The Group's Directors recognise the importance of sound corporate governance and an effective board of directors. As a company whose shares are traded on AIM, the Board has concluded that it will adopt the Quoted Alliance's Corporate Governance Code ("the QCA Code"), to the extent that they consider it appropriate having regard to the Company’s size, board structure, stage of development and resources. The Board considers that compliance with the QCA Code will enable them to serve the interests of all our key stakeholders, including our shareholders, and will promote the maintenance and creation of long-term value in the Company. In addition, the directors have adopted a code of conduct for dealings in the shares of the Group by directors and employees and are committed to maintaining the highest standards of corporate governance.
The Board as a whole, led by the Non-Executive Chairman Kenneth West, is responsible for ensuring that the Group has appropriate corporate governance standards in place and that these requirements are followed and applied within the Group as a whole. The corporate governance arrangements that the Board has adopted are designed to ensure that the Group delivers long term value to its shareholders and that shareholders have the opportunity to express their views and expectations for the Group in a manner that encourages open dialogue with the Board.
The Board recognises that their decisions regarding strategy and risk will impact the corporate culture of the Group as a whole and that this will impact the performance of the Group. The Board is very aware that the tone and culture set by the Board will greatly impact all aspects of the Group as a whole and the way that employees behave. A large part of the Group's activities are centred upon open and respectful dialogue with its stakeholders including Clinical Research Organisations, Universities and key suppliers. Therefore the importance of sound ethical values and behaviours is crucial to the ability of the Group to successfully achieve its corporate objectives. The Board places great importance on this aspect of corporate life and seeks to ensure that this flows through all that the Group does.
The Board members recognise their collective responsibility and legal obligation to promote the interests of the Company, and are collectively responsible for defining the Company's corporate governance arrangements. The Board currently consists of eight directors, of which three are executive and five are non-executive. The Board has a Non-Executive Chairman with the CEO being excluded from taking on this role.
Application of the QCA Code
The QCA Code sets out 10 principles which should be applied. These are listed below together with a short explanation of how the Group applies each of the principles. Where the Group does not fully apply each principle an explanation as to why has also been provided:
Principle One: Business Model and Strategy
The Board has adopted a strategy for the Group's development which is summarised below.
The Group comprises medical drug-device combination companies operating in the high-resolution medical imaging market. The Group develops equipment that enables existing MRI systems to achieve an improved level of pulmonary functional imaging and specialises in the use of polarised Xenon gas (129Xe) as an imaging agent to visualise ventilation (the ability of air to reach the alveoli) and gas exchange (the ability of oxygen to diffuse through the alveolar membrane into the pulmonary vasculature) regionally down to the smallest airways of the lungs, the tissue barrier between the lung and the bloodstream and in the pulmonary vasculature; a novel diagnostic approach. The Group will also register and sell the high performance MRI radiofrequency (RF) coils which are a required component for imaging 129Xe in the MRI system. Providing access to these coils facilitates the adoption of the Xenon technology by providing application-specific RF coils which optimise the imaging of 129Xe in MRI equipment.
Pulmonary disease currently affects hundreds of millions of people globally, including approximately 174 million people who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which is responsible for approximately 6% of all such deaths globally each year. In the US more than 30 million people suffer from a chronic lung disease such as COPD, which includes emphysema, chronic bronchitis and asthma. In addition to its significant human toll, pulmonary disease also represents an economic burden in excess of US$150 billion annually in the US alone.
Every type of pulmonary disease involves some combination of ventilation and/or gas exchange impairment, yet the successful and cost-effective treatment of lung disease is hampered by sub-optimal methods for quantifying pulmonary ventilation and gas exchange. Current diagnostic techniques are either imprecise (such as spirometry) and/or expose the patient to potentially dangerous radiation (such as x-rays, CT scans and nuclear scintigraphy). While spirometry has benefits as a screening tool, none of these current methods can visualise ventilation or gas exchange regionally in the smallest airways, where lung disease typically begins and where improvements from new pharmaceutical therapies can first be detected.
