success is dependent upon our ability to successfully market and sell our products and solutions to clients and pharmaceutical partners, to continue to sell our suite of diagnostic tests, to continue to expand our current relationships and to develop new relationships with pharmaceutical partners. The demand for our existing services may decrease or may not continue at historical rates for a number of reasons, including, among others, the development by competitors of new products or solutions that we are not able to commercialize, and increased competition from companies that offer similar products and solutions. In addition to reducing our revenue, if our pharmaceutical partners or clients decide to decrease or discontinue their partnerships or relationships with us, and their use of our knowledge and interpretation-based solutions, this may reduce our access to research and patient data that facilitates the incorporation of newly developed information about rare diseases into our data repository. Our business model and strategy depend on the continued input of new data into our repository, and any such reduction in access to research and patient data could affect our ability to offer the same quality and scope of solutions to our pharmaceutical partners and other clients, which could adversely affect or business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations. We are currently not profitable. Even if we succeed in increasing adoption of our existing solutions by pharmaceutical partners or tests by our clients or pharmaceutical partners, we may fail to generate sufficient revenue to achieve and maintain profitability.
The COVID-19 pandemic could adversely impact our business and results of operations.
In December 2019, the COVID-19 virus, commonly known as “coronavirus”, surfaced in Wuhan, China. In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The COVID-19 disease has spread from China to many other countries including the U.S., the UK and the EU, with the number of reported cases and related deaths increasing daily and, in many countries, at a very rapid pace.
Many governments, including in the United States and Germany, have imposed increasingly stringent restrictions to seek to mitigate, or slow down, the spread of COVID-19, including restrictions on international and local travel, public gatherings and participation in business meetings, as well as closures of workplaces, schools, and other sites, and are requesting “social distancing.” In addition to those government measures, we have also taken a series of actions aimed at safeguarding the Company’s employees and business associates, including implementing a work-from-home policy and regular weekly tests for employees except for those related to our laboratory operations which were active from the third quarter of 2020 to the third quarter of 2021. The duration of such measures is highly uncertain, but could be prolonged, and even stricter measures may be put in place.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused financial markets globally to experience material declines and very elevated volatility, which had an adverse impact on GDP and broader economic conditions, including in Germany and the United States. There is no assurance that the responses from central banks (which include reductions in interest rates and liquidity support) and financial support and fiscal spending by certain governments will be sufficient to support the U.S. or other economies or that financial markets will return to normal. The ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on global economies and financial markets could trigger a recession or slowdown.
While vaccines have been widely rolled out in Europe and other parts of the world, leading to a relaxation of testing
requirements in several countries during 2021, as newer, more severe variants of the COVID-19 virus emerge, there remains uncertainty about the continued protection (and duration of protection) offered by such vaccines. How and when this would affect the potential prolongation of the need for testing on a broader scale remains uncertain.
There is significant uncertainty relating to the potential effect of the COVID-19 virus on our business. Any of the factors above could result in significant volatility in, and have a material adverse effect on, our business, financial condition, rating and results
of operations. In particular, they could result in increased costs of execution with regards to operational plans. In addition, COVID-19 may disrupt our supply chain, particularly as it relates to the United States (from where a significant proportion of our sequencing products are sourced) as well other countries in which we operate and from where we receive tests, and otherwise adversely affect international trade and business activities. The COVID-19 pandemic may also result in the loss of our significant client relationships. The magnitude of the impact on us will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence, including, among other things, the duration and spread of the outbreak, its severity and strain mutations, counter-measures and the development and availability of effective treatments and vaccines. The effects of COVID-19 on us, and on the environment in which we operate, has resulted, and may continue to result, in significant volatility of the trading price of our common shares. Although we are taking a number of measures aimed at minimizing disruptions to our business and operations, and while the provision of testing for the COVID-19 virus is anticipated to generate additional revenues for us in the first half of 2022, the full extent to which the global COVID-19 pandemic may impact our business will depend on future developments, which are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted, such as the duration of the pandemic, the availability of vaccines, the probability of the occurrence of further outbreaks and the ultimate impact on the financial markets and the global economy, and could result in an unforeseen negative impact on our business and our future results of operations.
To the extent the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affects our business and financial results, it may also have the effect of heightening many of the other risks described under “—We may face restrictions or delays in the receipt of patient samples to our laboratories for diagnostic testing” and “—We may be adversely affected by volatile, negative or uncertain economic, political or social conditions and the effects of these conditions on our pharmaceutical partners’ and diagnostics clients’ businesses and levels of business activity.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we ramped up our molecular testing for the diagnosis of COVID-19. The demand for such tests has shrunk, and we may be unable to recoup the significant expenses incurred and investments made in testing capabilities.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we took a series of measures aimed at minimizing the disruptions to our business and operations, including by adding COVID-19 molecular testing to our product mix. To support the rapid rollout of our COVID-19 testing offering, we have incurred significant expenses and made significant investments, including the acquisition of laboratory facilities, walk-in testing facilities, and mobile test centers, as well as related equipment and inventory. Our COVID-19 testing business grew significantly since the second quarter of 2020 and, as a result, we started managing and reporting it as a separate reportable business segment in the third quarter of 2020. Total investments in COVID-19 testing as of December 31, 2021 amounted to €2,834 thousand, of which €2,480 thousand are COVID-19 related mobile test laboratories and equipment. An amount of €354 thousand is included in intangible assets and relates to the development of CENTOGENE’s Corona Test Portal.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has created an opportunity for our business and helped us offset the pandemic-related slowdown in our Diagnostics and Pharmaceutical businesses, we noticed a decrease in COVID-19 test order intakes during the third quarter of 2021, specifically in Germany, which led to management review of and resolution on options to discontinue lease contracts at unprofitable COVID-19 testing sites as well as reaching the decision to close a laboratory in Hamburg. Similarly, we have significantly ramped down COVID-19 related inventory levels to align with the needs of the remaining test sites and laboratories. Due to the impact of these changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly developments in vaccination campaigns with increasing vaccination numbers and relaxation of testing regulations by several countries, we reassessed certain related accounting judgments and estimates. As a result, in line with our accounting policies for long-lived assets, management reviewed the estimated useful lives of long-lived assets utilized in the COVID-19 test offerings given changes in circumstances and management’s expectations. Management considered how the underlying assets are currently deployed, including whether the assets are utilized in leased facilities or service agreements which management is unlikely to renew, and potential alternative uses of the assets within the COVID-19 business or within the diagnostics and pharmaceutical businesses. Consequently, we prospectively adjusted the estimated useful lives of our long-lived assets which include property, plant and equipment, right-of-use assets and intangible assets which had an aggregate carrying amount of € 8,549 thousand to a remaining estimated useful life of eight months, with effect at the beginning of the third quarter of 2021. This prospective change in estimate resulted in accelerated depreciation expense of €4,138 thousand during the year ended December 31, 2021. Additionally, following the closure of the Hamburg lab, we recognized an accelerated depreciation of right-of-use assets in an amount of € 746 thousand for the year ended December 31, 2021.
We presently expect our COVID-19 testing business to continue contributing to our revenue in 2022. However, the demand for our COVID-19 tests may not be sustainable and the recent increase in our revenues from COVID-19 testing may not be indicative of future revenues. Such demand, and the revenues of our COVID-19 testing segment, may shrink rapidly in the future, for instance:
|●||as the pandemic abates or infection rates decline;|
|●||as governmental and health authorities relax rules on mandatory COVID-19 testing;|
|●||as vaccinations become more widely administered; or|
|●||if other tests become more accepted or produce results more quickly, more accurately or at lower cost;|
in each case in particular in the regions where we offer our COVID-19 testing services. As a result, we may be unable to recoup the significant expenses we incurred in connection with our COVID-19 testing business. In addition, while we are depreciating all of the investments made in our COVID-19 testing business on an accelerated timetable, we may be required to write-down some or all of our investments in, and working capital related to, our COVID-19 testing business. Any of the foregoing developments and events could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial position.
Many events beyond our control, including geopolitical events, may adversely affect our business
Many events beyond our control can adversely affect the healthcare industry, with a corresponding negative impact on our business and results of operations. Our operations and those of our third-party suppliers and collaborators could be subject to earthquakes, power shortages, telecommunications failures, water shortages, floods, hurricanes or other extreme weather conditions, medical epidemics, labor disputes, war or other business interruptions. Although we have limited business interruption insurance policies in place, any interruption could come with high costs for us, as salaries and loan payments would usually continue. Moreover, any interruption could seriously harm our ability to timely proceed with our diagnostics, pharmaceutical collaborations and research activities. Moreover, at the end of 2021 and into 2022, international tensions escalated when Russia amassed large numbers of military ground forces and support personnel on the Ukraine-Russia border and, in February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. In response, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO has deployed additional military forces to Eastern Europe, including Lithuania, and the Biden administration along with many European countries announced certain sanctions against Russia. The invasion of Ukraine and the retaliatory measures that have been taken, or could be taken in the future, by the United States, NATO, and other countries have created global security concerns that could result in a regional conflict and otherwise have a lasting impact on regional and global economies, any or all of which could disrupt our supply chain, adversely affect our ability to conduct ongoing and future Diagnostics activities, Pharmaceutical collaborations, and research programs which could adversely impact our business and results of operations.
We may fail to maintain our current relationships with pharmaceutical companies, or enter into new relationships on a similar scale.
Our success in the future depends in part on our ability to maintain relationships and to enter into new relationships with pharmaceutical partners. Partnerships are complex and time-consuming to negotiate and document. Whether we reach a definitive agreement for a partnership will depend on a number of factors, including, among other things, upon our partners’ assessment of our industry knowledge, data repository, logistical resources and expertise, the terms and conditions of the proposed partnership, and our partners’ evaluation of the potential value added from our rare disease knowledge and insights. If we are unable to do so, we may have to curtail our research on a particular rare disease or increase our expenditures and undertake research and development activities at our own expense. Further, there have been a significant number of recent business combinations among large pharmaceutical companies that have resulted in a reduced number of potential future partners.
Our ability to maintain our current relationships with our pharmaceutical partners, or enter into new relationships, can be difficult due to several factors, including that:
our products and solutions are focused towards facilitating the development of rare disease treatments which limits our market to pharmaceutical partners active in the rare disease space;
orphan drug development is complex, expensive and time-consuming due to limited identified patient populations and limited industry knowledge of rare diseases;
our pharmaceutical partners may decide to decrease or discontinue their use of our rare disease information platform due to circumstances outside of our control, including changes in their research and development plans, whether they can obtain positive data or regulatory approval in clinical trials or successfully commercialize a treatment, changes in the regulatory environment, or utilization of internal testing resources or genetic or other tests performed by other parties, among others;
internal and external constraints may be placed on potential pharmaceutical partners that can limit the number and type of relationships with companies like us they can consider and consummate; and
our pharmaceutical partners may be dissatisfied with our products or solutions or that we may fail to deliver expected benefits from our products or solutions.
Additionally, some of our pharmaceutical partners have contracted with us to provide testing for large numbers of samples or to focus our research on a particular rare disease, which could restrict our ability to perform tests for other clients or pharmaceutical partners or limit our ability to expand our data repository outside of a specified patient population or rare disease. If we fail to maintain our current relationships with our pharmaceutical partners, or enter into new partnerships, our business could suffer.
Because the identified patient populations for rare diseases are relatively small, it may be difficult to successfully identify patients for our pharmaceutical partners.
Our inability to identify a sufficient number of patients for our partners’ clinical trials could result in significant delays and could require our partners to abandon one or more clinical trials altogether. Enrollment delays in our partners’ clinical trials may result in increased development costs for our partners’ drug candidates, which would cause the value of the solutions which we offer to our pharmaceutical partners to decline. If we are unable to identify patients with a specified driver of disease or applicable genomic alteration, this could compromise our ability to add value to our partners’ clinical trials by accelerating clinical development and regulatory timelines. In addition, our projections of both the number of people who have these diseases, as well as the subset of people with these diseases who have the potential to benefit from treatment with our partners’ existing treatments or drug candidates, are based on our internal estimates derived from data in our repository. These estimates may prove to be incorrect, and new studies may reduce the estimated incidence or prevalence of these diseases. The number of patients in the United States, European Union and elsewhere may turn out to be lower than expected, may not be otherwise amenable to treatment with our partners’ drug candidates or patients may be difficult to identify and access, all of which would adversely affect our business, prospects and ability to achieve or sustain profitability.
We may fail to generate sufficient volumes of data from our diagnostic tests for inclusion in our data repository.
Our business model assumes that we will be able to continue to generate significant diagnostic test volume in order to maintain the generation of data that feeds into our data repository, which is necessary for the development of new products and solutions for our pharmaceutical partners and clients. We may not succeed in continuing to drive clinical adoption of our tests to achieve sufficient volumes. Inasmuch as detailed genetic or other data from our tests have only recently become available at relatively affordable prices, the pace and degree of clinical acceptance of the utility of such testing is uncertain. Specifically, it is uncertain how much genetic or other data will be accepted as necessary or useful, as well as how detailed that data should be, particularly since medical practitioners may have become accustomed to genetic or other testing that is specific to one or a few genes. To generate demand for our tests, we will need to continue to make our diagnostics clients, as well as physicians and key opinion leaders, aware of the benefits of our tests, including the price, the breadth of our testing options, and the benefits of having additional genetic or other data available from which to make treatment decisions. In addition, physicians in other areas of medicine may not adopt genetic or other testing for certain rare diseases as readily as it has been adopted for some more well-known rare diseases and our efforts to sell our tests to physicians outside of a set number of rare diseases may not be successful. A lack of or delay in increased clinical acceptance of our diagnostic tests would negatively impact sales and market acceptance of our tests and limit our ability to expand on the scope and quality of knowledge and interpretation-based solutions offered to our pharmaceutical partners, which could in turn impact our revenue growth and potential profitability.
In addition, genetic or other testing is still relatively expensive and many potential pharmaceutical partners and clients may be sensitive to pricing concerns. Potential pharmaceutical partners or clients may not adopt our tests if adequate reimbursement is unavailable, or if we are not able to maintain low prices in the future relative to our competitors. If we are not able to generate demand for our tests at sufficient volume, or if it takes significantly more time to generate this demand than we anticipate, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations could be materially harmed.
We derive a large proportion of our revenues from agreements with a limited number of pharmaceutical partners and clients.
We have historically earned a large proportion of our revenue from a limited number of pharmaceutical partners and diagnostic testing clients. In the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, our top five pharmaceutical partners, in the aggregate, accounted for 6.9% (30.2% excluding COVID-19 revenues) and 12.6% (41.4% excluding COVID-19 revenues) of our revenues, respectively. The loss of, or material reduction in, revenues from any one of our major pharmaceutical partners or clients could materially reduce our total revenues, harm our reputation in the industry and/or reduce our ability to accurately predict our revenue, net income and cash flow. The loss of, or material reduction, in revenue from any one of our major pharmaceutical partners or clients could also adversely affect our gross profit and utilization as we seek to redeploy resources previously dedicated to that partner. We cannot assure you that revenue from our major pharmaceutical partners or clients will not be significantly reduced in the future. We also may not be able to maintain our relationships with our major pharmaceutical partners or clients on existing or on continued favorable terms and our major pharmaceutical partners or clients may not renew their agreements with us, in which case our business, financial condition and results of operations would be adversely affected.
