Annual report pursuant to Section 13 and 15(d)

License, Collaborative and Employment Agreements and Commitments

v3.20.4
License, Collaborative and Employment Agreements and Commitments
12 Months Ended
Dec. 31, 2020
License, Collaborative and Employment Agreements and Commitments  
License, Collaborative and Employment Agreements and Commitments

7. License, Collaborative and Employment Agreements and Commitments

License and Collaborative Agreements

As described below, the Company has entered into several license and collaborative agreements for the right to use research, technology and patents. Some of these license and collaborative agreements may contain milestones. The specific timing of such milestones cannot be predicted and are dependent on future developments as well as regulatory actions which cannot be predicted with certainty (including actions which may never occur). Further, under the terms of certain licensing agreements, the Company may have the obligation to pay certain milestones contingent upon the achievement of specific levels of sales. Due to the long-range nature of such commercial milestone amounts, they are neither probable at this time nor predictable and consequently are not included in this disclosure.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis Clinical Trial Agreement

In August 7, 2019, the Company entered into a clinical trial agreement (“CTA”) with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis (“Washington University”) to conduct a Phase 1b/2a single-center, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety, tolerability and pharmacokinetics of oral SYN-004 (ribaxamase) in up to 36 adult allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) recipients (the “Study”). Under the terms of the CTA, the Company will serve as the sponsor of the Study and supply SYN-004 (ribaxamase), as well as compensate Washington University for all research services to be provided in connection with the Study which is estimated to cost approximately $3,200,000.

The CTA continues in effect until completion of all obligations under the CTA. Either party may terminate the CTA prior to completion of its obligations (i) if authorization of the study is withdrawn by the FDA; (ii) if the emergence of any adverse reaction or side effect with SYN-004 (ribaxamase) administered in the Study is of such magnitude or incidence in the opinion of either party to support termination; or (iii) upon a breach of the terms of the CTA if the breaching party fails to cure the breach within 30 days after receipt of notice. The Company has the right to terminate the CTA (i) effective immediately if Washington University fails to perform the study in accordance with the terms of the protocol, the CTA or applicable laws or regulations or if Washington University or the principal investigator become debarred or (ii) upon 14 days written notice and Washington University has the right to terminate the CTA upon 14 days notice if the principal investigator becomes unable to perform or complete the Study and the parties have not, prior to the expiration of such fourteen (14) day period, agreed to an alternative principal investigator.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (“CSMC”) Agreement

On December 5, 2013, the Company, through its newly formed, majority owned subsidiary, SYN Biomics, entered into a worldwide exclusive License Agreement with CSMC for the development of new treatment approaches to target non-bacterial intestinal microorganism life forms known as archaea that are associated with intestinal methane production and chronic diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), obesity and type 2 diabetes. As part of the terms of the License Agreement the Company issued 9,569 unregistered shares of the Company’s common stock to CSMC, paid $150,000 for the initial license fee and $220,000 for patent reimbursement fees. The License Agreement also provides that, commencing on the second anniversary of the License Agreement, SYN Biomics will pay an annual maintenance fee, which payment shall be creditable against annual royalty payments owed under the License Agreement. In addition to royalty payments which are a percentage of net sales of licensed and technology products, SYN Biomics is obligated to pay CSMC a percentage of any non-royalty sublicense revenues, as well as additional consideration upon the achievement of milestones (the first two of which are payable in cash or unregistered shares of Company stock at the Company’s option). On December 5, 2013, the Company also entered into an option agreement with CSMC, which expired unexercised on December 31, 2014.

The License Agreement provided for termination: (i) automatically if SYN Biomics enters into a liquidating bankruptcy or other specified bankruptcy event or if the performance of any term, covenant, condition or provision of the License Agreement will jeopardize the licensure of CSMC, its participation in certain reimbursement programs, its full accreditation by the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations or any similar state organizations, its tax exempt status or is deemed illegal; (ii) upon 30 days notice from CSMC if SYN Biomics fails to make a payment or use commercially reasonable efforts to exploit the patent rights; (iii) upon 60 days notice from CSMC if SYN Biomics fails to cure any breach or default of any material obligations under the License Agreement; or (iv) upon 90 days notice from SYN Biomics if CSMC fails to cure any breach or default of any material obligations under the License Agreement. SYN Biomics also has the right to terminate the License Agreement without cause upon six months notice to CSMC; however, upon such termination, SYN Biomics is obligated to pay a termination fee with the amount of such fee reduced: (i) if such termination occurs after an Investigational New Drug submission to the FDA but prior to completion of a Phase 2 clinical trial, (ii) reduced further if such termination occurs after completion of Phase 2 clinical trial but prior to completion of a Phase 3 clinical trial; and (iii) reduced to zero if such termination occurs after completion of a Phase 3 clinical trial.