As such, the Group operates in an area of significant unmet medical need and is pursuing approval by the US Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) for the Group’s drug-device combination product using hyperpolarised xenon-129 gas to enhance MRI in pulmonary medicine. The Company submitted a new drug application (“NDA”) to the FDA on 5 October 2020 after the successful completion of the FDA Phase III clinical trials in the US for the Group’s technology. The 80-patient equivalence clinical trials were conducted at Duke University Medical Center, the University of Virginia and The University of Cincinnati – three leading US research hospitals. The Directors anticipate receiving a broad indication for use from the FDA following the FDA's review period. In the meantime, the Company intends to make preparations for commercialisation and launch of its technology.
The Group's technology overcomes important limitations of current lung diagnostic methods, providing the ability to visualise, quantify and monitor both the structure and function of the smallest airways and alveolar spaces with enhanced sensitivity and without harmful radiation. This provides a unique, valuable and more precise tool to help diagnose disease earlier, identify the type of intervention likely to benefit a patient, monitor the efficacy of treatment and facilitate developing new therapies for pulmonary diseases. The installation of new polarisers continues and users of the Company’s systems are publishing research at an increased rate, expanding and deepening the knowledge base of the use of hyperpolarised 129Xe in pulmonary medicine, while further validating Polarean’s technology.
Future Growth Strategy
The Group estimates that in the short term it will generate additional revenue from the sale of hyperpolarisers to global research institutions and the Directors believe that the market for polarisers will grow as the technology gains wider acceptance as a tool for studying lung disease and for monitoring the effectiveness of therapeutics. At present, a number of major pharmaceutical companies are working with universities that are well known to the Group, regarding the use of HPX MRI technology to help guide clinical trials of developmental pharmaceutical products which is raising awareness of the Group's technology and product range.
Upon receipt of FDA approval, the Group will adopt a traditional market entry strategy of building market awareness for its technology through key opinion leaders and a direct sales force to reach the key decision makers within its initial target market of large academic medical centres. In implementing this strategy, the Group benefits from more than 1,000 journal articles on the use of hyperpolarised gas MRI that are currently published in peer-reviewed journals. Over time, as more research centres purchase the Group's equipment and begin clinical studies, an increasing number of peer reviewed scientific articles are likely to be published, further enhancing the Group's credibility and raising awareness of the Group's technology. The Group also intends to continue patenting and in-licensing hyperpolarised gas technology IP to protect its current position.
Following receipt of any FDA clearance to market the technology, the Group's initial sales targets will be the radiology and pulmonary medicine departments of top academic hospital organisations in the US, who are opinion leaders in the use of new diagnostic technologies and their application in a clinical setting.
Subsequently, the Group will seek to expand its sales and marketing teams. Because of the specialty nature of the Group's products in the pulmonary specialist market, which is concentrated in approximately 1,000 medical centres, the Directors believe that a small specialty sales force can be deployed effectively at reasonable cost. The Group may also choose to partner with companies that offer complementary products.
Furthermore, the Directors believe that the Group's products will benefit a number of clinical applications. While the Group’s HPX MRI technology provides more specific information than currently available from existing lung diagnostic procedures (especially spirometry), the Group will focus its use on specific clinical conditions where the high accuracy of HPX MRI and greater cost are justified. The Directors do not believe that HPX MRI will replace low-cost spirometry as a general screening tool but believe that it should add value in more demanding clinical applications where HPX MRI addresses unmet diagnostic needs. These applications could include, but are not limited to, the following:
- the monitoring of COPD therapy, especially for the most severe cases;
- the management of cystic fibrosis;
- determining the optimal use of biologic therapy in chronic asthma;
- a more efficient diagnosis of dyspnoea and the chronic cough;
- providing guidance for radiation therapy planning of lung cancer treatment;
- providing guidance for interventional pulmonology procedures including ablation and the placement of valves and stents;
- surgical procedure planning for lung transplant and volume reduction surgery;
- diagnosis of ILD and monitoring of ILD therapy;
- diagnosis of pulmonary vascular disease (PVD) including pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) and monitoring of therapy; and
- diagnosis and monitoring of long COVID patients
The Directors have begun to develop relationships with a range of strategic partners and will evaluate opportunities which will enable the Group to address its target markets globally, either alone or in collaboration with a partner.