In particular, during the year ended December 31, 2021, our collaboration with Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, represented 5.1% (22.2% excluding COVID-19 revenues) of our total revenues (2020: 8.6% (28.2% excluding COVID-19 revenues)). We expect that our collaboration with Takeda will continue to account for a material portion of our revenue in 2022. The revenue attributable to Takeda may fluctuate in the future, which could have an adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations. In addition, changes in the terms of our agreements with Takeda, or a modification or termination of our relationship with Takeda, could result in delays in the receipt of revenue by us, or a temporary or permanent loss of revenue to us. In addition, certain pharmaceutical companies, including those with which we currently have agreements, may choose not to do business with us or may seek out other partners for genetic rare disease information due to our strategic collaboration with Takeda, particularly if they are actual or potential competitors with Takeda. If we are unable to continue to grow our business with other pharmaceutical companies, our business and results of operations would be adversely affected.
Our client concentration may also subject us to perceived or actual leverage that our pharmaceutical partners or clients may have, given their relative size and importance to us. If our pharmaceutical partners or clients seek to negotiate their agreements on terms less favorable to us and we accept such unfavorable terms, this may have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. Accordingly, unless and until we diversify and expand our client base, our future success will significantly depend upon the timing and volume of business from our largest pharmaceutical partners and clients and the financial and operational success of these pharmaceutical partners and clients.
We may be adversely affected by volatile, negative or uncertain economic, political or social conditions and the effects of these conditions on our pharmaceutical partners’ and diagnostics clients’ businesses and levels of business activity.
Global economic conditions affect our pharmaceutical partners’ and diagnostic clients’ businesses and the markets they serve, and volatile, negative or uncertain economic conditions may have an adverse effect on our revenue growth and profitability. Volatile, negative or uncertain economic conditions in our significant markets, in particular in our North America, Middle East or European regions, where we generated 10.3%, 8.7% and 79.3%, respectively, of our total revenues for the year ended December 31, 2021, could undermine business confidence, both in those markets and other markets, and cause our pharmaceutical partners or clients to reduce or defer their spending on new technologies or initiatives or terminate existing contracts, which would negatively affect our business. Growth in the markets we serve could be at a slow rate, or could stagnate, for an extended period of time. Differing economic conditions and patterns of economic growth and contraction in the geographical regions in which we operate and the industries we serve may affect demand for our products and solutions. Weakening in these markets as a result of high government deficits, credit downgrades or otherwise could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations. Ongoing economic volatility and uncertainty affects our business in a number of other ways, including making it more difficult to accurately forecast partner demand beyond the short term and effectively build our revenue and resource plans, particularly given the iterative nature of the negotiation of new contracts with our pharmaceutical partners. This could result, for example, in us not having the level of appropriate personnel where they are needed, and could have a significant negative impact on our results of operations.
Moreover, acts of terrorist violence, political unrest, armed regional and international hostilities and international responses to these hostilities, natural disasters, global health risks or pandemics or the threat of or perceived potential for these events could have a negative impact on us. These events could adversely affect our pharmaceutical partners’ levels of business activity and precipitate sudden significant changes in regional and global economic conditions and cycles. These events also pose significant risks to our people and to physical facilities and operations around the world, whether the facilities are ours or those of our distributors, pharmaceutical partners or physicians that utilize our diagnostic testing services. By disrupting communications and travel and
increasing the difficulty of obtaining and retaining highly skilled and qualified personnel, these events could make it difficult or impossible for us to deliver products and solutions to our clients and pharmaceutical partners. Extended disruptions of electricity, other public utilities or network services at our facilities, as well as system failures at, or security breaches in, our facilities or systems, could also adversely affect our ability to serve our clients and pharmaceutical partners. We might be unable to protect our people, facilities and systems against all such occurrences. We generally do not have insurance for losses and interruptions caused by terrorist attacks, conflicts and wars. If these disruptions prevent us from effectively serving our clients and pharmaceutical partners, our results of operations could be adversely affected.
We may face restrictions or delays in the receipt of patient samples to our laboratories for diagnostic testing.
Our business depends on our ability to quickly and reliably receive samples from physicians. Our CentoCard product is typically sent from locations worldwide to our laboratory in Rostock, Germany as well as our Cambridge, Massachusetts facility. Disruptions in delivery, whether due to factors beyond our control such as natural disasters, terrorist threats, political instability, governmental policies, failures by physicians to properly label or package the samples, failure by postage services, labor disruptions, bad weather or other factors could adversely affect the receipt by us of samples or specimen integrity and could impact our ability to process samples in a timely manner and to provide our services to our clients and pharmaceutical partners. In particular, there is a general trend in certain countries, for example in China and certain countries in South America, where policies have been introduced that restrict the processing of genetic or other testing outside the country in which the patient is located. This could disrupt the transportation of samples to our testing facilities in Germany and the United States from such countries, and could adversely impact our current business operations or prevent us from expanding into certain new regions.
In addition, the majority of our samples are delivered to us via regular postal services worldwide. If such services are disrupted, or if we are unable to continue to obtain expedited delivery services or specialized delivery services for certain products, such as our prenatal algorithmic test, on commercially reasonable terms, our operating results may be adversely affected.
We may become subject to substantial product liability or professional liability claims that could exceed our resources.
The marketing, sale and use of our products and solutions could lead to the filing of product liability claims if someone were to allege that our products and solutions identified inaccurate or incomplete information regarding the diagnostic information of the rare disease indication analyzed, reported inaccurate or incomplete information concerning the available treatments for a certain type of rare disease or otherwise failed to perform as designed. For example, we have been subject to a claim from a client that our prenatal diagnostic test conducted at their request failed to identify a specific mutation present in a patient. See “Item 4. Information On The Company—B. Business Overview—Legal Proceedings” and “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings.” We may also be subject to liability for errors in, a misunderstanding of, or inappropriate reliance upon, the information we provide in the ordinary course of our business activities. A product liability or professional liability claim could result in substantial damages and be costly and time-consuming for us to defend.
Our service and professional liability 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 or cause current clients or pharmaceutical partners to terminate existing agreements and potential clients or pharmaceutical partners to seek other partners, any of which could impact our results of operations.
If the validity of a consent from a patient was challenged, we could be forced to stop using certain of our data resources, which would impede our rare disease information development efforts.
We provide diagnostic testing services to patients of our pharmaceutical partners and diagnostics clients worldwide. We also provide products and solutions, including biomarker development and testing, to our pharmaceutical partners. Such products and solutions involve the aggregation of data obtained from patients in our existing data repository and data obtained from new tests conducted both on patients whose samples remain in our biobank or new patients from whom we collect samples.
To a large extent, we also rely upon our pharmaceutical partners, our clients and, in some cases, third-party laboratories to collect the subject’s informed consent and comply with applicable local laws and international regulations. Although we maintain policies and procedures designed to monitor the collection of consents by both ourselves and such third parties, we or third parties may not obtain the required consents in a timely manner, or at all. In addition, consents that we have obtained or will obtain may not meet the existing or future standards required by relevant governmental authorities.
The collection of data and samples in many different countries results in complex legal questions regarding the adequacy of consent and the status of genetic material under a large number of different legal systems. In some jurisdictions, samples that contain a person’s DNA might irrevocably qualify as personal data, as in theory such samples can never be completely anonymized. Legitimate interests of the donor might cause a “revival” of his or her personal rights in the future and limit our rights of utilization. The subject’s consent obtained in any particular country could be withdrawn or challenged in the future, and those consents could prove invalid, unlawful, or otherwise inadequate for our purposes. Furthermore, we may face disputes with patients should their data be used in a manner which they did not expect or if the consent was recorded incorrectly or obtained fraudulently. Any findings against us, or our pharmaceutical partners, clients or distributors, could deny us access to or force us to stop using certain of our clinical data or samples, which would impede our genetic or other information solution development efforts. We could become involved in legal challenges, which could consume our management and financial resources.
If access to our highly specialized laboratory facilities, storage facilities or equipment is interrupted or damaged, our business could be negatively impacted.
Our diagnostic testing products and pharmaceutical solutions are rendered at our laboratory facilities. We currently run the majority of our core diagnostic testing at our laboratory in Rostock, Germany, and we also commenced operations at our laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts in August 2018. If one or more of our laboratories, and particularly our facility in Rostock, become inoperable or some or all of our key equipment ceases to function even for a short period of time, we may be unable to perform our genetic or other tests or develop solutions in a timely manner or at all, which may result in the loss of clients and pharmaceutical partners or harm to our reputation, and we may be unable to regain those clients and pharmaceutical partners or repair our reputation in the future. Our facilities and equipment could be harmed or rendered inoperable by natural or man-made disasters, including war, fire, earthquake, flood, power loss, communications or internet failure or interruption, or terrorism, which may render it difficult or impossible for us to operate our genetic rare disease information platform for some period of time.
In particular, the biomaterials that are stored in our biobank are located in our Rostock facility. Should the biomaterials that we store there be damaged or destroyed, we would lose part or all of our existing biomaterials and as a result we would not be able to retest this material for future research and development uses.
Furthermore, our facilities and the equipment we use to perform our research and development work could be unavailable or costly and time-consuming to repair or replace. It would be difficult, time-consuming, and expensive to rebuild any of our facilities or license or transfer our proprietary technology to a third party, particularly in light of the licensure and accreditation requirements and specific equipment needed for laboratories like ours. Even in the unlikely event we are able to find a third party with such qualifications to enable us to perform our genetic or other tests or develop our solutions, we may be unable to negotiate commercially reasonable terms with such third parties. Any interruption of our laboratory operations could harm relationships with our clients and pharmaceutical partners or regulatory authorities, which could adversely affect our ability to generate revenue or maintain compliance with regulatory standards.
While we carry insurance for damage to our property and laboratory and the disruption of our business, such insurance may not cover all of the risks associated with damage to our property or laboratory or disruption to our business, may not provide coverage in amounts sufficient to cover our potential losses, may be challenged by insurers underwriting the coverage, and may not continue to be available to us on acceptable terms, if at all.
We depend upon our information technology systems, and any failure of these systems could harm our business.
We depend on information technology and telecommunications systems for significant elements of our operations, including our BioDatabank, our CentoPortal client-facing platform, our COVID-19 Test Portal, our laboratory information management system, our third-party datacenter solutions, our broadband connections and our client relationship management system. We have installed a number of enterprise software systems that affect a broad range of business processes and functional areas, including, for example, systems handling human resources, financial controls and reporting, contract management and other infrastructure operations. These information technology systems support a variety of functions, including laboratory operations, test validation, sample tracking, quality control, customer service support, billing and reimbursement, research and development activities, scientific and medical curation, and general administrative activities. In addition, our system is backed up by two offsite data centers that offer a disaster recovery system for our database in separate locations near Frankfurt. Any technical problems that may arise in connection with third-party data center hosting facilities could result in interruptions in our service.
Our information technology systems are vulnerable to damage from a variety of sources, including network failures, malicious human acts, and natural disasters. Our business will also be harmed if our laboratory partners and potential laboratory partners believe our service is unreliable. Moreover, despite network security and back-up measures, some of our servers are potentially vulnerable to physical or electronic break-ins, malicious computer software (malware), and similar disruptive problems. Failures or significant downtime of our information technology systems, or those used by our third-party service providers, could prevent us from conducting our comprehensive genomic analyses, preparing and providing reports and data to partners and physicians, billing payors, processing reimbursement appeals, handling patient or physician inquiries, conducting research and development activities, and managing the administrative aspects of our business. Additionally, to the extent that any disruption or security breach results in a loss or damage to our data or applications, or inappropriate disclosure of confidential or proprietary information, we may incur significant liability. 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.
We rely on a limited number of suppliers, or, in some cases, a sole supplier, for some of our laboratory equipment and may not be able to find replacements or immediately transition to alternative suppliers.
We believe that there are only a few equipment manufacturers that are currently capable of supplying and servicing the sequencing equipment necessary for our laboratory operations. For example, we rely on a key supplier, Illumina, for certain sequencing equipment used for our processes. We may not be able to obtain acceptable substitute equipment from another supplier on the same basis or at all. Even if we are able to obtain acceptable substitutes from replacement suppliers, their use could require us to significantly alter our laboratory operations. An interruption in our laboratory operations could occur if we encounter delays or difficulties in securing or maintaining the proper function of this laboratory equipment. Any such interruption could negatively impact research and development and launches of new products or solutions, and significantly affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and reputation.
The loss or transition of any member of our senior management team, or our inability to attract and retain new talent, could adversely affect our business.
Our success depends on the skills, experience, and performance of key members of our senior management team. The individual and collective efforts of these employees will be important as we continue to develop our BioDatabank and additional products and solutions, and as we expand our commercial activities. The loss or incapacity of existing members of our senior management team could adversely affect our operations if we experience difficulties in hiring qualified successors.
The complexity inherent in integrating a new key member of the senior management team with existing senior management may limit the effectiveness of any such successor or otherwise adversely affect our business. Leadership transitions can be inherently difficult to manage and may cause uncertainty or a disruption to our business or may increase the likelihood of turnover of other key officers and employees. Specifically, a leadership transition in the commercial team may cause uncertainty about or a disruption to our commercial organization, which may impact our ability to achieve sales and revenue targets.
Our research and development programs and laboratory operations depend on our ability to attract and retain highly skilled scientists and technicians. We may not be able to attract or retain qualified scientists and technicians in the future due to the intense competition for qualified personnel among life science businesses globally. We also face competition from universities and public and private research institutions in recruiting and retaining highly qualified scientific personnel. We may have difficulties locating, recruiting, or retaining qualified sales people. Recruitment and retention difficulties can limit our ability to support our research and development and sales programs.
International expansion of our business exposes us to new and complex business, regulatory, political, operational, financial, and economic risks.
Our business strategy incorporates plans for significant expansion in the countries in which we currently operate and internationally. Doing business internationally involves a number of risks, including:
multiple, conflicting, and changing laws and regulations such as data protection laws, privacy regulations, tax laws, export and import restrictions, employment laws, regulatory requirements (including requirements related to patient consent, testing of genetic material and reporting the results of such testing) and other governmental approvals, permits, and licenses, or government delays in issuing such approvals, permits, and licenses;
failure to obtain regulatory approvals for the manufacture and sale of our products and use of our products and solutions in various countries;
transition and management of our former distribution relationships in various countries;
potentially relevant third-party intellectual property rights;
difficulties in staffing and managing foreign operations;
complexities and difficulties in obtaining, maintaining, protecting and enforcing our intellectual property rights;
logistics and regulations associated with preparing, shipping, importing and exporting tissue and blood samples, including infrastructure conditions, transportation delays, and customs;
limits in our ability to penetrate new geographical regions due to competition;
logistical issues or increases in costs of transporting tests and samples since our diagnostic tests are conducted primarily in Germany;
financial risks, such as the impact of local and regional financial crises on demand and payment for our products and solutions, and exposure to foreign currency exchange rate fluctuations;
risks associated with operations in countries which have experienced, or are currently experiencing, high rates of inflation which increase our costs, inhibit economic growth and could lead to reduced demand for our products and solutions;
natural disasters, political, and economic instability, including wars, terrorism, and political unrest, outbreak of disease, boycotts, curtailment of trade, and other business restrictions; and
regulatory and compliance risks that relate to maintaining accurate information and control over sales and distribution activities that may fall within the purview of the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) or comparable foreign regulations, including its books and records provisions, or its anti-bribery provisions.