Prior to the execution of the CSMC License Agreement, SYN Biomics issued shares of common stock of SYN Biomics to each of CSMC and Mark Pimentel, M.D. (the primary inventor of the intellectual property), representing 11.5% and 8.5%, respectively, of the outstanding shares of SYN Biomics (the “SYN Biomics Shares”). The Stock Purchase Agreements for the SYN Biomics shares provide for certain anti-dilution protection until such time as an aggregate of $3.0 million in proceeds from equity financings are received by SYN Biomics as well as a right, under certain circumstances in the event that the SYN Biomics shares are not then freely tradable, and subject to NYSE American approval, as of the 18 and 36 month anniversary date of the effective date of the Stock Purchase Agreements, for each of CSMC and the Dr. Pimentel to exchange up to 50% of their SYN Biomics shares for unregistered shares of the Company’s common stock, with the rate of exchange based upon the relative contribution of the valuation of SYN Biomics to the public market valuation of the Company at the time of each exchange. The Stock Purchase Agreements also provide for tag-along rights in the event of the sale by the Company of its shares of SYN Biomics.

On August 29, 2015, the Company, SYN Biomics and Mark Pimentel, M.D. entered into an amendment to the Pimentel Stock Purchase Agreement, which accelerated the date upon which Dr. Pimentel can exchange his shares of common stock in SYN Biomics for shares of the Company’s common stock. On August 29, 2015, Dr. Pimentel notified the Company of his intent to exchange all of the shares of common stock in SYN Biomics owned by him for 38,572 shares of the Company’s common stock in accordance with the terms of the Pimentel Stock Purchase Agreement, as amended. On August 31, 2015, the Company issued 38,572 shares of the Company’s common stock to Dr. Pimentel in exchange for all of the shares of common stock of SYN Biomics held by Dr. Pimentel.

As of and during the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, the Company did not owe and did not pay CSMC for milestone payments related to this license agreement.

On September 5, 2018, the Company entered into an agreement with CSMC for an investigator-sponsored Phase 2 clinical study of SYN‑010 to be co-funded by the Company and CSMC (the “Study”). The Study was to provide further evaluation of the efficacy and safety of SYN‑010, the Company’s modified-release reformulation of lovastatin lactone, which is exclusively licensed to the Company by CSMC. SYN‑010 is designed to reduce methane production by certain microorganisms (M. smithii) in the gut to treat an underlying cause of irritable bowel syndrome with constipation (IBS-C).

In consideration of the support provided by CSMC for the Study, the Company paid $441,000 and the Company entered into a Stock Purchase Agreement with CSMC pursuant to which the Company, upon the approval of the Study protocol by the Institutional Review Board, (IRB) to: (i) issued to CSMC fifty thousand (50,000) shares of common stock of the Company; and (ii) transferred to CSMC an additional two million four hundred twenty thousand (2,420,000) shares of common stock of its subsidiary SYN Biomics, Inc. (“Synbiomics”) owned by the Company, such that after such issuance CSMC owned an aggregate of seven million four hundred eighty thousand (7,480,000) shares of common stock of SYN Biomics, representing seventeen percent (17%) of the issued and outstanding shares of SYN Biomics’ common stock. The services rendered are recorded to research and development expense in proportion with the progress of the study and based overall on the fair value of the shares ($285,000) as determined at the date of IRB approval. During the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, research and development expense related to this transaction approximated $225,000 and $198,000, respectively.

The Agreement also provides CSMC with a right, commencing on the six month anniversary of issuance of the stock under certain circumstances in the event that the shares of stock of Synbiomics are not then freely tradeable, and subject to NYSE American, LLC approval, to exchange its Synbiomics shares for unregistered shares of the Company’s common stock, with the rate of exchange based upon the relative contribution of the valuation of Synbiomics to the public market valuation of the Company at the time of each exchange. The Stock Purchase Agreement also provides for tag-along rights in the event of the sale by the Company of its shares of Synbiomics.

On September 30, 2020, CSMC MAST formally agreed to discontinue the ongoing Phase 2b investigator-sponsored clinical study of SYN-010 following the results of a planned interim futility analysis. Although it was concluded that SYN-010 was well tolerated, SYN-010 is unlikely to meet its primary endpoint by the time enrollment is completed.