Principle Two: Understanding Shareholder needs and Expectations
The Board is committed to maintaining good communication and investor relations and having a constructive dialogue with its shareholders. Institutional shareholders and analysts have the opportunity to discuss issues and provide feedback at meetings with the Company. In addition, all shareholders are encouraged to attend the Company's Annual General Meeting and any other General Meetings which are held throughout the year.
The Board uses the Company's website to communicate with shareholders and investors also have access to current information about the Group on the Company's website.
Principle Three: Stakeholder Responsibilities
The Board recognises that the long term success of the Group is reliant upon the efforts of the employees of the Group and its customers, stakeholders, suppliers and regulators. The Board has put in place a range of processes and systems to ensure that there is close Board oversight and contact with its key resources and relationships and seeks feedback from all applicable stakeholder groups whenever possible.
Annual Assessment Process
All employees of the Group participate in a structured Group-wide annual assessment process which is designed to ensure that there is an open and confidential dialogue with each person in the Group to help ensure successful two way communication with agreement on goals, targets and aspirations of the employee and the Group. These feedback processes help to ensure that the Group can respond to new issues and opportunities that arise to further the success of employees and the Group. In addition the Board ensures that all key relationships with, for example, customers and suppliers are the responsibility of, or are closely supervised by, one of the directors or the financial controller.
Principle Four: Risk Management
The Board is responsible for the monitoring of financial performance against budget and forecast and the formulation of the Group’s risk appetite including the identification, assessment and monitoring of the Company’s principal risks. The Board recognises the need for an effective and well-defined risk management process and it oversees and regularly reviews the current risk management and internal control mechanisms.
The Board has overall responsibility for identifying, monitoring and reviewing the Company’s risks, and assessing the systems of external control for effectiveness. The Executive Directors report any new or changed risks, and any changes in risk management or control to the Board. The Board discusses all business matters having regard to the risks for the Group and to the extent that risks inherent in a particular activity are considered significant, appropriate action is taken and steps taken to mitigate the issue. The overall objective of the Board is to set policies that seek to reduce risk as far as possible without unduly affecting the Company’s competitiveness and flexibility.
In addition to its other roles and responsibilities the Audit and Compliance Committee is responsible to the Board for ensuring that procedures are in place, and are being effectively implemented to identify, evaluate and manage the significant risks faced by the Group. The Audit Committee reviews the risks on a regular basis and presents them in the Annual Report each year. The following principal risks have been identified:
Early stage of operations
The Group's operations are at an early stage of development and there can be no guarantee that the Group will be able to, or that it will be commercially advantageous for the Group to, develop its proprietary technology. Further, the Group currently has no positive operating cash flow and its ultimate success will depend on the Directors' ability to implement the Group's strategy, generate cash flow and access capital markets.
Regulatory approvals and compliance
The Group will need to obtain various regulatory approvals (including FDA and European Medicines Agency (“EMA”) approvals) and otherwise comply with extensive regulations regarding safety, quality and efficacy standards in order to market its future products. These regulations, including the time required for regulatory review, vary from country to country and can be lengthy, expensive and uncertain.
Future funding requirements
The Group will need to raise additional funding or enter into a strategic partnership with industry partners to undertake work beyond that being funded by the £27 million (before expenses) 2021 fundraising. There is no certainty that this will be possible at all or on acceptable terms.
Dependence on key personnel
The success of the Group, in common with other businesses of a similar size, will be highly dependent on the expertise and experience of the Directors and key employees. However, the retention of such key personnel cannot be guaranteed. Should key personnel leave the Group's business, prospects, financial condition or results of operations may be materially adversely affected.