Any of these factors could significantly harm our future international expansion and operations and, consequently, our revenue and results of operations. The difference in regulations under the laws of the countries in which we may expand and the laws of the countries in which we currently operate may be significant and, in order to comply with such new laws, we may have to implement global changes to our products and solutions or business practices. Such changes may result in additional expense to us and either reduce or delay development of our products and solutions, commercialization of our biomarkers and other solutions or expansion of our data repository and biobank. In addition, any failure to comply with applicable legal and regulatory obligations could affect us in a variety of ways that include, but are not limited to, significant criminal, civil and administrative penalties and restrictions on certain business activities. Also, the failure to comply with applicable legal and regulatory obligations could result in the disruption of our activities in these countries.
Failure to manage these and other risks may have a material adverse effect on our operations in any particular country and on our business as a whole.
Implementation of partnership agreements with our pharmaceutical partners may result in material unanticipated problems, expenses, liabilities, competitive responses, loss of client relationships and diversion of management’s attention.
The negotiation of our existing partnership agreements, as well as any new partnership agreements that we enter into, take up significant management time and resources. Moreover, in part due to the complex nature of our partnership agreements, which typically provide for research and development collaboration as well as utilization of our patient screening processes, we may need to expend capital and dedicate manpower to meeting the requirements of our pharmaceutical partners. Any partnership agreements that we enter into in the future may contain restrictions on our ability to enter into potential collaborations with other third parties, or to otherwise provide products and solutions in connection with a particular rare disease indication. As a result of these and other factors,
our partnership agreements may result in material unanticipated problems, expenses, liabilities, competitive responses, loss of client relationships and diversion of management’s attention.
Many of these factors will be outside of our control, and any one of them could result in increased costs, decreases in the amount of expected revenues and diversion of management’s time and energy, which could materially impact our business, financial condition and results of operations. As a result, we cannot assure you that our relationship with any pharmaceutical partner will result in the realization of the anticipated benefits.
If our products and solutions do not perform as expected, we may fail to achieve or maintain sales of our products and solutions.
Our success depends on the market’s confidence that we can provide accurate diagnostic testing products and reliable, high-quality rare disease information solutions. Our partnerships with our pharmaceutical partners and clients are typically designed to provide results in respect of a particular rare disease, and our preliminary assessments or knowledge about such disease may necessarily be limited by the amount of information currently available. As a result, the work we undertake on behalf of our pharmaceutical partners and clients may not yield the results that our pharmaceutical partners and clients expect or anticipate. We believe that our pharmaceutical partners and clients are likely to be particularly sensitive to solution and testing service defects and errors, including if our products or services fail to detect genomic or other alterations with high accuracy from clinical specimens or if we fail to accurately develop a biomarker.
Moreover, we may fail to maintain the accuracy and reproducibility we have demonstrated to date with our genetic or other testing services, particularly for clinical samples, as our test volume increases. The sequencing process yields that we achieve depend on the design and operation of our sequencing process, which uses a number of complex and sophisticated biochemical, informatics, optical, and mechanical processes, many of which are highly sensitive to external factors. An operational or technological failure in one of these complex processes or fluctuations in external variables may result in sequencing processing yields that are lower than we anticipate or that vary between sequencing runs. In addition, we are regularly evaluating and refining our sequencing process. These refinements may initially result in unanticipated issues that further reduce our sequencing process yields or increase the variability of our sequencing process yields. Errors, including if our products or solutions fail to detect genomic variants with high accuracy, or mistakes, including if we fail to or incompletely or incorrectly identify the significance of gene variants, could have a significant adverse impact on our business.
Hundreds of genes can be implicated in some disorders, and overlapping networks of genes and symptoms can be implicated in multiple conditions. As a result, a substantial amount of judgment is required in order to interpret testing results for an individual patient and to develop an appropriate patient report. As a result, we may make errors in our interpretation of testing results, which could impair the results of our tests and adversely impact the quality of our overall knowledge base. The failure of our products or solutions to perform as expected would significantly impair our operating results and our reputation. We may also be subject to legal claims arising from, or loss of business as a result of, any defects or errors in our products and solutions.
We may fail to manage our future growth effectively, which could make it difficult to execute our business strategy.
We anticipate growth in our business operations. This future growth could create strain on our organizational, administrative and operational infrastructure, including laboratory operations, quality control, customer service, and sales force management. We may fail to maintain the quality or expected turnaround times of our products and services, or satisfy customer demand as it grows. Our ability to manage our growth properly will require us to continue to improve our operational, financial and management controls, as well as our reporting systems and procedures.
We plan to expand our laboratory and technical operations as our business grows. However, any expansion strategies and any future growth could create strain on our organizational, administrative and operational infrastructure, including laboratory operations, quality control, customer service and sales force management. We may not be able to maintain the quality or expected turnaround times of our testing services or satisfy client demand as our business grows. Our ability to manage our growth properly will require us to continue to improve our operational, financial, and managerial controls, as well as our reporting systems and procedures, and to obtain appropriate regulatory approvals and meet regulatory standards applicable for the operation of our business.
The development of new products and solutions is a complex process, and we may be unable to successfully commercialize new products or solutions on a timely basis or at all.
New diagnostic test products and our interpretation-based solutions, including our biomarkers, take time to develop and commercialize. We may fail to develop and commercialize new diagnostic tests or solutions on a timely basis. Moreover, there can be no assurance that our products or solutions will be capable of meeting the needs of our clients and pharmaceutical partners, or that we will be able to commercialize them at all. Before we can commercialize any new products or solutions, we need to expend significant funds in order to:
conduct substantial research and development, including epidemiology and validation studies and potentially patient scope analyses;
further develop our laboratory processes or equipment;
allocate laboratory space for new solutions or further scale our infrastructure to accommodate research and development or new equipment;
in the case of products or solutions for which we are seeking regulatory or marketing approval, such as biomarkers, pursue such regulatory approval.
The development of new products and solutions involves risk, and development efforts may fail for many reasons, including the failure of any product or solution to perform as expected, a lack of validation or reference data, failure to demonstrate utility of a test or solution, or, in the case of solutions for which we are seeking or have received the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”), European Commission and European Medicines Agency (“EMA”), German Federal Institute for Medicinal Products and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte), or comparable authorities’ or agencies’ approval, the inability to obtain such approval or the loss of such approval. In particular, our biomarker development and patent processes are subject to review by regulatory agencies and governing bodies. We cannot predict whether or when we will successfully complete development of each biomarker and if we will receive patent protection on any biomarkers that we develop.
As we develop new products and solutions, we will have to make significant investments in development, marketing, and selling resources. Any failure to develop or deliver adequate products or solutions to our clients and pharmaceutical partners on a timely basis or at all could significantly affect our business, financial condition, results of operations, and reputation.
We have limited experience in marketing and selling our products and solutions and we may fail to expand our direct sales and marketing force to adequately address our pharmaceutical partners’ and clients’ needs.
We have limited experience in marketing and selling our products and solutions to pharmaceutical partners, and currently rely on a small sales force to sell our products and solutions. We may not be able to market, sell, or distribute our existing products and solutions or other services we may develop effectively enough to support our planned growth.
Our future sales and further business growth will depend in large part on our ability to develop, and expand, our sales force and to increase the scope of our marketing efforts, particularly in the United States. Our target market of pharmaceutical partners and clients is a diverse market with particular, individualized needs. As a result, we believe it is necessary to develop a sales force that includes sales representatives with specific rare disease technical backgrounds. We will also need to attract and develop marketing personnel with industry expertise. Competition for such employees is intense. We may not be able to attract and retain personnel or be able to build an efficient and effective sales and marketing force, which could negatively impact sales and market acceptance of our products or solutions and limit our revenue growth and potential profitability. Our expected future growth will impose significant added responsibilities on members of management, including the need to identify, recruit, maintain, and integrate additional employees. Our future financial performance will depend in part on our ability to manage this potential future growth effectively, without compromising quality.
If we believe a significant market opportunity for our products or solutions exists in a particular jurisdiction in which we do not have direct access through one of our existing offices, from time to time we may enlist distribution partners and local laboratories to assist with sales, distribution, and client support. We may not be successful in finding, attracting, and retaining distribution partners or laboratories, or we may not be able to enter into such arrangements on favorable terms. Sales practices utilized by our distribution partners that are locally acceptable may not comply with sales practices standards required under German, Dutch, United States or
other laws that apply to us, which could create additional compliance risk. If these additional sales and marketing efforts are not successful, we may not achieve significant market acceptance for our solutions in these markets, which could harm our business.
The knowledge and interpretation-based solutions we provide to our pharmaceutical partners may not achieve significant commercial market acceptance.
Our knowledge and interpretation-based solutions may not gain significant acceptance in the orphan drug development market and, therefore, may not generate substantial revenue or profits for us. Our ability to achieve increased commercial market acceptance for our existing knowledge and interpretation-based solutions will depend on several factors, including:
our ability to convince the medical and pharmaceutical community of the clinical utility of our solutions and their potential advantages over existing and new solutions;
the willingness of our pharmaceutical partners, as well as their physicians and patients, to utilize our solutions; and
the agreement by commercial third-party payors and government payors to reimburse any treatments provided by our pharmaceutical partners, the scope and amount of which will affect a partners’ willingness or ability to pay for our solutions and will influence physicians’ decisions to recommend our solutions.
We believe that the successful completion of clinical trials by partners that use our solutions, publication of scientific and medical results based on the information gained from our repository in peer-reviewed journals, and presentations at leading conferences are critical to the broad adoption of our solutions. Publication in leading medical journals is subject to a peer-review process, and peer reviewers may not consider the results of studies involving our solutions sufficiently novel or worthy of publication.
The failure to be listed in physician guidelines or the failure of our solutions to produce favorable results for our partners or to be published in peer-reviewed journals could limit the adoption of our solutions. Failure to achieve widespread market acceptance of our solutions would materially harm our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
Failure to keep pace with the rapidly evolving industry in which we operate could make us obsolete.
Our business relies on commercial activities in the rare disease genetic or other testing and diagnosis field. In recent years, there have been numerous advances in methods used to analyze very large amounts of genomic information and the role of genetics and gene variants in rare diseases and treatments, including through the development of biomarkers. Our industry has and will continue to be characterized by rapid technological change, increasingly larger amounts of data, frequent new testing service introductions and evolving industry standards. Our future success will also depend on our ability to keep pace with the evolving needs of our clients and pharmaceutical partners on a timely and cost-effective basis and to pursue new market opportunities that develop as a result of technological and scientific advances. Our current products and solutions could become obsolete unless we continually update our offerings to reflect new scientific knowledge about genes and genetic variations and their role in rare diseases and treatments. If we fail to anticipate or respond adequately to technological developments, demand for our products and solutions will not grow and may decline, and our business, revenue, financial condition and operating results could suffer materially.
Moreover, many companies in this market are offering, or may soon offer, products and solutions that compete with our products and solutions, in some cases at a lower cost than ours. We cannot assure you that research and discoveries by other companies will not render our existing or potential products and solutions uneconomical or result in tests superior to our existing tests and those we may develop. We also cannot assure you that any of our existing products and solutions, or those that we develop in the future, will be preferred by our clients, pharmaceutical partners, physicians or other payors to any existing or newly developed technologies or tests. If we fail to maintain competitive test products, our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations could be adversely affected.
We may fail to successfully respond to increasing demand for our products and solutions.
As our sales volume grows, we will need to continue to increase our infrastructure for sample intake, customer service, billing and general process improvements, expand our internal quality assurance program, and extend our platform to support comprehensive genomic and other analyses at a larger scale within expected turnaround times. We will need additional certified laboratory scientists and other scientific and technical personnel to process higher volumes of our products and solutions. Portions of our process cannot be fully automated and will require additional personnel to scale. We will also need to purchase additional
equipment, some of which can take a long time to procure, set up, and validate, and increase our software and computing capacity to meet increased demand.
We may fail to successfully implement any of these increases in scale, expansion of personnel, equipment, software and computing capacities, or process enhancements and we may have inadequate space in our laboratory facilities to accommodate such required expansion.
As additional products and solutions are commercialized, we will need to incorporate new equipment, implement new technology systems and laboratory processes, and hire new personnel with different qualifications. Failure to manage this growth or transition could result in turnaround time delays, higher product costs, declining product quality, deteriorating customer service, and slower responses to competitive challenges. A failure in any one of these areas could make it difficult or impossible for us to meet market expectations for our products and solutions, and could damage our reputation and the prospects for our business.
We may fail to obtain favorable pricing for our products and solutions and to meet our profitability expectations.
If we are not able to obtain favorable pricing for our products and solutions to enable us to meet our profitability expectations, our revenues and profitability could materially suffer. The rates we are able to charge for our products and solutions are affected by a number of factors, including:
general economic and political conditions in the countries in which we operate;
the competitive environment in our industry, as described below;
our clients’ and pharmaceutical partners’ cost sensitivities;
our ability to accurately estimate, attain and sustain revenues and royalties, margins and cash flows over the full partnership period for our solutions, which includes our ability to estimate the impact of inflation and foreign exchange on our margins over long-term contracts; and
procurement practices of our pharmaceutical partners and clients and their use of third-party advisors.
The competitive environment in our industry affects our ability to obtain favorable pricing in a number of ways, all of which could have a material negative impact on our results of operations. The less we are able to clearly convey the value of our products and solutions or differentiate our products and solutions, the more risk we have that they will be seen as commodities, with price being the driving factor in selecting us as a partner. Competitors may be willing, at times, to price contracts or products lower than we do in an effort to enter the market or increase market share. Further, if competitors develop and implement methodologies that yield greater efficiency or efficacy, they may be able to offer products and solutions similar to ours at lower prices.
Ethical, legal and social concerns related to the use of genomic or other diagnostic information could reduce demand for our rare disease knowledge and interpretation-based products and solutions.
Genomic testing, like that conducted for our pharmaceutical partners and clients using our genetic rare disease information platform, has raised ethical, legal and social issues regarding privacy and the appropriate uses of the resulting information. Governmental authorities could, for social or other purposes, limit or regulate the use of genomic information or genomic testing or prohibit testing for genetic predisposition to certain conditions, particularly for those that have no known cure. Similarly, these concerns may lead patients to refuse to use genomic tests even if permissible.
Ethical and social concerns may also influence United States and foreign patent offices and courts with regard to patent protection for technology relevant to our business. These and other ethical, legal and social concerns may limit market acceptance of our products and solutions or reduce the potential markets for products and solutions enabled by our genetic rare disease information platform, either of which could have an adverse effect on our business, financial condition, or results of operations.
We have limited resources to be expended on research and development programs. Our resource allocation decisions may lead us to focus on research and development programs that are not commercially viable, and as a result we may be unable to recover the costs incurred under these efforts.