On November 9, 2020, the Company and its subsidiary, SYN Biomics, Inc. and CSMC mutually agreed to terminate the exclusive license agreement dated December 5, 2013 and all amendments thereto and the clinical trial agreement relating to SYN-010. The determination to terminate the SYN-010 license agreement was agreed following the completion of a planned interim futility analysis of the Phase 2b investigator-sponsored clinical trial of SYN-010. On September 30, 2020, CSMC (the Company's SYN-010 clinical development partner) informed the Company that it discontinued the ongoing Phase 2b investigator-sponsored clinical study of SYN-010 IBS-C patients. The patent rights previously licensed to the Company covering the use of SYN-010 will remain the property of CSMC.

University of Texas Austin Agreement

On December 19, 2012, the Company entered into a License Agreement with UT Austin for the exclusive license of the right to use, develop, manufacture, market and commercialize certain research and patents related to pertussis antibodies. The License Agreement provides that UT Austin is entitled to payment of past patent expenses, an annual payment of $50,000 per year commencing on the effective date through December 31, 2014, a $25,000 payment on December 31, 2015 and milestone payments of $50,000 upon commencement of Phase 1 clinical trials, $100,000 upon commencement of Phase 3 clinical trials, $250,000 upon NDA submission in the U.S., $100,000 upon European Medicines Agency approval and $100,000 upon regulatory approval in an Asian country. In addition, UT Austin is entitled to a running royalty upon net sales. The License Agreement terminates upon the expiration of the patent rights; provided, however that the License Agreement is subject to early termination by the Company in its discretion and by UT Austin for a breach of the License Agreement by the Company.

In connection with the License Agreement, the Company and UT Austin also entered into a Sponsored Research Agreement pursuant to which UT Austin will perform certain research work related to pertussis. The Sponsored Research Agreement may be renewed annually, in the sole discretion of the Company, after the first year for two additional one year terms with a fixed fee for the first year of $303,287. The Sponsored Research Agreement was renewed for the second and third years for a fixed fee of $316,438 and $328,758 respectively, all payable in quarterly installments. The Sponsored Research Agreement expires January 17, 2023; provided, however, the Sponsored Research Agreement is subject to early termination upon the written agreement of the parties, a default in the material obligations under the Research Agreement which remain uncured for 60 days after receipt of notice, automatically upon the Company’s bankruptcy or insolvency and by the Company in its sole discretion at any time after the one year anniversary of the date of execution thereof upon no less than 90 days’ notice.

On October 22, 2015, the Company and UT Austin amended the Sponsored Research Agreement to extend the termination date from the initial termination date of December 31, 2015 to January 15, 2017, on September 2, 2016 to extend the agreement until January 15, 2018, on August 22, 2017 to extend the agreement until January 17, 2019, on August 24, 2018 to extend the agreement until January 17, 2021 and again on August 8, 2020 until January 17, 2023. All other terms and conditions of the Sponsored Research Agreement remain unchanged. No further or additional payments will be made to UT Austin as a result of this amendment.

Prev ABR LLC (“Prev”) Agreement

On November 28, 2012, the Company entered into an agreement (“Prev Agreement”) to acquire the C. diff program assets of Prev, including pre-Investigational New Drug (IND) package, Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical data, manufacturing process data and all issued and pending U.S. and international patents. Upon execution and closing of the Prev Agreement, the Company paid Prev cash payments of $235,000 and issued 17,858 unregistered shares of its common stock to Prev. As set forth in the Prev Agreement, Prev may be entitled to receive additional consideration upon the achievement of certain milestones including: (i) commencement of an IND; (ii) commencement of a Phase 1 clinical trial; (iii) commencement of a Phase 2 clinical trial; (iv) commencement of a Phase 3 clinical trial; (v) filing a Biologic License Application (BLA) in the U.S. and for territories outside of the U.S. (as defined in the Prev Agreement); and (vi) approval of a BLA in the U.S. and for territories outside the U.S. With exception of the first milestone payment, the remaining milestones are payable 50% in cash and 50% in our stock, however, at Prev’s option the entire milestone may be payable in shares of the Company’s stock. As of December 31, 2015, the first three milestones have been met, and at Prev’s option, Prev elected to receive 18,724 shares of the Company’s common stock. No milestones were achieved or such payments were made during the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019.