Intellectual property and proprietary technology
The Group’s technology has been developed in four areas: (i) hyperpolarising gas; (ii) assuring the quality of the hyperpolarised gas; (iii) using the polarised gas in MRI applications; and (iv) developing and producing specialised RF coils to improve signal-to-noise ratios (“SNR”). GE had put a comprehensive patent policy in place to protect its technology from potential competitors. The Group is now the sole owner of this IP portfolio, which is based on 10 patent families, and when combined with the 7 patents that were previously owned by m2m, that were transferred to the Group following the m2m Merger, the Group’s portfolio covers four broad types of patents:
- imaging methods – these cover the imaging of a subject, or patient, who has inhaled a hyperpolarised noble gas and the functionality of the gas as a contrast agent. Newly licensed technology from Duke University extends the protection over these patents through to the early 2030s;
- hyperpolarisation methods – these are polarimetry patents covering the methods by which noble gases are polarised and the methods by which the resulting polarised gas is isolated and delivered to patients. The latest of these patents expire in the early 2020s;
- hyperpolarisation equipment – these patents cover the multiple preferred mechanical design and automation elements of hyperpolarised equipment; and
- RF coil patents – these patents cover the use of cryogenics to improve RF coils SNR and image quality and may play an important part in the next generation of applications such as neurological, cardiac and oncology imaging.
The Company is committed to proactively developing further IP, both internally and through licensing arrangements with third parties, as part of the Group’s overall growth strategy. The third parties are likely
to include the Group’s key collaborative academic sites, such as Duke University, that are seeking to develop emerging applications and technologies. Because of the Group’s extensive patent portfolio and leading market position, the Directors believe the Group is an attractive licensing partner for academic research institutions that are interested in out-licensing such IP. One such patent application
(US15/120013), which is currently pending, relates to improving the overall efficiency of the hyperpolarisation process. This patent has also been exclusively licensed to the Group by Duke University. The Directors believe that this patent, now having been prosecuted successfully to issuance in a number of geographic jurisdictions worldwide, would enable the Group to protect methods for increasing the level of hyperpolarisation significantly, which could improve the competitive economics of the Group’s products.
Technology and products
The Group is a developer and service provider for noble gas 129XE devices and ancillary instruments with a special focus on pulmonary imaging. The development and commercialisation of its proprietary technology and future products, which are in early stages of development, will require multiple series of clinical trials and there is a risk that safety and efficacy issues may arise when the products are tested. There is also a risk that there will be delays to the development of the products or that unforeseen technical problems arise as the Group's technology becomes increasingly automated. These risks are common to all new medical products and there is also a risk that the clinical trials may not be successful.
Research and development risk
The Group will be operating in the life sciences and medical device development sector and will look to exploit opportunities within that sector. The Group will therefore be involved in complex scientific research and industry experience indicates that there may be a very high incidence of delay or failure to produce results. The Group may not be able to develop new products or to identify specific market needs that can be addressed by technology solutions developed by the Group.
The Group notes that several start-ups operating in the CT software space have begun efforts to commercialise products which represent to characterise lung ventilation. These technologies use ionising radiation, whereas the Group’s technology does not. In addition, these technologies are unable to further assess gas exchange, red blood cell transport, nor microvascular haemodynamics.
Reliance on third parties
The business model for the Group anticipates that it will have limited internal resources over the next few years and that it will use third party providers wherever possible to conduct the research, development, registration, manufacture, marketing and sales of its proposed products. The commercial success of the Group's products will depend upon the performance of these third parties.
There can be no assurance that the Group's proposed products will be capable of being manufactured in commercial quantities, in compliance with regulatory requirements and at an acceptable cost. The Group outsources the manufacture of the raw materials and finished products required in connection with the research, development and commercial manufacture of its proposed products and, as such, will be wholly dependent upon third parties for the provision of adequate facilities and raw material supplies. 129Xe, the specific isotope of xenon which is the active ingredient in the Group's drug-device product, is available from a limited number of suppliers and there can be no assurance that adequate supplies of this material at acceptable cost can be obtained. In addition, where the Group is dependent upon third parties for manufacture, its ability to procure the manufacture of the drug-device in a manner which complies with regulatory requirements may be constrained, and its ability to develop and deliver such products on a timely and competitive basis may be adversely affected.
Product development timelines
Product development timelines are at risk of delay, particularly since it is not always possible to predict what the FDA will require for approval of the NDA. There is a risk therefore that product development could take longer than presently expected by the Directors. If such delays occur the Group may require further working capital. The Directors shall seek to minimise the risk of delays by careful management of projects.
General legal and regulatory issues
The Group's operations are subject to laws, regulatory restrictions and certain governmental directives, recommendations and guidelines relating to, amongst other things, occupational safety, laboratory practice, the use and handling of hazardous materials, prevention of illness and injury, environmental protection and animal and human testing. There can be no assurance that future legislation will not impose further government regulation, which may adversely affect the business or financial condition of the Group.