Because we have limited financial and managerial resources, we focus on research and development programs that we identify for rare diseases in collaboration with our pharmaceutical partners, or based on our assessment of the market needs. As a result, we may forego or delay pursuit of opportunities with other orphan drug candidates or for other indications that later prove to have greater commercial potential. Our resource allocation decisions may cause us to fail to capitalize on viable commercial drugs or profitable market opportunities. Our spending on current and future research and development programs for specific diseases may not yield any relevant results that are helpful to our existing programs or assist in the creation of any commercially viable drugs. If we do not accurately evaluate the commercial potential or target market for a particular drug candidate, we may relinquish valuable rights to that drug candidate through collaboration, licensing or other royalty arrangements.
If we fail to compete successfully with our competitors, including new entrants in the market, we may be unable to increase or sustain our revenue or achieve and sustain profitability.
While personalized genomic diagnostics is a relatively new area of science, we face competition from companies that offer tests or have conducted research to profile genes and gene expression in various rare diseases. Our principal competition comes from diagnostic companies that offer diagnostic tests that capture genetic, phenotypic and epidemiological data, as well as laboratories and academic research centers. Many hospitals and academic medical centers may also seek to perform the type of genetic or other testing and knowledge and interpretation-based solutions we offer at their own facilities or using their own research capabilities.
Some of our present and potential competitors may have substantially greater financial, marketing, technical or manufacturing resources than we do. Our competitors may also be able to respond more quickly to new technologies or processes and changes in client demands. They may also be able to devote greater resources towards the development, promotion and sale of their products or solutions for pharmaceutical partners than we can. As competition in our market increases, we may also be subject to increased litigation risk, including in connection with patents as well as our marketing practices and other promotional activities. In addition, our current and potential competitors may make strategic acquisitions or establish cooperative relationships among themselves or with third parties that increase their ability to address the needs of our physicians or partners. If we fail to compete successfully against current or future competitors, our business will be harmed.
Because our genetic or other testing and knowledge and interpretation-based solutions and products have limited patent protection, new and existing companies worldwide could seek to develop genetic or other tests or similar products and solutions that compete with ours. These competitors could have technological, financial, and market access advantages that are not currently available to us and they could develop and commercialize competing products and solutions faster than we are able to do so. Increased competition, including price competition, could have a material adverse impact on our net revenues and profitability.
If our pharmaceutical partners experience any of a number of possible unforeseen events in connection with their clinical trials, our ability to commercialize future solutions or improvements to existing solutions could be delayed or prevented.
Our pharmaceutical partners may experience numerous unforeseen events during, or as a result of, clinical trials that could delay or prevent their ability to continue or conduct further clinical trials or obtain regulatory approval of or commercialize future orphan drugs. Unforeseen events that could delay or prevent our pharmaceutical partners’ ability to conduct or support clinical trials, obtain regulatory approval of or commercialize future orphan drugs include:
|●||regulatory authorities or ethical review boards, including IRBs, may not authorize the commencement of a clinical trial or may not accept clinical trial protocols;|
|●||clinical trials may produce negative or inconclusive results, and our pharmaceutical partners may decide, or regulatory authorities may require them to, to abandon development programs;|
|●||the number of patients, or amount of data, required for clinical trials may be larger than we or our pharmaceutical partners anticipate, or patient enrollment in clinical trials may be slower than we or our pharmaceutical partners anticipate or patients may drop out of these clinical trials at a higher rate than we or our pharmaceutical partners anticipate;|
|●||failure to conduct our clinical trials in accordance with applicable regulatory requirements of the FDA and of the regulatory authorities responsible for authorization or oversight of the conduct of clinical trials in other countries;|
|●||inability to develop companion diagnostic tests for a particular rare disease or to add companion diagnostic claims to existing tests, and/or obtain regulatory approval to market any such test on a timely basis or at all;|
|●||clinical trials of our pharmaceutical partners for which we are developing companion diagnostic tests may suggest or demonstrate that our partners’ treatments are not as efficacious and/or as safe as other similar treatments or that our companion diagnostic test is not essential to determine which patients would benefit from these treatments;|
|●||mergers and acquisitions could have an impact on the priorities of our pharmaceutical partners; and|
|●||our pharmaceutical partners may decide, or regulatory authorities or institutional review boards may require them, to suspend or terminate clinical research for various reasons, including cost, adequate end market size, available data or noncompliance with regulatory requirements.|
If our pharmaceutical partners choose not to conduct clinical trials for treatments in the rare disease space due to the above factors or otherwise, they may have less need of our products and solutions and may therefore choose not to partner with us. Our ability to continually expand our existing data repository depends on our ability to maintain partnerships with our pharmaceutical clients. Should our partners delay or cancel their ongoing existing trials or choose not to begin new trials for treatments in the disease areas relevant to us, our ability to commercialize future solutions or improvements to existing solutions could be delayed or prevented.
Our employees, principal investigators, consultants, and commercial partners may engage in misconduct or other improper activities, including non-compliance with regulatory standards and requirements and insider trading.
We are exposed to the risk of fraud or other misconduct by our employees, principal investigators, consultants, and commercial partners, including our distributors in our diagnostics business and pharmaceutical partners in our pharmaceutical business. Misconduct by these parties could include intentional failures to comply with the regulations of applicable regulatory authorities (including the FDA and the European Commission and EMA), comply with healthcare fraud and abuse laws and regulations, report financial information or data accurately, or disclose unauthorized activities to us. In particular, sales, marketing, and business arrangements in the healthcare industry are subject to extensive laws and regulations intended to prevent fraud, misconduct, bribery, kickbacks, self-dealing, and other abusive practices. These laws and regulations may restrict or prohibit a wide range of pricing, discounting, marketing and promotion, sales commission, client incentive programs, and other business arrangements. Such misconduct could also involve the improper use of information obtained in the course of clinical studies, which could result in regulatory sanctions and cause serious harm to our reputation. We currently have an insider trading policy as well as a code of conduct applicable to all of our employees and conduct a background check before entering into any new contracts with third party distributors, but it is not always possible to identify and deter employee or third party misconduct, and our insider trading policy and code of conduct, due diligence and the other precautions we take to detect and prevent such misconduct may not be effective in controlling unknown or unmanaged risks or losses, or in protecting us from governmental investigations or other actions or lawsuits stemming from a failure to comply with these laws or regulations. If any such actions are instituted against us, and we are not successful in defending ourselves or asserting our rights, those actions could result in the imposition of significant fines or other sanctions, which could have a significant impact on our business. Whether or not we are successful in defending against such actions or investigations, we could incur substantial costs, including legal fees, and divert the attention of management in defending ourselves against any of these actions or investigations.
We may lose the support of key thought leaders and fail to establish our products and solutions as a standard of care for patients with rare diseases, which may limit our revenue growth and ability to achieve future profitability.
We have established relationships with leading rare disease thought leaders at premier institutions and rare disease networks. If we suffer harm to our reputation, whether due to actions outside of our control or otherwise, our relationships with these persons may suffer which could adversely impact our business, including our key pharmaceutical partnerships and diagnostic client relationships. Moreover, if these key thought leaders determine that our BioDatabank, our existing products or solutions or other new products or solutions that we develop are not useful to our partners’ development of treatments for rare diseases, that alternative technologies are more effective, or if they elect to use internally developed products or solutions, we could encounter significant difficulty validating our testing platform, driving adoption, or establishing our genetic knowledge and interpretation-based solutions and tests as a standard of care, which would limit our revenue growth and our ability to achieve profitability.
Security breaches, loss of data, and other disruptions could compromise sensitive information related to our business or prevent us from accessing critical information and expose us to liability, which could adversely affect our business and our reputation.
In the ordinary course of our business, we collect and store sensitive data, including legally protected health information, personally identifiable information, intellectual property, and proprietary business information owned or controlled by us or physicians, pharmaceutical partners and other clients. We manage and maintain our applications and data utilizing a combination of on-site systems, managed data center systems, and cloud-based data center systems. We also communicate, and facilitate the exchange of, sensitive patient data to and between ourselves and physicians of the patients for whom we conduct diagnostic tests through an online client-facing portal, CentoPortal. These applications and related data encompass a wide variety of business-critical information including legally protected health information, personally identifiable information, research and development information, commercial information, and business and financial information. We face a number of key risks related to the protection of this information, including: unauthorized access risk; inappropriate or unauthorized disclosure risk; inappropriate modification risk; and the risk of our being unable to adequately monitor our controls.
The secure processing, storage, maintenance, and transmission of this critical information is vital to our operations and business strategy. Our information technology and infrastructure, and that of our third-party disaster recovery back-up providers, may be vulnerable to attacks by hackers or malicious software or breached due to personnel error, unauthorized access, malfeasance, or other disruptions. Any such breach or interruption could compromise the security or integrity of our networks, and the information stored there could be accessed by unauthorized parties, publicly or incorrectly disclosed, corrupted, lost, or stolen. Any such access, disclosure, corruption, other loss, or theft of information could result in governmental investigations, class action legal claims or proceedings, liability under laws that protect the privacy of personal information, such as but not limited to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”), the General Data Protection Regulation (EU 2016/679) (“GDPR”) and regulatory penalties. Although we have implemented security measures and a formal, dedicated enterprise security program to prevent unauthorized access to patient data, applications such as our online client-facing portals are currently accessible through public web portals and may, in the future, be accessible through dedicated mobile applications, and there is no guarantee we can absolutely protect our online portals or our mobile applications from breach. Unauthorized access to, or loss or dissemination of, the data embedded in or transferred via these applications could also disrupt our operations, including our ability to conduct our analyses, provide test results, bill our pharmaceutical or other partners, provide client assistance solutions, conduct research and development activities, collect, process, and prepare company financial information, provide information about our products and solutions and other pharmaceutical partner and physician education and outreach efforts through our website, manage the administrative aspects of our business, and damage our reputation, any of which could adversely affect our business.
We are a “covered entity” as defined under HIPAA, and the United States Office of Civil Rights may impose penalties on a covered entity for a failure to comply with a requirement of HIPAA. Penalties will vary significantly depending on factors such as the date of the violation, whether the covered entity knew or should have known of the failure to comply, or whether the covered entity’s failure to comply was due to willful neglect. A person who knowingly obtains or discloses individually identifiable health information in violation of HIPAA may face a criminal penalty of up to $50,000 and imprisonment up to one year. The criminal penalties increase to $100,000 and up to five years’ imprisonment if the wrongful conduct involves false pretenses, and to $250,000 and up to 10 years’ imprisonment if the wrongful conduct involves the intent to sell, transfer, or use identifiable health information for commercial advantage, personal gain, or malicious harm. The United States Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) is responsible for criminal prosecutions under HIPAA. Furthermore, in the event of a breach as defined by HIPAA, the covered entity has specific reporting requirements under HIPAA regulations. In the event of a significant breach, the reporting requirements could include notification to the general public.
In addition, the interpretation and application of consumer, health-related, and data protection laws in the United States, Europe, and elsewhere are often uncertain, contradictory, and in flux. It is possible that these laws may be interpreted and applied in a manner that is inconsistent with our practices. If so, this could result in government-imposed fines or orders requiring that we change our practices, which could adversely affect our business. In addition, these privacy regulations may differ from country to country, and may vary based on whether testing is performed in the United States or in the local country. Our operations or business practices may not comply with these regulations in each country, and complying with these various laws could cause us to incur substantial costs or require us to change our business practices and compliance procedures in a manner adverse to our business.
We are subject to significant foreign currency exchange controls in certain countries in which we operate.
We are in some countries, and could become elsewhere, subject to strict restrictions on the movement of cash and the exchange of foreign currencies, which limits our ability to use this cash across our global operations. We also face risks related to the
collection of payments due to us from our major pharmaceutical partners or clients that are located in certain geographical regions with foreign currency or international monetary controls. This risk could increase as we continue our geographic expansion. In particular, for the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020 we derived 8.7% and 9.8%, respectively, of our total revenues from our Middle East region. Certain Middle East economies have adopted or been subject to international restrictions on the ability to transfer funds out of the country and convert local currencies into euros. This may increase our costs and limit our ability to convert local currency into euros and transfer funds out of certain countries. Any shortages or restrictions may impede our ability to convert these currencies into euros and to transfer funds, including for the payment of dividends or interest or principal on our outstanding debt.
We may acquire assets or other businesses that could negatively affect our operating results, dilute our shareholders’ ownership or increase our debt.
In addition to organic growth, we may pursue growth through the acquisition of assets or other businesses that may enable us to enhance our technologies and capabilities, expand our geographic market, add experienced management personnel or add new or improve our existing products and solutions. We also may pursue strategic alliances and joint ventures that leverage our technical platform and industry knowledge to expand our products and solutions. Negotiating these transactions and the formation of strategic alliances or joint ventures can be time-consuming and expensive, and may be subject to third-party approvals as well as approvals from governmental authorities, which are beyond our control. In addition, some third parties may choose not to enter into partnership or collaboration agreements with us because of our existing relationships with other pharmaceutical partners. Consequently, we may not be able to complete any contemplated transactions on favorable terms or at all, and we can make no assurance that such transactions, once undertaken and announced, will close.
An acquisition or investment may result in unforeseen operating difficulties and expenditures, including in integrating businesses, products and solutions, personnel, operations, and financial, accounting and other controls and systems, and retaining key employees, with the assumption of unknown liabilities or known liabilities that prove greater than anticipated, and in retaining the clients of any acquired business. Any such difficulties could disrupt our ongoing operations or require management resources that we would otherwise focus on developing our existing business. Future acquisitions could result in the use of our available cash and marketable securities, potentially dilutive issuances of equity securities, the incurrence of debt, contingent liabilities, or impairment expenses related to goodwill, and impairment or amortization expenses related to other intangible assets, which could harm our financial condition. As a result, we may not realize the anticipated benefits of any acquisition, technology license, strategic alliance, or joint venture. These challenges related to acquisitions or investments could adversely affect our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
Certain Factors Relating to Our Industry
Our global operations expose us to numerous and sometimes conflicting legal and regulatory requirements, and violation of these requirements could harm our business.
We are subject to numerous, and sometimes conflicting, legal regimes in the countries in which we operate, including on matters as diverse as health and safety standards, marketing and promotional activities, anticorruption, import/export controls, content requirements, trade restrictions, tariffs, taxation, sanctions, immigration, internal and disclosure control obligations, securities regulation, anti-competition, data privacy and labor relations. This includes in emerging markets where legal systems may be less developed or familiar to us. We strive to abide by and maintain compliance with these laws and regulations. Compliance with diverse legal requirements is costly, time-consuming and requires significant resources. Violations of one or more of these regulations in the conduct of our business could result in significant fines, criminal sanctions against us or our supervisory board or officers, prohibitions on doing business and damage to our reputation. Violations of these regulations in connection with the performance of our obligations to our clients or pharmaceutical partners also could result in liability for significant monetary damages, fines and/or criminal prosecution, unfavorable publicity and other reputational damage, restrictions on our ability to process information and allegations by our clients or pharmaceutical partners that we have not performed our contractual obligations. Due to the varying degrees of development of the legal systems of the countries in which we operate, local laws might be insufficient to protect our rights.
The United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union (“Brexit”) and ratified an agreement on the future trading relationship between the parties (the “UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement” or “TCA”). The TCA is subject to formal approval by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it comes into effect and has been applied provisionally since January 1, 2021. Because the agreement merely sets forth a framework in many respects and will require complex additional
bilateral negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union as both parties continue to work on the rules for implementation, significant uncertainty remains about how the precise terms of the relationship between the parties will differ from the terms before withdrawal. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (“MHRA”) was appointed as the United Kingdom’s standalone medicines and medical devices regulator (responsible for designating Review Bodies), effective January 1, 2021, and new legislation has been introduced in the United Kingdom, the provisions of which remain to be clarified. Further MHRA guidance is anticipated in the coming months.