Intrexon Exclusive Channel Collaboration

On August 6, 2012, the Company entered into an Exclusive Channel Collaboration (“Infectious Disease ECC”) with Intrexon that governs an “exclusive channel collaboration” arrangement in which the Company will use Intrexon’s technology relating to the identification, design and production of human antibodies and DNA vectors for the development and commercialization of a series of monoclonal antibody therapies for the treatment of certain serious infectious diseases. Pursuant to the terms of the Second Stock Issuance Agreement with Intrexon, which was approved by the Company’s stockholders on October 5, 2012, the Company issued 101,492 shares of its common stock, $0.001 par value, which issuance is also deemed paid in consideration for the execution and delivery of the Infectious Disease ECC, dated August 6, 2012, between the Company and Intrexon. In connection with the transactions contemplated by the Second Stock Issuance Agreement, and pursuant to the First Amendment to Registration Rights Agreement (the “First Amendment to Registration Rights Agreement”) executed and delivered by the parties at the closing, which was declared effective on May 5, 2013. The Company filed a “resale” registration statement registering the resale of the shares issued under the Second Stock Issuance Agreement.

Subject to certain expense allocations and other offsets provided in the Infectious Disease ECC, the Company will pay Intrexon royalties on annual net sales of the Synthetic Products, calculated on a Synthetic Product-by-Synthetic Product basis. The Company has likewise agreed to pay Intrexon a percentage of quarterly revenue obtained from a sublicensor in the event of a sublicensing arrangement. No such payments were made during the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019.

The Company also agreed upon the filing of an IND application with the FDA for a Synthetic Product, or alternatively the filing of the first equivalent regulatory filing with a foreign regulatory agency (both as applicable, the “IND Milestone Event”), to pay Intrexon either (i) $2.0 million in cash, or (ii) that number of shares of common stock (the “IND Milestone Shares”) having a fair market value equaling $2.0 million where such fair market value is determined using published market data of the share price for common stock at the close of market on the business day immediately preceding the date of public announcement of attainment of the IND Milestone Event.

Upon the first to occur of either first commercial sale of a Synthetic Product in a country or the granting of the regulatory approval of that Synthetic Product (both as applicable, the “Approval Milestone Event”), the Company agreed to pay to Intrexon either (i) $3.0 million in cash, or (ii) that number of shares of common stock (the “Approval Milestone Shares”) having a fair market value equaling $3.0 million where such fair market value is determined using published market data of the share price for common stock at the close of market on the business day immediately preceding the date of public announcement of attainment of the Approval Milestone Event.

On August 10, 2015, the Company entered into an Exclusive Channel Collaboration Agreement (the “PKU ECC”) with Intrexon that governs a “channel collaboration” arrangement in which the Company was granted a worldwide exclusive license to use the patents and other intellectual property of Intrexon in connection with the research, development, use, importing, manufacture, sale, and offer for sale of biotherapeutic products for the treatment of PKU in humans by direct administration of a viral construct containing a gene to alter genetic expression of phenyalanine hydroxylase and/or administration of genetically modified bacteria that express an effector directed to the metabolic conversion of phenyalanine. The license was exclusive to both parties within the Field. On September 2, 2015, in accordance with the terms of the Intrexon Stock Issuance Agreement that the Company entered into in connection with the PKU ECC, the Company paid Intrexon a technology access fee by the issuance of 26,786 shares of common stock, having a value equal to $3.0 million as of August 7, 2015. Pursuant to the Second Amendment to Registration Rights Agreement, the Company filed a “resale” registration statement to register the shares issued under the Intrexon Stock Issuance Agreement, which was declared effective by the SEC on October 15, 2015.

On November 30, 2018, the Company received written notice from Intrexon stating that Intrexon and the Company had terminated by mutual agreement the PKU Exclusive Channel Collaboration Agreement. As a result of the mutually agreed upon November 30, 2018 termination, each party retains its own respective confidential information and intellectual property and all licenses between the parties granted under the ECC are terminated. The Company had also entered into the Exclusive Channel Collaboration Agreement, dated August 6, 2012 with Intrexon that governs a “channel collaboration” arrangement in which the Company intends to use Intrexon’s technology relating to the identification, design and production of human antibodies and DNA vectors for the development and commercialization of a series of monoclonal antibody therapies for the treatment of Pertussis, remains in effect.

Employment Agreements

On December 6, 2018, the Company entered into a three-year employment agreement with Steven A. Shallcross, (the “Employment Agreement”), to serve as the Chief Executive Officer and to continue to serve as the Chief Financial Officer of the Company.