Healthcare pricing environment
In common with other healthcare products companies, the ability of the Group and any of its licensees or collaborators to market its products successfully depends in part on the extent to which reimbursement for the cost of such products and related treatment will be available from government health administration authorities, private health coverage insurers and other organisations
The Board currently takes the view that an internal audit function is not considered necessary or practical due to the size of the Group and the close day to day control exercised by the executive directors. However, the Board will continue to monitor the need for an internal audit function.
Principle Five: A Well-Functioning Board of Directors
The Board is currently comprised of the Non-Executive Chairman, Kenneth West, Richard Hullihen (CEO), Chuck Osborne (CFO), Bastiaan Driehuys (CTO) and five other NEDs, Daniel Brague, Juergen Laucht, Cyrille Petit, Frank Schulkes and Marcella Rudy. The time commitment formally required by the Group is an overriding principal that each director will devote as much time as is required to carry out the roles and responsibilities that the director has agreed to take on. Biographical details of the current directors are set out under 'Board of Directors' on the Investor relations page of the group's website.
The Board meets regularly and is responsible for the Group’s corporate strategy, monitoring financial performance, approval of capital expenditure, treasury and risk management policies. Board papers are sent out to all Directors in advance of each Board meeting including management accounts and accompanying reports from those responsible.
The Directors believe that the Board, as a whole, has a broad range of commercial and professional skills, enabling it to discharge its duties and responsibilities effectively and that the Non-Executive Directors, together, have a sufficient range of experience and skills to enable them to provide the necessary guidance, oversight and advice for the Board to operate effectively. All Directors are encouraged to use their independent judgement and to challenge all matters, whether strategic or operational.
Frank Schulkes and Marcella Rudy are the Company’s two independent Non-Executive Directors. The guidance in the QCA Code is for a company to have at least two independent Non-Executive Directors.
The Board will seek to take into account any Board imbalances for future nominations. The Company is committed to a culture of equal opportunities for all employees regardless of gender. The Board aims to be diverse in terms of its range of culture, nationality and international experience.
Given the current phase of the Company’s life cycle, the Board has determined that it is not practicable to set measurable objectives for achieving gender diversity. It is the Board’s intention as the size and complexity of the Company grows, to set and aim to achieve gender diversity objectives pursuant to a defined diversity policy.
All of the Executive Directors work full time for the Company. The Chairman is expected to devote the necessary amount of time to comprehensively fulfil the duties of the role, and in any case not less than 52 days per annum, and the Non-Executive Directors are each expected to dedicate not less than 15 days per annum to the Company’s affairs. The time commitment required by the Group is an overriding principle that each Director will devote as much time as is required to carry out the roles and responsibilities that the Director has agreed to take on.
The Non-Executive Directors receive a fee for their services as a director which is approved by the Board, being mindful of the time commitment and responsibilities of their roles and of current market rates for comparable organisations and appointments. In addition, Non-Executive Directors are also reimbursed for travelling and other incidental expenses incurred on Group business.
Executive and Non-Executive Directors are subject to re-election intervals as prescribed in the Company's Articles of Association. At each Annual General Meeting one-third of the Directors, who are subject to retirement by rotation shall retire from office. They can then offer themselves for re-election. The letters of appointment of all Non-Executive Directors are available for inspection at the Company's registered office during normal business hours. The Executive Directors are employed under service contracts requiring six months' notice by either party. Non-Executive Directors and the Chairman receive payments under appointment letters which are terminable by three months' notice by either party.
The Non-Executive Directors receive a fee for their services as a director which is approved by the Board, being mindful of the time commitment and responsibilities of their roles and of current market rates for comparable organisations and appointments. In addition, Non-Executive Directors are also reimbursed for travelling and other incidental expenses incurred on Group business.
The Board encourages the ownership of shares in the Company by Executive and Non-Executive Directors alike and in normal circumstances does not expect Directors to undertake dealings of a short-term nature. The Board will periodically review the shareholdings of the Non-Executive Directors and will seek guidance from its advisors if, at any time, it is concerned that the shareholding of any Non-Executive Director may, or could appear to, conflict with their duties as an independent Non-Executive Director of the Company or their independence itself.