Our international operations could be affected by changes in laws, trade regulations, labor and employment regulations, and procedures and actions affecting approval, products and solutions, pricing, reimbursement and marketing of our products and solutions, as well as by inter-governmental disputes. Any of these changes could adversely affect our business. The imposition of new laws or regulations, including potential trade barriers, may increase our operating costs, impose restrictions on our operations or require us to spend additional funds to gain compliance with the new rules, if possible, which could have an adverse impact on our financial condition.
Current and future legislation, in particular legislation related to orphan drugs, may impact overall investment and activity in the rare disease space or our ability to obtain regulatory approvals.
In the United States, the European Union, its member states and some other foreign jurisdictions, there have been a number of legislative and regulatory changes and proposed changes regarding the healthcare system. These changes could affect our ability to sell profitably any products for which we require approvals. Among policy makers and payors in the United States and elsewhere, there is significant interest in promoting changes in healthcare systems with the stated goals of containing healthcare costs, improving quality and/or expanding access to healthcare.
Specifically, regulatory authorities in some jurisdictions, including the United States and the European Union, may designate drugs for relatively small patient populations as orphan drugs. Under the Orphan Drug Act, the FDA may designate a drug as an orphan drug if it is a drug intended to treat a rare disease or condition, which is generally defined as a patient population of fewer than 200,000 individuals annually in the United States, or a patient population of greater than 200,000 in the United States where there is no reasonable expectation that the cost of developing the drug will be recovered from sales in the United States. In the United States, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives such as opportunities for grant funding towards clinical trial costs, tax advantages and user-fee waivers.
Similarly, in the European Union, the European Commission grants orphan drug designation after receiving the opinion of the EMA’s Committee for Orphan Medicinal Products on an orphan drug designation application. Orphan drug designation is intended to promote the development of drugs that are intended for the diagnosis, prevention or treatment of life-threatening or chronically debilitating conditions affecting not more than five in 10,000 persons in the European Union and for which no satisfactory method of diagnosis, prevention, or treatment has been authorized (or the product would be a significant benefit to those affected). In addition, designation is granted for drugs intended for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of a life-threatening, seriously debilitating or serious and chronic condition and when, without incentives, it is unlikely that sales of the drug in the European Union would be sufficient to justify the necessary investment in developing the drug. In the European Union, orphan drug designation entitles a party to financial incentives, such as reduction of fees or fee waivers, and a ten-year market exclusivity once the drug is on the market.
These legislative initiatives have led to an increase in investment and activity in the rare disease drug development space. If these and other legislative initiatives were to change to become less favorable to orphan drug developers and researchers, it could harm our business, results of operations and financial condition.
We may fail to comply with the complex federal, state, local and foreign laws and regulations that apply to our business and become subject to severe financial and other consequences.
Our laboratory in the United States is subject to the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1998 (“CLIA”), a United States federal law that regulates all clinical diagnostic laboratories that perform testing on specimens derived from humans for the purpose of providing information for the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of disease. CLIA regulations mandate specific standards in the areas of personnel qualifications, administration, participation in proficiency testing, patient test management, quality control, quality assurance, and inspections. Our laboratory facilities located in Rostock, Germany and Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States each have a current certificate of accreditation under CLIA to conduct all genetic and biochemical analyses offered through our accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (“CAP”). To renew the CLIA certificates, we are subject to survey
and inspection every two years. Moreover, CLIA inspectors may make unannounced inspections of our clinical laboratories at any time.
Any sanction imposed under CLIA, its implementing regulations, or state or foreign laws or regulations governing licensure, or our failure to renew a CLIA certificate, a state or foreign license, or accreditation, could have a material adverse effect on our business. Most CLIA deficiencies are not classified as “condition-level” deficiencies, and there are no adverse effects upon the laboratory operations as long as the deficiencies are corrected. Remediation of these deficiencies are routine matters, with corrections occurring within several hours or weeks. More serious CLIA deficiencies could rise to the level of “condition-level” deficiencies, and CMS has the authority to impose a wide range of sanctions, including revocation of the CLIA certification along with a bar on the ownership or operation of a CLIA certified laboratory by any owners or operators of the deficient laboratory. There is an administrative hearing procedure that can be pursued by the laboratory in the event of imposition of such sanctions, during which the sanctions are stayed, but the process can take a number of years to complete. If we were to lose our CLIA certification or CAP accreditation, we would not be able to operate our clinical laboratories and perform our genetic or other tests, which would result in material harm to our business and results of operations.
We are also required to maintain a license for our Cambridge laboratory facility to perform testing in Massachusetts. Massachusetts laws establish standards for day-to-day operation of our clinical laboratory, including the training and skills required of personnel and quality control over and above that required by CLIA. We are also licensed to perform testing in our Cambridge laboratory facility by the states of California, Pennsylvania and Maryland. We are in the process of obtaining a New York State license to perform testing and deliver the related test report for specimens originating from New York.
For samples tested in the U.S., we are also subject to HIPAA, under which the Department of Health and Human Services established comprehensive federal standards with respect to the privacy and security of protected health information and requirements for the use of certain standardized electronic transactions; certain of our services, including our online client-facing portals for reporting and research, are subject to these standards and requirements. Amendments to HIPAA under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (the “HITECH Act”), and related regulatory amendments, which strengthen and expand HIPAA privacy and security standards, increase penalties for violators, extend enforcement authority to state attorneys general, and impose requirements for breach notification.
We furnish to pharmaceutical partners genomic information that has been de-identified in accordance with HIPAA or anonymized in accordance with GDPR and relevant international health information privacy regulations. The laws of certain states and countries may require specific consent from the individual either to retain or utilize certain genetic or other information for research or other purposes even if such information has been de-identified, or may require that we obtain a waiver of such consent from an ethical or privacy review board. Even where we furnish to pharmaceutical partners and academic researchers genomic information that has been de-identified or anonymized in accordance with applicable laws and regulations, pharmaceutical partners or academic researchers may use technology or other methods to link that de-identified or anonymized genomic information to the patient from whom it was obtained in contravention of one or more applicable laws and regulations. Similarly, as we expand our decision support applications and offerings, we may encounter greater regulatory risk, such as compliance with HIPAA, GDPR and other regulations governing the use of protected health information and the promotion of FDA approved drugs. A finding that we have failed to comply with any such laws and any remedial activities required to ensure compliance with such laws could cause us to incur substantial costs, to be subject to unfavorable publicity or public opinion, to change our business practices, or to limit the retention or use of genetic or other information in a manner that, individually or collectively, could be adverse to our business.
In the European Union, various regulations apply to genetic or other testing and the use of genomic information. In Germany, the Genetic Diagnosis Act (Gendiagnostikgesetz) (the “GenDG”) and guidelines and written opinions on novel genetic screenings developed by the Commission on Genetic Testing, an interdisciplinary independent commission established in 2009 in accordance with the GenDG, apply to such testing. The GenDG prohibits us from communicating results of genetic or other tests directly to a patient located within Germany. Instead, the results may only be provided to a physician who is a qualified genetic counsellor under applicable rules.
In addition to CLIA, GDPR, HIPAA and the GenDG, our operations are subject to other extensive federal, state, local, and foreign laws and regulations, all of which are subject to change. Our failure to comply with any such laws and regulations could lead to civil or criminal penalties, exclusion from participation in government healthcare programs, or prohibitions or restrictions on our ability to conduct commercial activities. We believe that we are in material compliance with all statutory and regulatory requirements, but there is a risk that one or more government agencies could take a contrary position. These laws and regulations are complex and are subject to interpretation by the courts and by government agencies. If one or more such agencies allege that we may be in violation
of any of these requirements, regardless of the outcome, it could damage our reputation and adversely affect important business relationships with third parties.
We may fail to comply with evolving European and other privacy laws.
On May 25, 2018, Regulation (EU) 2016/679 of the European Parliament and of the Council of April 27, 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (the “GDPR”) went into effect. The GDPR imposes a broad range of strict requirements on companies subject to the GDPR, such as us, including requirements relating to having legal bases for processing personal data relating to identifiable individuals and transferring such information outside the European Economic Area (the “EEA”), including to the United States, providing details to those individuals regarding the processing of their personal data, keeping personal data secure, having data processing agreements with third parties who process personal data as processor, responding to individuals’ requests to exercise their rights in respect of their personal data, reporting security breaches involving personal data to the competent national data protection authority and affected individuals, appointing data protection officers, conducting data protection impact assessments, and record-keeping. The GDPR increases substantially the penalties to which we could be subject in the event of any non-compliance, including fines of up to the higher of 10,000,000 Euros and 2% of our total worldwide annual turnover for the preceding financial year for certain comparatively minor offenses, or up to the higher of 20,000,000 Euros and 4% of our total worldwide annual turnover for the preceding financial year for more serious offenses. Given the new law, we face uncertainty as to the exact interpretation of the new requirements and we may be unsuccessful in implementing all measures required by data protection authorities or courts in interpretation of the new law.
In particular, national laws of member states of the European Union are still in the process of being adapted to the requirements under the GDPR, thereby implementing national laws which may partially deviate from the GDPR and impose different obligations from country to country, so that we do not expect to operate in a uniform legal landscape in the European Union. Also, in the field of handling genetic and health data, the GDPR specifically allows national laws to impose additional and more specific requirements or restrictions, and European laws have historically differed quite substantially in this field, leading to additional uncertainty. Following Brexit, we are also required to comply with GDPR as implemented in the United Kingdom, including through the Data Protection Act 2018. The relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union in relation to certain aspects of data protection law remains unclear, including the treatment of data transfers between European Union member states and the United Kingdom. These changes may lead to additional compliance costs and could increase our overall risk.
We must also ensure that we maintain adequate safeguards to enable the transfer of personal data outside of the EEA, in particular to the United States, in compliance with European data protection laws. In this regard, the July 2020 ruling by the Court of Justice of the EU (the “CJEU”) in the case referred to as Schrems II is significant. The CJEU held that businesses can use European Commission endorsed standard contractual clauses (“SCCs”), which are widely relied on, for data transfers to jurisdictions outside of the EEA. However, it emphasized the need for due diligence by businesses if they wish to use SCCs, and called into question whether businesses can use SCCs to facilitate data transfers to certain jurisdictions with invasive surveillance regimes in a way which complies with the GDPR. This is also true for the new set of SCCs adopted by the European Commission in 2021. The CJEU also invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield for transferring personal data from the EEA to the US. The new set of SCCs may require businesses to transition existing agreements that rely on the outdated SCCs to the current SCCs. Such a transition exercise is likely to prove both costly and time consuming. We expect that we will continue to face uncertainty as to whether our efforts to comply with our obligations under European privacy laws will be sufficient. If we are investigated by a European data protection authority, we may face fines and other penalties. Any such investigation or charges by European data protection authorities could have a negative effect on our existing business and on our ability to attract and retain new clients or pharmaceutical partners. We may also experience hesitancy, reluctance, or refusal by European or multinational clients or pharmaceutical partners to continue to use our products and solutions due to the potential risk exposure as a result of the current (and, in particular, future) data protection obligations imposed on them by certain data protection authorities in interpretation of current law, including the GDPR. Such clients or pharmaceutical partners may also view any alternative approaches to compliance as being too costly, too burdensome, too legally uncertain, or otherwise objectionable and therefore decide not to do business with us. Any of the foregoing could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
We could be adversely affected by violations of worldwide anti-bribery laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
We are subject to a variety of anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws in the jurisdictions in which we operate. In particular, we are subject to Germany’s Anti-Bribery Act of 2015 (Gesetz zur Bekämpfung der Korruption im Gesundheitswesen), which implements EU anti-corruption laws and the European legislation and the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of the Council of Europe into German law, and the FCPA, which prohibits companies and their intermediaries from making payments in violation of law to
non-United States government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business or securing any other improper advantage. We are also subject to similar anti-bribery laws in the jurisdictions in which we operate, including the United Kingdom’s Bribery Act of 2010, which prohibits commercial bribery and makes it a crime for companies to fail to prevent bribery.
We use third-party collaborators, strategic partners, law firms and other representatives for patent registration and other purposes in a variety of countries, including those that are known to present a high corruption risk. We also use third-party distributors worldwide as part of our diagnostics business. Our reliance on third parties to sell our products and solutions internationally demands a high degree of vigilance because we can be held liable for the corrupt or other illegal activities of these third-party collaborators, or their or our employees, representatives, contractors, partners, and agents, even if we do not explicitly authorize such activities. In addition, although we have implemented policies and procedures to ensure compliance with anti-corruption and related laws and maintain a code of conduct, there can be no assurance that all of our employees, representatives, contractors, partners, or agents will comply with these laws at all times. Other United States companies in the medical device and pharmaceutical fields have faced criminal penalties under the FCPA for allowing their agents to deviate from appropriate practices in doing business with these individuals.
These laws are complex and far-reaching in nature, and, as a result, we cannot assure you that we would not be required in the future to alter one or more of our practices to be in compliance with these laws, any changes in these laws, or the interpretation thereof. Non-compliance with these and other relevant laws could subject us to whistleblower complaints, investigations, sanctions, settlements, prosecution, other enforcement actions, disgorgement of profits, significant fines, damages, other civil and criminal penalties or injunctions, suspension and debarment from contracting with certain governments or other persons, the loss of export privileges, reputational harm, adverse media coverage, and other collateral consequences. If any subpoenas or investigations are launched, or governmental or other sanctions are imposed, or if we do not prevail in any possible civil or criminal litigation, our business, results of operations, and financial condition could be materially harmed. In addition, responding to any action will likely result in a materially significant diversion of management’s attention and resources and significant defense costs and other professional fees. Enforcement actions and sanctions could further harm our business, results of operations, and financial condition.
Transactions involving Iran or other countries or parties that are targets of U.S. or other economic sanctions could expose us to certain risks and may lead some potential customers and investors to avoid doing business with us or investing in our securities.
U.S. law generally prohibits U.S. persons, and in some cases non-U.S. entities owned or controlled by U.S. persons, from doing business with countries, territories, individuals and entities that are the target of sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, including Iran. Other countries also maintain certain economic sanctions targeting certain counties, territories and parties. The United States has also implemented certain sanctions targeting non-U.S. persons for activities conducted outside the United States “secondary sanctions” that involve specific sanctions targets or certain activities, including, among other things, certain transactions related to Iran. Further, certain countries maintain and enforce export controls regulating trade in items that originate in, incorporate content from, or are produced on the basis of technology developed in such country “export controls.”