The Employment Agreement has a stated term of three years but may be terminated earlier pursuant to its terms. If Mr. Shallcross’ employment is terminated for any reason, he or his estate as the case may be, will be entitled to receive the accrued base salary, vacation pay, expense reimbursement and any other entitlements accrued by him to the extent not previously paid (the “Accrued Obligations”); provided, however, that if his employment is terminated (i) by the Company without Cause or by Mr. Shallcross for Good Reason (as each is defined in the Employment Agreement) then in addition to paying the Accrued Obligations, (a) the Company will continue to pay his then current base salary and continue to provide benefits at least equal to those that were provided at the time of termination for a period of twelve (12) months and (b) he shall have the right to exercise any vested equity awards until the earlier of six (6) months after termination or the remaining term of the awards; or (ii) by reason of his death or Disability (as defined in the Employment Agreement), then in addition to paying the Accrued Obligations, Mr. Shallcross would have the right to exercise any vested options until the earlier of six (6) months after termination or the remaining term of the awards. In such event, if Mr. Shallcross commenced employment with another employer and becomes eligible to receive medical or other welfare benefits under another employer-provided plan, the medical and other welfare benefits to be provided by the Company as described herein would terminate.

On December 30, 2020, the Board of the Company awarded Steven A. Shallcross (i) a cash bonus equal to 62% of his prior base salary and (ii) an option to purchase 450,000 shares of the Company’s common stock.

Operating Lease

All of the Company’s existing leases as of December 31, 2020 are classified as operating leases. As of December 31, 2020, the Company has one material operating lease for facilities with a remaining term expiring in 2022. The existing lease has fair value renewal options, none of which are considered certain of being exercised or included in the minimum lease term. The discount rate used in the calculation of the lease liability was 9.9%.The rates implicit within the Company's leases are generally not determinable, therefore, the Company's incremental borrowing rate is used to determine the present value of lease payments. The determination of the Company’s incremental borrowing rate requires judgment. Because the Company currently has no outstanding debt, the incremental borrowing rate for each lease is primarily based on publicly-available information for companies within the same industry and with similar credit profiles. The rate is then adjusted for the impact of collateralization, the lease term and other specific terms included in the Company’s lease arrangements. The incremental borrowing rate is determined at lease commencement, or as of January 1, 2019 for operating leases in existence upon adoption of ASC 842, Leases (“ASC 842”). The incremental borrowing rate is subsequently reassessed upon a modification to the lease arrangement. ROU assets are subsequently assessed for impairment in accordance with the Company’s accounting policy for long-lived assets. Operating lease costs are presented as part of general and administrative expenses in the consolidated statements of operations, and for the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 approximated $209,000 and 201,000, respectively. For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019, operating cash flows used for operating leases approximated $309,000 and $300,000, respectively.

 

A maturity analysis of our operating leases as of December 31, 2020 is as follows (amounts in thousands of dollars):

 

 

 

 

 

Future undiscounted cash flows:

    

 

    

2021

 

$

321

2022

 

 

192

Total

 

 

513

 

 

 

 

Discount factor

 

 

(40)

Lease liability

 

 

473

Amount due within 12 months

 

 

(287)

Lease liability - long term

 

$

186

 

Consulting Fees

In November 2017, the Company engaged a regulatory consultant to assist in the Company’s efforts to prepare, file and obtain FDA approval for ribaxamase. The term of the engagement is on a monthly basis, provided that either party may terminate the agreement at any time by providing the other party a six-month notice period. The Company is obligated to pay the consultant a monthly retainer in addition to the success fee payments of up to an aggregate of $4,500,000 for attainment of certain regulatory milestones. The achievement of the milestones is not probable at this time.

Risks and Uncertainties

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization ("WHO") announced a global health emergency because of a new strain of coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China (the "COVID-19" outbreak) and the risks to the international community as the virus spreads globally beyond its point of origin. In March 2020, the WHO classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic, based on the rapid increase in exposure globally.

As COVID-19 continued to spread around the globe, the Company experienced disruptions that impacted its business and clinical trials, including halting the postponement of clinical site initiation of the Phase 1b/2a clinical trial of SYN-004. The extent to which the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the Company's business, the clinical development of SYN-004 (ribaxamase) and SYN-020, the business of the Company's suppliers and other commercial partners, the Company's corporate development objectives and the value of and market for the Company's common stock, will depend on future developments that are highly uncertain and cannot be predicted with confidence at this time, such as the ultimate duration of the pandemic, travel restrictions, quarantines, social distancing and business closure requirements in the United States, Europe and other countries, and the effectiveness of actions taken globally to contain and treat the disease. The global economic slowdown, the overall disruption of global healthcare systems and the other risks and uncertainties associated with the pandemic could have a material adverse effect on the Company's business, financial condition, results of operations and growth prospects. In addition, to the extent the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic adversely affects the Company's business and results of operations, it may also have the effect of heightening many of the other risks and uncertainties which the Company faces.