The Board has established an Audit Committee and a Remuneration Committee and has agreed that appointments to the Board are made by the Board as a whole and so has not created a Nominations Committee. The Board retains full control of the Group with day-to-day operational control delegated to Executive Directors. The full Board intends to meet formally every other month and on any other occasions it considers necessary.
The Board, as a whole, is responsible for the overall management of the Group and for its strategic direction, including approval of the Group’s strategy, its annual business plans and budgets, the interim and full year financial statements and reports, any dividend proposals, the accounting policies, major capital projects, any investments or disposals, its succession plans and the monitoring of financial performance against budget and forecast and the formulation of the Group’s risk appetite including the identification, assessment and monitoring of the Group’s principal risks. In accordance with best practice, the Company has adopted a formal schedule of Matters Reserved for the Board. These are reviewed annually, and any items not included within the schedule are delegated to the management team.
Principle Six: Appropriate Skills and Experience of the Directors
The Board currently consists of eight directors and, in addition, a Company Secretary, Stephen Austin. The Company acknowledges that the guidance in the QCA Code is for a company to have at least two independent non-executive directors. The Board has the appropriate balance of sector, financial, and public markets skills and experience and bring a range of skills and capabilities to the Company. The Board members are kept up-to-date on a regular basis on key issues and developments pertaining to the Group as well as their responsibilities as members of the Board.
In order to discharge their duties effectively, the Board uses third parties to advise the Directors of their responsibilities including receiving advice from the Company’s external lawyers. The Board reviews the appropriateness and opportunity for continuing professional development in order to keep each Director’s skillset up-to-date. In addition to their general Board responsibilities, Non-Executive Directors are encouraged to be involved in specific workshops or meetings, in line with their individual areas of expertise. The Board shall review annually the appropriateness and opportunity for continuing professional development, whether formal or informal. All Directors have received AIM Rules and Directors Responsibilities training provided by the nominated advisor and are encouraged to undertake any ongoing training they feel they require to assist with the commission of their role on the Board.
The Company’s Company Secretary, Stephen Austin, is responsible for ensuring that Board procedures are followed and that the Company complies with all applicable rules, regulations and obligations governing its operation, as well as helping the Chairman maintain excellent standards of corporate governance. There are processes in place enabling Directors to take independent advice at the Company’s expense in the furtherance of their duties, and to have access to the advice and services of the Company Secretary.
Principle Seven: Evaluation of Board Performance
Formal internal evaluation of the Board, its Committees and individual directors is seen as an important next step in the development of the board. Going forward, this will be undertaken on annual basis in the form of peer appraisal, questionnaires and discussions to determine the effectiveness and performance in various areas as well as the directors' continued independence. The criteria against which effectiveness is considered will be aligned to the strategy of the Group and management forecasts and budgets that are already in place.
The purpose of such an evaluation will be to ensure that its members collectively function in an efficient manner, focusing more closely on defined objectives and targets for improving performance, as well as reviewing the effectiveness of each Committee.
During frequent Board meetings/calls, the Directors discuss areas where they feel a change would be beneficial for the Company, and the Company Secretary remains on hand to provide advice.
The strategy and budgets that are set out for the Group provide a forecast of the board and senior management requirements and allow for the recruitment forecasts to be continually updated. In addition, succession planning for the Board and senior management is undertaken by the board as a whole.
Principle Eight: Corporate Culture
The Board recognises that their decisions regarding strategy and risk will impact the corporate culture of the Group as a whole and that this will impact the performance of the Group. The Board is very aware that the tone and culture set by the Board will greatly impact all aspects of the Group as a whole and the way that employees behave. A large part of the Group's activities are centred upon addressing customer and market needs. Therefore, the importance of sound ethical values and behaviours is crucial to the ability of the Group to successfully achieve its corporate objectives. The Board places great importance on this aspect of corporate life and seeks to ensure that this flows through all that the Group does. The Board assessment of the culture within the Group at the present time is one where there is respect for all individuals, there is open dialogue within the Group and there is a commitment to provide the best service possible to all the Group's key customers.