Centogene GmbH, which is not a U.S. person and is not owned or controlled by U.S. persons provided diagnostic tests to a pathology and genetic center in Iran during the year ended December 31, 2021 through which it provides diagnostic tests to patients in Iran. To our knowledge, neither we nor our customer have entered into any arrangements with or sold any products to persons included on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control. During the years ended December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019, revenues from Iran amounted to €1 thousand, €13 thousand and €1 thousand, respectively. Our net assets receivable from or attributable to our contacts in Iran as of December 31, 2021, 2020 and 2019 amounted to zero, € 1 thousand and €1 thousand, respectively. In December 2021, Centogene GmbH assigned claims against its Iranian distributor in an aggregate amount of €1.4 million to Germela Consulting GmbH, which has since filed a lawsuit against DeNa Lab in Berlin, Germany. We had no liabilities due from or attributable to our contacts in Iran for these periods. Centogene believes that its business with Iranian parties is conducted in compliance with all applicable sanctions and export controls and that such activities, which involve providing genetic or other testing services to patients, are not sanctionable under U.S. secondary sanctions targeting Iran. However, U.S. sanctions are subject to change and if we were then determined to have engaged in activities targeted by certain U.S. sanctions, we could be exposed to the possible imposition of sanctions on us. We may also face reputational damage due to our sales to Iran. The above circumstances could have an adverse effect on our business or results of operations.
We may fail to adhere to regulations of promotional claims and activities regarding our products and solutions.
Once a patient has been identified and diagnosed through our diagnostics testing, we provide each patient’s physician with a diagnostic report. If a positive diagnosis is confirmed, we provide the physician with information on relevant treatment options, although the physician is responsible for ultimately making clinically relevant decisions for the treatment of his or her patient.
In the United States, the FDA and other regulatory agencies strictly regulate the promotional claims that may be made about prescription drugs and devices. In particular, a device may not be promoted for uses or indications beyond those contained in the device’s approved labeling, or “off-label” uses. Similar laws and regulations exist in other jurisdictions where we promote our products. If the FDA determines that we have promoted our products for off-label use, it could request that we modify those promotional materials or take regulatory or enforcement actions, including the issuance of an untitled letter, warning letter, injunction, seizure, civil fine and criminal penalties. It is also possible that other federal, state or foreign enforcement authorities may take action if they consider our promotional or training materials to constitute promotion of an unapproved use. If not successfully defended, enforcement actions related to off-label promotion could result in significant fines or penalties. The U.S. government has levied large civil and criminal fines against companies for alleged improper promotion and has entered into corporate integrity agreements and deferred prosecution agreements with companies that engaged in off-label promotion. The FDA has also requested that such companies enter into consent decrees and has taken other enforcement action. If the DOJ or FDA determines that we have engaged in off-label promotion in our test reports, we may be subject to civil or criminal fines. Although our policy is to refrain from statements that could be considered off-label promotion of third parties, the regulatory standards regarding off-label promotion are ambiguous, and the FDA or another regulatory agency could conclude that we have engaged in off-label promotion.
In addition to promoting our devices in a manner consistent with their approved indications, we must have adequate substantiation for the claims we make for our products or solutions. If any of our claims are determined to be false, misleading or deceptive, our products or solutions could be considered to be misbranded under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the “FDC Act”) or to violate the Federal Trade Commission Act. We could also face lawsuits from our competitors under the Lanham Act, alleging that our marketing materials are false or misleading. Such lawsuits, whether with or without merit, are typically time-consuming, costly to defend, and could harm our reputation.
Federal and state legislation regulate interactions between medical device manufacturers and healthcare professionals. We are subject to federal and state laws targeting fraud and abuse in healthcare, including anti-kickback laws, false claims laws, and other laws constraining or otherwise related to financial arrangements manufacturers may enter into with healthcare professionals. For example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act requires device manufacturers to report and disclose payments or other transfers of value made to physicians and teaching hospitals. Violations of these laws can result in criminal or civil sanctions, including fines, imprisonment, and exclusion from government reimbursement programs, all of which could materially harm our business.
In addition, incentives exist under applicable laws that encourage competitors, employees, and physicians to report violations of law governing promotional activities for pharmaceutical products and solutions. These incentives could lead to so-called whistleblower lawsuits as part of which such persons seek to collect a portion of monies allegedly overbilled to government agencies due to, for example, promotion of pharmaceutical products and solutions beyond labeled claims. These incentives could also lead to lawsuits that claim we have mischaracterized a competitor’s service in the marketplace and, as a result, we could be sued for alleged damages to our competitors. Such lawsuits, whether with or without merit, are typically time-consuming and costly to defend. Such lawsuits may also result in related shareholder lawsuits, which may also be costly to defend.
Changes in the way that the FDA and the European Union regulate laboratory developed tests, manufactured, validated, and performed by laboratories like ours could result in additional expense in offering our current and any future products and solutions or even possibly delay or suspend development, manufacture, or commercialization of such products and solutions.
The FDA does not currently regulate most laboratory developed tests (“LDTs”). We believe that the tests we currently offer meet the definition of LDTs, as they have been designed, developed and validated for use in a single CLIA-certified laboratory. If our tests are qualified as LDTs, they are currently not subject to FDA regulation as medical devices. Since the early 1990s, the FDA has taken the position that, although LDTs are medical devices, it would exercise enforcement discretion by not requiring compliance with the FDC Act, or its regulations for LDTs. That remains the guidance of the FDA today. However, the FDA has taken certain actions in the past that, if renewed by the FDA, could result in a new regulatory approach for LDTs. In October 2014, the FDA published two draft guidance documents that, if finalized, would implement a regulatory approach for most LDTs. The draft guidance documents proposed to impose a risk-based, phased-in approach for LDTs similar to the existing framework for in vitro diagnostic devices. In January 2017, the FDA released a discussion paper synthesizing public comments on the 2014 draft guidance documents and outlining
an updated possible approach to regulation of LDTs. Although the discussion paper has no legal status and does not represent a final version of the LDT draft guidance documents, it proposes a risk-based framework that would require most LDTs to comply with most of the FDA’s regulatory requirements for medical devices. In March 2017, a discussion draft of the Diagnostic Accuracy and Innovation Act (“DAIA”) was circulated, which, if enacted, would implement a regulatory scheme for all diagnostic tests, including both in vitro diagnostic devices and LDTs. Under DAIA, CMS would have jurisdiction over laboratory operations under an amended CLIA, and the FDA would regulate the design, development and validation of diagnostic tests under an amended FDC Act. We cannot predict whether this bill or any other any other legislative proposal will be enacted into law or the impact such new legal requirements would have on our business. We also cannot predict whether the FDA will take action to regulate LDTs or what approach the FDA will seek to take.
In addition, in November 2013, the FDA finalized guidance regarding the sale and use of products labeled for research or investigational use only. Among other things, the guidance states that the FDA continues to be concerned about distribution of research- or investigational-use only products intended for clinical diagnostic use. The guidance states that the FDA will assess whether a manufacturer of such research- or investigational-use only products intends that its products be used for clinical diagnostic purposes by examining the totality of circumstances, including advertising, instructions for clinical interpretation, presentations that describe clinical use, and specialized technical support such as assistance performing clinical validation, surrounding the distribution of the product in question. The FDA has advised that if evidence demonstrates that a product is inappropriately labeled for research- or investigational-use only, the device could be deemed misbranded and adulterated within the meaning of the FDC Act. If the FDA were to undertake enforcement actions, some of our suppliers may cease selling research-use only (“RUO”) products to us, and any failure to obtain an acceptable substitute could significantly and adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.
In the European Union LDTs are similarly exempt from the regulations that govern medical devices and in-vitro diagnostics (“IVDs”) under certain conditions. The European Union and German legislation on in-vitro diagnostic medical devices (“IVD-MDD”) applies. According to the recitals of the Council Directive 98/79/EC on IVD-MDD, reagents which are produced within “health-institution laboratories” for use in that environment and which are not subject to commercial transactions are not covered by the Directive. However, the legal framework for applying the exemption clauses for LDTs is not entirely clear as the IVD-MDD lacks an explicit definition and there is no related case law. On May 26, 2022, when the new Regulation (EU) 2017/746 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2017 on in-vitro diagnostic medical devices (“IVD-MDR”) becomes applicable, the general safety and performance requirements set out in Annex I of the IVD-MDR are applicable also to devices manufactured and used only within health institutions. Overall the exemptions for LDTs will be narrowed, as even in relation to LDTs, health institutions—among others—have to provide information upon request on the use of such devices to their competent authority and each health institution will have to draw up a declaration which it will make publicly available. If these conditions are not met and/or diagnostic tests are manufactured and used only within health institutions but “on an industrial scale”, such tests will qualify as IVDs with the full applicability of the IVD-MDR. If we were not able to qualify for an exemption, we would be subject to regulation in the European Union. We also cannot predict whether the EU will amend or implement new laws which may impact our current operations.
For tests that are subject to FDA or EU regulation, we may not be able to obtain timely approvals for our tests or for modifications to our tests, which could delay or prevent us from commercializing our tests and harm our business.
The diagnostic tests we currently offer might meet the definition of LDTs, as they have been designed, developed and validated for use in a single CLIA-certified laboratory. If our tests are LDTs, they are currently not subject to FDA or EU regulation as an in-vitro-diagnostic. In May 2022 when the new IVD Regulation 2017/746/EU comes into force in the European Union, a qualification of our diagnostic tests as IVD-MDs becomes more likely as the manufacture of diagnostic tests “on an industrial scale” will not qualify as LDTs. If the FDA or EU takes action to finalize and implement a regulatory system for LDTs, or if legislation is enacted that subjects LDTs to FDA regulation, we would need to comply with the FDA regulatory requirements for our LDTs. If the FDA takes action to regulate LDTs as devices, we believe that our LDTs would likely be regulated as Class II devices.
In the EU, genetic or other tests on humans and prenatal tests for genetically caused disorders are regulated as Class C devices under the IVD Regulation. If our LDTs are subject to the IVD Regulation, our tests that qualify as Class C devices will be subject to conformity assessments performed by a notified body.
If services that are currently marketed as LDTs become subject to FDA requirements for in-vitro-diagnostics or are qualified as being subject to the European Union regulations on in vitro diagnostic medical devices, including requirements for premarket clearance or approval, we may not be able to obtain such clearance or approvals on a timely basis, or at all. Our business could be negatively impacted if we are required to stop selling genetic rare disease knowledge and interpretation-based products and solutions pending their clearance or approval, or the launch of any new products and solutions that we develop could be delayed. Likewise, for
tests that are regulated as medical devices, we may not be able to obtain clearance or approval of new devices or modifications to marketed devices on a timely basis, or at all, which could delay or prevent us from commercializing our tests and harm our business.
Class II medical devices must obtain FDA clearance of a premarket notification, or 510(k), prior to marketing, unless the FDA has exempted the device from this requirement. Under the 510(k) process, we must demonstrate that our test is substantially equivalent in technological characteristics and intended use to a legally marketed predicate device. The FDA’s review and clearance of a 510(k) usually takes from four to twelve months, but it can take longer. Any modifications to an FDA-cleared device that could significantly affect its safety or effectiveness or that would constitute a major change in its intended use would require a new 510(k) clearance or, if the modified device is not substantially equivalent, possibly a de novo classification request or a premarket approval application (“PMA”).
If we are unable to identify an appropriate predicate that is substantially equivalent to our device, we would be required to submit a PMA application or a de novo reclassification request, because devices that have not been classified are automatically categorized as Class III. Under the de novo process, we may request that the FDA classify a new low or moderate risk device that lacks an appropriate predicate as a Class I or Class II device. The de novo process typically requires the development of clinical data and usually takes between six to twelve months from the time of submission of the de novo application, but it can take longer.
For tests that are subject to FDA or EU regulation, if we do not comply with FDA or EMA regulatory requirements, we may be subject to enforcement action, with severe consequences for our business.
After approval, devices subject to FDA or EMA regulation are required to comply with post-market requirements. Among the requirements, we and our suppliers must comply with the FDA’s Quality System Regulations (“QSRs”), which set forth requirements for the design and manufacture of devices, including the methods and documentation for the design, control testing, quality assurance, labeling, packaging, storage, and shipping of our devices. Our limited experience in complying with these requirements may lead to operational challenges as we increase the scale of our QSR-compliant operations in the United States and develop and refine our policies and procedures for evaluating and mitigating issues we encounter with our processes. Further, if there are any modifications made to the manufacturing of our PMA-approved marketed solutions, a PMA supplement may be required to be submitted to, and approved by, the FDA before the modified device may be marketed.
Other post-market requirements include the reporting of adverse events and malfunctions of which we become aware within the prescribed time frame to the FDA, post-approval studies, establishment registration and device listing, and restrictions on advertising and promotion. We may fail to meet these requirements, which could subject our business to further regulatory risks and costs.
The FDA enforces the post-market requirements of the FDC Act through announced and unannounced inspections. Failure to comply with applicable regulatory requirements could require us to expend time and resources to respond to the FDA’s observations and to implement corrective and preventive actions, as appropriate. If we cannot resolve such issues to the satisfaction of the FDA, we may be subject to enforcement actions, including untitled or warning letters, fines, injunctions, or civil or criminal penalties. In addition, we could be subject to a recall or seizure of current or future solutions, operating restrictions, a partial suspension, or a total shutdown of service. Any such enforcement action would have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, and results of operations.
In the future, we may fail to achieve coverage or adequate reimbursement for our products and solutions by commercial third-party payors or government payors.
As we expand our operations globally, and in particular to the United States, sales of our existing and any future products and solutions we develop, in particular our diagnostic testing services, in the future may depend upon the availability of adequate reimbursement from third-party payors. These third-party payors include government healthcare programs and/or statutory health insurance schemes in various markets, such as Medicare and Medicaid in the United States and statutory health funds in Germany (the “GKV”), managed care providers, accountable care organizations, private health insurers, and other organizations. We believe that obtaining a positive Medicare Local Coverage Determination, or National Coverage Determination and a favorable Medicare reimbursement rate, and obtaining the agreement of established commercial third-party payors to provide coverage and adequate payment, for each of our existing diagnostic testing services, and any future products and solutions we develop, will be an important element in achieving material commercial success in the United States. Physicians may not order our products and solutions unless commercial third-party payors and government payors authorize coverage and pay for all, or a substantial portion, of the rates established for our products and solutions.
Commercial third-party payors and government payors internationally increasingly attempt to contain healthcare costs by lowering reimbursement rates, limiting coverage of diagnostic test services, and creating conditions of reimbursement, such as requiring participation in clinical evidence development involving research studies and the collection of physician decision impact and patient outcomes data. As a result of these cost-containment trends, commercial third-party payors and government payors that currently provide, or in the future may provide, reimbursement for one or more of our services may propose and/or actually reduce, suspend, revoke, or discontinue payments or coverage at any time. Payors may also create conditions for coverage or may contract with third-party vendors to manage laboratory benefits, in both cases creating administrative hurdles for ordering physicians and patients that may make our products and solutions more difficult to sell. The percentage of submitted claims that are ultimately paid, the length of time to receive payment on claims, and the average reimbursement of those paid claims is likely to vary from period to period.
There is significant uncertainty surrounding whether the use of diagnostic tests that incorporate new technology will be eligible for coverage by commercial third-party payors and government payors or, if eligible for coverage, what the reimbursement rates will be for these services. In Germany, the majority of patients are insured via the GKV. The benefit catalogue defining which services in medical care are reimbursed by the GKV is specified by the directives of the Federal Joint Committee as the highest decision-making body of the joint self-government of physicians, dentists, hospitals and health insurance funds in Germany. The fact that a diagnostic test has been approved for reimbursement in the past, has received approval from the FDA or has been certified by a notified body, or has obtained coverage for any particular rare disease indication or in any particular jurisdiction, does not guarantee that such diagnostic service will remain covered and/or reimbursed or that similar or additional diagnostic tests and/or related rare disease types will be covered and/or reimbursed in the future.
As a result, if adequate third-party coverage and reimbursement are unavailable, we may not be able to maintain volume and price levels sufficient to realize an appropriate return on investment in our diagnostic testing services or to advance our research and development solutions for our pharmaceutical partners.
We cannot predict what future healthcare initiatives will be introduced or implemented in the jurisdictions in which we operate, or how any future legislation or regulation may affect us. Any taxes imposed by legislation, as well as changes to the reimbursement amounts paid by payors for our existing and future products and solutions, could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations.
Intellectual Property Risks Related to Our Business
If we are unable to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection for any products or solutions we develop and for our technology, or if the scope of intellectual property protection obtained is not sufficient, our competitors could develop and commercialize products and solutions similar or identical to ours, and our ability to successfully commercialize any products or solutions we may develop may be adversely affected.
Our success depends in large part on our ability to obtain and maintain patent and other intellectual property protection in the United States and other countries for our biomarkers and other products and solutions. Patent law relating to the scope of claims in the fields in which we operate is complex and uncertain, so we cannot make any assurances that we will be able to obtain or maintain patent or other intellectual property rights, or that the patent and other intellectual property rights we may obtain will be valuable, provide an effective barrier to competitors or otherwise provide competitive advantages. In particular, our Lyso-Gb3 biomarker, which we use to support the diagnosis of Fabry disease, is not protected by any patents or included in any pending patent applications, and its successful commercialization by one of our competitors or by other third parties, which, in all probability, we would not be able to prevent, could materially harm our business or results of operations. Moreover, patent applications that we have made in the past have been subject to comment and revision by the relevant patent offices, which have resulted in our withdrawal of certain patent applications. If we are unable to obtain or maintain patent or other intellectual property protection with respect to our proprietary products and solutions, our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects could be materially harmed.
The scope of patent protection is uncertain. Changes in either the patent laws or their interpretation in the United States and other countries may diminish our ability to protect our inventions, obtain, maintain, and enforce our intellectual property rights and, more generally, could affect the value of our intellectual property or narrow the scope of our patents. We cannot predict whether the patent applications we are currently pursuing will issue as patents in any particular jurisdiction or whether the claims of any issued patents will provide sufficient protection from competitors.
The patent prosecution process is expensive, time-consuming, and complex, and we may not be able to file, prosecute, maintain, enforce, or license 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 in time to obtain patent protection. Parties who have access to confidential or patentable aspects of our research and development output, such as our management and employees, advisors, and other third parties, and who are party to non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements with us, may breach such agreements and disclose such output before a patent application is filed, thereby jeopardizing our ability to seek patent protection, or might themselves file respective IP rights. In addition, 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. Therefore, we cannot be certain that we were the first to make the inventions claimed in our patents or pending patent applications, or that we were the first to file for patent protection of such inventions.
The patent position of companies in our industry generally is unsettled, involves complex legal and factual questions, and has been the subject of much litigation in recent years. As a result, the issuance, scope, validity, enforceability, and commercial value of our patent rights are highly uncertain. Our pending and future patent applications may not result in patents being issued that protect our products or solutions or which effectively prevent others from commercializing competitive products and solutions.
Moreover, the coverage claimed in a patent application can be significantly reduced before the patent is issued, and its scope can be reinterpreted after issuance. Even if patent applications issue as patents, they may not issue in a form that will provide us with any meaningful protection, prevent competitors or other third parties from competing with us, or otherwise provide us with any competitive advantage. Any patents that we hold may be challenged, narrowed, circumvented, or invalidated by third parties. In particular, for more information regarding U.S. patent law decisions that negatively impact the patentability of biomarkers, diagnostic products and diagnostic methods, and the validity of granted U.S. patents covering such subject matter, see “—Developments in patent law could have a negative impact on our business” below. Consequently, we do not know whether any of our biomarkers or other products and solutions will be protectable or remain protected by valid and enforceable patents. Our competitors or other third parties may be able to circumvent our patents by developing similar or alternative products and solutions in a non-infringing manner. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
If we are unable to protect the confidentiality of our trade secrets, know-how, and other confidential and proprietary information, our business and competitive position would be harmed.
In addition to seeking patent protection for our products and solutions, we also rely upon trade secret protection and non-disclosure agreements and invention assignment agreements with our management and employees, consultants and other third parties to protect our unpatented know-how, technology, and other confidential or proprietary information. For example, significant elements of our proprietary platform and some of our tests, including aspects of sample preparation, computational-biological algorithms, and related processes and software, are based on unpatented trade secrets and know-how that to our knowledge are not publicly disclosed. In addition to contractual measures, we try to protect the confidential nature of our proprietary information using physical and technological security measures. Such measures may not provide adequate protection for our proprietary information; for example, in the case of misappropriation of intellectual rights by a member of management, an employee, consultant, or other third party with authorized access. We also cannot rule out the possibility that third parties specifically try to obtain our know-how, trade secrets or other confidential and proprietary information.
Trade secrets and know-how can be difficult to protect. We cannot guarantee that we have entered into applicable non-disclosure agreements and invention assignment agreements with our management and employees, consultants and other third parties who have had access to our trade secrets or other proprietary information. Our security and contractual measures may not prevent a member of management, an employee, consultant, or other third party from misappropriating our trade secrets and providing them to a competitor, other third parties or to the public, and any recourse we take against such misconduct, including litigation, may not provide an adequate remedy to protect our interests fully. Enforcing a claim that a party illegally disclosed or misappropriated intellectual property can be difficult, expensive, and time-consuming, and the outcome is unpredictable. Due to variation in the degree of protection afforded to intellectual property of this nature under the laws and regulations applicable to different international markets where our services are sold, our ability to pursue and obtain an adequate remedy may depend significantly on the jurisdiction in which the misconduct takes place and our ability to enforce a favorable judgment against the offending party in a jurisdiction in which such party has substantial assets. In addition, trade secrets may be independently developed by others in a manner that could prevent legal recourse by us. If any of our confidential or proprietary information, such as our trade secrets, were to be disclosed or misappropriated, or if any such information were independently developed by a competitor, our competitive position could be harmed.
Patents covering our products or solutions could be found invalid or unenforceable if challenged
The issuance of a patent is not conclusive as to its inventorship, scope, validity, or enforceability, and our patents may be challenged in the courts or patent offices in the United States and abroad. Others have filed, and in the future are likely to file, patent applications or related intellectual property rights that are similar or identical to ours. To determine the priority of inventions, demonstrate that we did not derive our invention from another individual or entity, or defend third-party challenges or reservations of the granting authorities to the validity or enforceability of our patent rights, we may have to participate in opposition, derivation, revocation, reexamination, entitlement, post-grant and inter partes review, or interference proceedings at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the “USPTO”) or similar offices or respective courts in Europe or other jurisdictions. For example, we are aware of an opposition proceeding filed at the European Patent Office (“EPO”) by Sanofi against EP Patent No. 2 718 725 B1 (the “725 Patent”), a European patent that we own relating to our biomarker for Gaucher disease. The EPO opposition proceeding challenges the patentability of the ‘725 Patent in its entirety. The EPO rejected the opposition in the first instance in the hearing held on February 4, 2020. Sanofi filed an appeal against the opposition decision to the Board of Appeal at the EPO and the ‘725 Patent may still be revoked or maintained in amended form, in whole or in part, if the Board of Appeal does not uphold the opposition decision. Revoking the ‘725 Patent may limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical products and solutions to ours, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our products and solutions. We are also aware of an opposition proceeding filed at the European Patent Office (“EPO”) by Sanofi against EP Patent No. 3 318 881 B1 (the “881 Patent”) on April 15, 2021, another European patent that we own relating to our biomarker for Gaucher disease. The EPO opposition proceeding challenges the patentability of the ‘881 Patent in its entirety. Oral proceedings concerning the European patent will take place before the opposition division of the EPO on May 04, 2022. The '881 Patent may be revoked or maintained in amended form, in whole or in part, which could materially harm our business. Should the '881 Patent be revoked or maintained in amended form, we would have the right to appeal against the decision of the Opposition Division. However, the outcome of the appeal is unclear. Revoking the ‘881 Patent may limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical products and solutions to ours, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our products and solutions. See “Item 4. Information On The Company—B. Business Overview—Legal Proceedings” and “Item 8. Financial Information—A. Consolidated Statements and Other Financial Information—Legal Proceedings.” Sanofi or other third parties may file future oppositions or other challenges, in Europe or other jurisdictions, against other patents that we own and may also challenge or attack the validity of the national parts of the ‘725 Patent and/or the '881 Patent before national patent courts in parallel or after the proceedings before the EPO. An adverse determination in any such proceeding or litigation could reduce the scope of, or invalidate, our patent rights, allow third parties to commercialize our products or solutions and compete directly with us, without payment to us.
It is expected that actions will also be possible before the new European Unified Patent Court from the second half of 2022. If we do not actively exclude our existing (European patent applications as well as granted) European patents from this system (“opt-out”), they will become part of this new court system and it will be possible for third parties to challenge these patents before the courts of the Unified Patent Court system, with the consequence that these patents can then be restricted or revoked for the territory of all EU Member States participating in the Unitary Patent Court system (at the time of February 2022, these are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, Sweden; other countries may be added in the future, in particular Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Romania and Slovakia) for which the European patent has effect. The same applies for future European patents and patent applications that are not opted out of the Unified Patent Court system, which is possible for a period of seven years after the date of entry into force of the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court unless an action has already been brought before the Unified Patent Court system in respect of the European patent or patent application. For future European patent applications it also has to be decided whether a request for unitary effect is submitted with the consequence that the patent if grantable will be granted as Unitary Patent and can therefore be challenged before the Unified Patent Court and be restricted or revoked for the territory of all EU Member States participating in the Unitary Patent Court system.
Moreover, we may have to participate in interference proceedings declared by the USPTO to determine priority of invention or in post-grant challenge proceedings, such as oppositions in a foreign patent office or nullity or entitlement proceedings, that challenge priority of invention or other features of patentability. Such challenges may result in loss of patent rights, loss of exclusivity, or in patents being cancelled, narrowed, amended, invalidated, revoked or held unenforceable, in whole or in part, which could limit our ability to stop others from using or commercializing similar or identical products and solutions, or limit the duration of the patent protection of our products and solutions. Such proceedings could also result in substantial costs in legal fees and require significant time from our management and employees, even if the eventual outcome is favorable to us. In the event of entitlement proceedings, purported co-inventors may bring claims for ownership, co-ownership, compensation and/or damages. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions or other interim proceedings or developments, and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our common shares. Any of the foregoing could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
In addition, if we initiate legal proceedings against a third party to enforce a patent covering our products or solutions, the defendant could counterclaim that such patent is invalid or unenforceable. In patent litigation in the United States, defendant counterclaims alleging invalidity 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. In other jurisdictions, defendants have and/or may have comparable grounds for defending against such claims, especially with regard to claims that a patent is invalid. The outcome following legal assertions of invalidity and unenforceability is unpredictable. With respect to the validity question, for example, we cannot be certain that there is no invalidating prior art of which we and the patent examiner were unaware during prosecution or that a court or office dealing with the invalidity will judge prior art known to us to be detrimental to novelty in a manner deviating from our opinion and/or the opinion of the granting authority, or will consider the invention to be obvious and thus not protectable on the basis of such prior art. Such challenges could result in the revocation of, cancellation of, or amendment to our patents in such a way that they no longer sufficiently cover our products and solutions. If a third party were to prevail on a legal assertion of invalidity or unenforceability, we would lose at least part, and perhaps all, of the patent protection on our products or solutions. Such a loss of patent protection would materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Litigation or other proceedings or third-party claims of intellectual property infringement could require us to spend significant time and money and could prevent us from selling our products and solutions or impact our share price.
Our commercial success depends upon our ability to develop and commercialize products and solutions and use our proprietary technologies without infringing, misappropriating or otherwise violating the intellectual property and proprietary rights of third parties. We could become party to, or threatened with, adversarial proceedings or litigation regarding intellectual property rights with respect to our technology and any products or solutions we may develop, including interference proceedings, post-grant review, inter partes review, and derivation proceedings before the USPTO and similar proceedings in foreign jurisdictions, such as oppositions before the EPO or nullity or entitlement proceedings. Third parties may assert infringement and other claims against us based on existing patents or patents that may be granted in the future, regardless of their merit, and we may assert infringement and other claims against third parties. As we continue to commercialize our genetic rare disease information solutions (including our biomarkers), launch new solutions and enter new markets, we expect that competitors will claim that our products or solutions infringe or otherwise violate their intellectual property rights, including as part of business strategies designed to impede our successful commercialization and entry into new markets. Third parties may have obtained, and may in the future obtain, patents under which such third parties may claim that the use of our technologies constitutes patent infringement. Third parties have in the past asserted and may in the future assert that we are employing their proprietary technology without authorization, and we occasionally receive letters from third parties inviting us to take licenses under, or alleging that we infringe, their patents. Depending upon the circumstances, we may elect to remove a particular biomarker from one of our products or solutions.
Even if we believe that third-party intellectual property claims are without merit, there is no assurance that a court would find in our favor on questions of infringement, validity, enforceability, or priority. A court of competent jurisdiction could hold that these third-party patents are valid, enforceable, and infringed, which could materially and adversely affect our ability to commercialize any products or solutions we may develop or have developed. In order to successfully challenge the validity of any such U.S. patent in federal court or in courts in other jurisdictions, we would need to overcome a presumption of validity. As this burden is a high one, requiring us to present clear and convincing evidence as to the invalidity of any such U.S. patent claim, there is no assurance that a court of competent jurisdiction would invalidate the claims of any such U.S. patent. The same applies to other jurisdictions. Even if we were to find prior art that could justify the invalidation of the intellectual property right under which we are attacked, because of the bifurcated system dealing with infringement and validity before different courts in some jurisdictions (e.g. Germany), we may first be injuncted for infringement of the intellectual property right, which may be corrected only after subsequent invalidation of the intellectual property right. If we are found to infringe a third party’s intellectual property rights, and we are unsuccessful in demonstrating that such patents are invalid or unenforceable, we could be required to obtain a license from such third party to continue commercializing our products or solutions. However, we may not be able to obtain any required license on commercially reasonable terms, or at all and therefore may be unable to develop, sell or otherwise commercialize our products or solutions. Even if we were able to obtain a license, it could be non-exclusive, thereby giving our competitors and other third parties access to the same technologies licensed to us, and it could require us to make substantial licensing, royalty and other payments. Furthermore, parties making claims against us may be able to obtain injunctive or other relief, which could block our ability to develop, commercialize, and sell our products and solutions, and could result in the award of substantial damages against us. In the event of a successful claim of infringement, misappropriation or other intellectual property violation against us, we may be required to render account for and pay damages and attorneys’ fees, recall or destroy stocks and obtain one or more licenses from third parties, or be prohibited from developing, commercializing and selling certain products or solutions. In addition, we could be found liable for significant monetary
damages, including treble damages and attorneys’ fees, if we are found to have willfully infringed a patent or other intellectual property right.