The Company operates in a manner that encourages an open and respectful dialogue with employees, customers and other stakeholders and the Board considers that sound ethical values and behaviour are crucial to the ability of the Company to achieve its corporate objectives. The Group is committed to the highest standards of personal and professional ethical behaviour, and this must be reflected in every aspect of the way in which the Company operates. The Board places great importance on this aspect of corporate life and seeks to ensure that this flows through all that the Company does.
The Directors consider that at present the Group has an open culture facilitating comprehensive dialogue and feedback and enabling positive and constructive challenge. The Executive Directors regularly meet with senior management and discuss staff well-being, development and staff feedback. Employees are encouraged to engage directly with Directors, and the Group seeks to promote Group values and behaviour through a top-down approach.
The Board understands that the nature of its market, including high-end academic research universities and hospitals, brings with it a level of public scrutiny in procurement. As such, the Board ensures there is the utmost transparency and accessibility from the Board and external advisors that oversee the Group’s activities.
In addition, the Group takes a zero-tolerance approach to bribery and corruption and is committed to acting professionally, fairly and with integrity in all business dealings and relationships wherever they occur. The Group implements effective systems to counter bribery and corruption and as part of this it has adopted an anti-bribery and anti-corruption policy. The policy provides guidance to those working for the Group on how to recognise and deal with bribery and corruption issues and the potential consequences and applies to all persons working for the Group or on its behalf in any capacity, including employees at all levels, directors, officers, consultants and agents.
Furthermore, the Directors believe that serving the Group's target market of high end academic research Universities and their hospitals, brings with it a level of public scrutiny in procurement that is transparent and easily accessible to the Board and external advisers that oversee the Group's activities.
The Group has a Share Dealing Code, which will apply to any person discharging management responsibility, including the Directors and members of the senior management team and any closely associated persons and applicable employees.
The Share Dealing Code imposes restrictions beyond those that are imposed by law (including by Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 and the Market Abuse Regulation (EU) No.596/2014 as it forms part of United Kingdom domestic law by virtue of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and other relevant legislation) and its purpose is to ensure that persons discharging managerial responsibility and persons connected with them do not abuse, and do not place themselves under suspicion of abusing, price-sensitive information that they may have or be thought to have, especially in periods leading up to an announcement of both financial results and the results of the Group’s clinical trials. The Share Dealing Code sets out a notification procedure which is required to be followed prior to any dealing in the Company’s securities.
Principle Nine: Maintenance of Governance Structures and Processes
Ultimate authority for all aspects of the Group's activities rests with the Board with the respective responsibilities of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer arising as a consequence of delegation by the Board. The Board has adopted two statements; the first sets out matters which are reserved to the Board and the second establishes the division of responsibilities between the Chairman and the Chief Executive Officer. The Chairman is responsible for the effectiveness of the Board, while management of the Group's business and primary contact with shareholders has been delegated by the Board to the Chief Executive Officer.
The Audit Committee currently comprises Juergen Laucht and Cyrille Petit. Frank Schulkes was appointed as Chair of the Audit Committee. The Audit Committee also reviews the findings of the external auditor and reviews accounting policies and material accounting judgements. The independence and effectiveness of the external auditor is reviewed annually. The possibility of undertaking an audit tender process is considered on a regular basis. In addition the Audit Committee meets at least once year with the auditor to discuss their independence and objectivity, the Annual Report, any audit issues arising, internal control processes, appointment and fee levels and any other appropriate matters.
The remuneration committee will comprise Bastiaan Driehuys and Juergen Laucht and will be chaired by Daniel Brague. The purpose of the Remuneration Committee is to ensure that the Executive Directors and other employees are fairly rewarded for their individual contribution to the overall performance of the Group. The Committee considers and recommends to the Board the remuneration of the Executive Directors and is kept informed of the remuneration packages of senior staff and invited to comment on these. There was one meeting during 2021. The Board retains responsibility for overall remuneration policy. Executive remuneration packages are designed to attract and retain executives of the necessary skill and calibre to run the Group. The Remuneration Committee recommends to the Board the remuneration packages by reference to individual performance and uses the knowledge and experience of the Committee members, published surveys relating to AIM companies, the medical imaging and contrast agents’ industries and market changes generally. The Remuneration Committee has responsibility for recommending any long-term incentive schemes. No director is responsible for setting their own remuneration. Following the announcement on the 17 April 2023 that Daniel Brague will be acting as a consultant to the Group, the Board has taken the view that Daniel Brague should continue to act as Chairman of the Remuneration Committee as he is the Board member with the most experience dealing with compensation. In addition, the Board does not believe Mr. Brague’s consulting agreement will impact his work on the Remuneration Committee.
The Remuneration of Executive Directors and Employees is via three categories:
- Basic salaries and benefits in kind: Basic salaries are recommended to the Board by the Remuneration Committee, taking into account the performance of the individual and the rates for similar positions in comparable companies. Certain benefits in kind are available to certain senior staff and Executive Directors.
- Share options: The Company operates approved and unapproved share option schemes for Executive Directors and other employees to motivate those individuals through equity participation. Exercise of share options under the schemes is subject to specified exercise periods and compliance with the AIM Rules. The schemes are overseen by the Remuneration Committee which recommends to the Board all grants of share options based on the Remuneration Committee's assessment of personal performance and specifying the terms under which eligible individuals may be invited to participate.
- Bonus Scheme: The Group has a discretionary bonus scheme for staff and Executive Directors which is specific to each individual and the role performed by that individual within the Group. Reviews are held periodically by the Remuneration Committee and any awards will be based upon the recommendation of the Remuneration Committee at its absolute discretion.
Non-executive Directors: The Board has adopted guidelines for the appointment of non-executive directors which have been in place since the Group's admission to trading on AIM in March 2018. These provide for the orderly and constructive succession and rotation of the Chairman and Non-Executive Directors insofar as both the Chairman and Non-Executive Directors will be appointed for an initial term of three years and may, at the Board's discretion believing it to be in the best interests of the Company, be appointed for subsequent terms. In accordance with the Companies Act 2006, the Board complies with: a duty to act within their powers; a duty to promote the success of the Company; a duty to exercise independent judgement; a duty to exercise reasonable care, skill and diligence; a duty to avoid conflicts of interest; a duty not to accept benefits from third parties and a duty to declare any interest in a proposed transaction or arrangement.
The Company does not currently have a Nomination Committee as the Board does not consider it appropriate to establish such a committee at this stage of the Company's development. Decisions which would usually be taken by the Nomination Committee, such as appointments to the Board, will be taken by the Board as a whole. The Board will monitor on an ongoing basis the need for a formal Nominations Committee. The Chairman and the Board continue to monitor and evolve the Company’s corporate governance structures and processes, and maintain that these will evolve over time, in line with the Company’s growth and development.
The Board has regular contact with its advisors to ensure that it is aware of changes to generally accepted corporate governance procedures and requirements and that the Group remains, at all times, compliant with applicable rules and regulations. The Company holds appropriate insurance cover in respect of possible legal action against its Directors. The Company’s nominated advisor supports the Board’s development, specifically providing guidance on corporate governance and other regulatory matters, as required. All Directors may receive independent professional advice at the Group’s expense, if necessary, for the performance of their duties.
Principle Ten: Shareholder Communication
The Board is committed to maintaining good communication and having constructive dialogue with its shareholders in order to maintain good investor relations and seeks, whenever possible to attain a relationship of mutual understanding with both institutional and private client investors
As such, Polarean takes a proactive approach to investor relations initiatives with ongoing support from Walbrook PR Limited, the Group's financial PR advisers. These investor relations initiatives include (but are not limited to):
- shareholder events in London and elsewhere;
- the use of social media, in accordance with the Group's Social Media Policy, and the Company’s website; and
- interviews with platforms such as Proactive Investors around key developments.
Institutional shareholders and analysts have the opportunity to discuss issues and provide feedback at meetings with the Company. In normal circumstances, attendance is actively encouraged for the Company's Annual General Meeting or any other General Meetings which are held throughout the year.
The corporate governance arrangements that the Board has adopted are designed to ensure that the Company delivers long-term value to its shareholders and that shareholders are able to express their views and expectations for the Company in a manner that encourages open dialogue with the Board.
Page last updated: 17 April 2023
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