The new European Unified Patent Court system, which is expected to start at late 2022, will allow the patent owner to obtain injunctive relief with unitary effect, i.e. within the territories of the EU Member States participating in the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court including e.g. claims for damages, compensation, recall, destruction and information with regard to its Unitary Patents. For European patents not taken out of the Unified Patent Court system by “opt-out”, decisions of the courts of the Unified Patent Court system cover the territory of the EU Member States participating in the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court for which the European patent has effect. This may result in the loss of significant market opportunities and substantial adverse effects of a judgement.
Even if resolved in our favor, litigation or other legal proceedings relating to intellectual property claims may cause us to incur significant expenses and could distract our personnel from their normal responsibilities. In addition, there could be public announcements of the results of hearings, motions, or other interim proceedings or developments, and if securities analysts or investors perceive these results to be negative, it could have a substantial adverse effect on the price of our shares. Such litigation or proceedings could substantially increase our operating losses and reduce the resources available for development activities or any future sales, marketing, or distribution activities. We may not have sufficient financial or other resources to conduct such litigation or proceedings adequately. Some of our competitors may be able to sustain the costs of such litigation or proceedings more effectively than we can because of their greater financial resources and more mature and developed intellectual property portfolios. 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. We also could incur substantial costs and divert the attention of our management and other employees in participating in litigation or proceedings of this nature, and an adverse ruling or perception of an adverse ruling in could have a material adverse impact on our cash position and share price. Any of the foregoing could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Obtaining and maintaining our patent protection depends on compliance with various procedural, document submission, fee payment, and other requirements imposed by government patent agencies, and our patent protection could be reduced or eliminated for non-compliance with these requirements.
Obtaining and maintaining a patent portfolio entails significant expense and resources. Part of the expense includes periodic maintenance fees, renewal fees, annuity fees and various other governmental fees associated with patents and patent applications due in several stages over the lifetime of patents and patent applications. The USPTO and various non-U.S. government agencies require compliance with several procedural, documentary, fee payment, and other similar provisions during the patent application process. We may or may not choose to pursue or maintain protection for particular inventions. In addition, there are situations in which failure to make certain payments or noncompliance with certain requirements in the patent process can result in abandonment or lapse of a patent or patent application, resulting in partial or complete loss of patent rights in the relevant jurisdiction. If we choose to forego patent protection or allow a patent application or patent or other intellectual property right to lapse purposefully or inadvertently, our competitive position could suffer. In such an event, potential competitors might be able to enter the market with similar or identical products and solutions. If we fail to obtain, maintain, protect or enforce our intellectual property rights successfully, our competitive position could suffer. Any of the foregoing could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Our rights to develop and commercialize our technology, products and solutions may in the future be subject, in part, to the terms and conditions of licenses granted to us by others.
In connection with the development of new products and solutions we may license intellectual property from third parties in the future, or may deem it necessary to do so in order to commercialize our products or solutions. We may be unable to obtain these licenses at a reasonable cost, or at all. We could, therefore, incur substantial costs related to royalty payments or other payments for licenses obtained from third parties. We may also be unable to obtain exclusive rights to use such intellectual property or technology in all relevant fields of use and in all territories in which we may wish to develop or commercialize our products and solutions in the future and, as a result, we may not be able to prevent competitors from developing and commercializing competitive products or solutions. Moreover, we could encounter delays in introducing new products or solutions while we attempt to develop alternative products and solutions, and the defense of any lawsuit or failure to obtain any of these licenses on favorable terms could prevent us from commercializing our products and solutions, which would materially affect our ability to grow.
Our licensors might conclude that we have materially breached our license agreements and might therefore terminate the license agreements, thereby removing our ability to develop and commercialize products and solutions covered by such agreements. License agreements could also be time-limited or terminated when possible. If these in-licenses are terminated, or if the underlying patents fail to provide the intended exclusivity, competitors might have the freedom to market competing products and solutions identical or similar to ours. Disputes may arise regarding intellectual property subject to a licensing agreement, including:
the scope of rights granted under the license agreement and other interpretation-related issues; as well as the effectiveness of the license agreement in general;
the extent to which our products and solutions infringe on intellectual property of the licensor that is not subject to the licensing agreement;
the sublicensing of patent and other rights under our collaborative development relationships;
our diligence obligations under the license agreement and what activities satisfy those diligence obligations;
which royalties payments are owed;
the inventorship and ownership of inventions and know-how resulting from the joint creation or use of intellectual property by our licensors and us and our partners, including the question of bearing the costs; and
the priority of invention of patented technology.
In addition, agreements under which we license intellectual property or technology from third parties could be complex and turn out to be invalid in whole or in part. Certain provisions in such agreements may be susceptible to multiple interpretations. The resolution of any contract interpretation disagreement that may arise could narrow what we believe to be the scope of our rights to the relevant intellectual property or technology, or increase what we believe to be our financial or other obligations under the relevant agreement. Moreover, if disputes over intellectual property or technology that we have licensed prevent or impair our ability to maintain other licensing arrangements on commercially acceptable terms, defending our position could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
With regard to the expected start of the Unified Patent Court in the late second half of 2022, it should be noted that this is a completely new court system, whose procedural and adjudicative methods as well as the mutual effects between the national European patent jurisdictions and the jurisdiction of the new system are practically impossible to assess at present. This creates an uncertainty that may harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations because decisions may be issued and case law may develop that is disadvantageous for us.
Developments in patent law could have a negative impact on our business.
Changes in either the patent laws or interpretation of patent laws could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of patent applications and the enforcement or defense of issued patents. From time to time, the United States Supreme Court (the “Supreme Court”), other federal courts, the U.S. Congress, the USPTO, or other foreign patent offices, courts or legislators may change the standards of patentability and any such changes could have a negative impact on our business. Assuming that other requirements for patentability are met, prior to March 2013, in the United States, the first to invent the claimed invention was entitled to the patent, while outside the United States, the first to file a patent application was entitled to the patent. After March 2013, under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (the “America Invents Act”), enacted in September 2011, the United States transitioned to a first inventor to file system in which, assuming that other requirements for patentability are met, the first inventor to file a patent application will be entitled to the patent on an invention regardless of whether a third party was the first to invent the claimed invention. The America Invents Act also includes a number of significant changes that affect the way patent applications will be prosecuted and also may affect patent litigation. These include allowing third-party submission of prior art to the USPTO during patent prosecution and additional procedures to attack the validity of a patent by USPTO-administered post-grant proceedings, including post-grant review, inter partes review, and derivation proceedings. However, the America Invents Act and its implementation could increase the uncertainties and costs surrounding the prosecution of our patent applications and the enforcement or defense of our issued patents, all of which could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition, results of operations, and prospects.
In addition, the patent positions of companies in our industry are particularly uncertain. Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings have narrowed the scope of patent protection available in certain circumstances and weakened the rights of patent owners in certain situations. For example, diagnostic method claims and “gene patents” were considered in two landmark Supreme Court cases, Mayo Collaborative v. Prometheus Laboratories (“Prometheus”), and Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics (“Myriad”). In Prometheus, a case involving patent claims over a medical testing method directed to optimizing the amount of drug administered to a specific patient, Prometheus’ claims failed to incorporate sufficient inventive content above and beyond merely describing underlying natural correlations to allow the claimed processes to qualify as patent-eligible processes that apply natural laws. In Myriad, a case brought by multiple plaintiffs challenging the validity of patent claims held by Myriad Genetics, Inc. relating to the breast cancer susceptibility genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, the court held that isolated genomic DNA that exists in nature, such as the DNA constituting the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, is not patentable subject matter, but that cDNA, which is an artificial construct created from RNA transcripts of genes, may be patent eligible. The Federal Circuit has begun to apply the holdings in Prometheus and Myriad. In 2015, the Federal Circuit, in Ariosa v. Sequenom, applying Prometheus, found claims to a prenatal diagnostic method that relied on a natural product to be patent ineligible, and clarified that the absence of preemption of a natural phenomenon was not sufficient to demonstrate patent eligibility.
In response to the Supreme Court decisions in Prometheus, Myriad, and Alice Corporation Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank International (“Alice Corp.”), and others, the USPTO has updated the Manual of Patent Examination Procedure to provide guidance to USPTO personnel in determining the eligibility of patent claims reciting judicially recognized exceptions to patentable subject matter, including laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas, for patent eligibility. The USPTO guidance indicates that claims reciting a judicial exception to patent-eligible subject matter must amount to significantly more than the judicial exception itself in order to be patent-eligible subject matter. We cannot assure you that our efforts to seek patent protection for our products and solutions will not be negatively impacted by this interim guidance issued by the USPTO, the decisions described above, rulings in other cases, or changes in guidance or procedures issued by the USPTO.
We cannot fully predict what impact the Supreme Court’s decisions in Prometheus, Myriad, Alice Corp., and other decisions may have on our ability or the ability of companies or other entities to obtain or enforce patents relating to DNA, genes, or genomic-related discoveries in the future. Despite the USPTO’s interim guidance and Federal Circuit cases described above, the contours of when claims reciting laws of nature, natural phenomena, or abstract ideas may meet the patent eligibility requirements are not clear and may take years to develop via interpretation at the USPTO and in the courts. There are many previously issued patents claiming nucleic acids and diagnostic methods based on natural correlations that issued before the recent Supreme Court decisions discussed, and although many of these patents may be invalid under the standards set forth in the Supreme Court’s recent decisions, until successfully challenged, these patents are presumed valid and enforceable, and certain third parties could allege that we infringe, or request that we obtain a license to, these patents. Whether based on patents issued prior to or after these Supreme Court decisions, we might have to defend ourselves against claims of patent infringement, or choose to license rights, if available, under patents claiming such methods. In particular, although the Supreme Court has held in Myriad that isolated genomic DNA is not patent-eligible subject matter, certain third parties could allege that activities that we may undertake infringe other classes of gene-related patent claims, and we could have to defend ourselves against these claims by asserting non-infringement and/or invalidity positions, or pay to obtain a license to these claims. In any of the foregoing or in other situations involving third-party intellectual property rights, if we are unsuccessful in defending against claims of patent infringement, we could be forced to pay damages or be subjected to an injunction that would prevent us from utilizing the patented subject matter in question if we are unable to obtain a license on reasonable terms or at all. Such outcomes could materially affect our ability to offer our products and solutions and have a material adverse impact on our business. Even if we are able to obtain a license or successfully defend against claims of patent infringement, the cost and distraction associated with the defense or settlement of these claims could have a material adverse impact on our business. Any of the foregoing could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
We may not be able to enforce our intellectual property rights throughout the world.
Many companies have encountered significant problems in protecting and defending intellectual property rights in certain foreign jurisdictions. Accordingly, we may face an increased risk in these jurisdictions that unauthorized parties may attempt to copy or otherwise obtain or use our patented technology, trademarks, formulations or other intellectual property. The laws of some foreign countries do not protect intellectual property rights to the same extent as the laws of Germany or the United States. Specifically, the legal systems of some countries, particularly developing countries, do not favor the enforcement of patents and other intellectual property protection, especially those relating to biotechnology. This could make it difficult for us to stop the infringement of our patents or other intellectual property rights and to prevent third parties from selling or importing products made using our inventions in and to the United States, Germany or other jurisdictions. Competitors may use our technologies in jurisdictions where we have not obtained patent or other protection to develop their own products and, further, may export otherwise infringing products to territories
where we have patent protection but enforcement is not as strong as that in Germany or the United States. These products may compete with our products and solutions, and our patents or other intellectual property rights may not be effective or sufficient to prevent them from competing. In addition, the use of our patents and/or other intellectual property rights may be permitted in individual cases because, for example, prior use rights or other privileges exist, such as e.g. use of the patents for experimental or research purposes. Additionally, many countries have compulsory licensing laws under which a patent owner must grant licenses to third parties or limit the enforceability of patents against third parties, including government agencies or government contractors. In these countries, patents may provide limited or no benefit. Patent protection must ultimately be sought on a country-by-country basis, which is an expensive and time-consuming process with uncertain outcomes. Accordingly, we may choose not to seek patent protection in certain countries, and we will not have the benefit of patent protection in such countries.
Monitoring infringement and misappropriation of intellectual property can be difficult and expensive, and we may not be able to detect every instance of infringement or misappropriation of our proprietary rights. Even if we do detect infringement or misappropriation of our proprietary rights, proceedings to enforce our intellectual property rights could result in substantial costs, divert the efforts and attention of our employees and management from other aspects of our business, put our patents at risk of being invalidated or construed narrowly or provoke third parties to assert claims against us. We may not prevail in any lawsuits that we initiate, and the damages or other remedies awarded, if any, may not be commercially meaningful. Accordingly, our efforts to enforce our intellectual property and proprietary rights around the world may be inadequate to obtain a significant commercial advantage from the intellectual property that we develop. In addition, changes in the law and legal decisions by courts in Germany, the United States and other jurisdictions, in particular, the newly formed European Unified Patent Court, may affect our ability to obtain adequate protection for our products and solutions and to enforce our intellectual property rights. Any of the foregoing could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Third parties may assert ownership or commercial rights to inventions we develop.
Third parties may in the future make claims challenging the inventorship or ownership of our intellectual property. For example, we rely on certain third parties to provide us with biological materials that we use to conduct our genomic analyses. We have written agreements with collaborators that provide for the ownership of intellectual property arising from our collaborations. These agreements provide that we must negotiate certain commercial rights with collaborators with respect to joint inventions or inventions made by our collaborators that arise from the results of the collaboration. In some instances, there may not be adequate written provisions to address clearly the resolution of intellectual property rights that may arise from a collaboration. If we cannot successfully negotiate sufficient ownership and commercial rights to the inventions that result from our use of a third-party collaborator’s materials where required, or if disputes otherwise arise with respect to the intellectual property developed with the use of a collaborator’s samples, we may be limited in our ability to capitalize on the market potential of these inventions. In addition, we may face claims that our agreements with our management, employees, contractors, or consultants obligating them to assign intellectual property to us are ineffective, or in conflict with prior or competing contractual obligations of assignment, which could result in ownership disputes regarding intellectual property we have developed or will develop and interfere with our ability to capture the commercial value of such inventions. We cannot exclude the possibility that third parties may claim to have made contributions to our inventions and accordingly claim co-inventor shares in inventions that we believe were made without the participation of third parties. Litigation may be necessary to resolve an ownership dispute, and if we are not successful, we may be precluded from using certain intellectual property, or may lose our exclusive rights in that intellectual property and may even face damages and/or compensation claims of the third party for our use of the intellectual property. Any of the foregoing could materially harm our business, prospects, financial condition and results of operations.
Most of our employees and inventions are subject to German law.
Most of our personnel, including our directors, work in Germany and are subject to German employment law. Inventions which may be the subject of a patent or of protection as a utility model and which are or were made by personnel working in Germany (except for legal representatives of our respective legal entities, for example managing directors) are subject to the provisions of the German Act on Employees’ Inventions (Gesetz über Arbeitnehmererfindungen) (the “German Inventions Act”), which regulates the ownership of, and compensation for, inventions made by employees. We face the risk that disputes may occur between us and our current or past employees pertaining to the sufficiency of compensation paid by us, allocation of rights to inventions under this Act or alleged non-adherence to the provisions of this Act, any of which may be costly to resolve and take up our management’s ti