Agenus, Merck & Co in Antibody PactBy
Agenus Inc.,an immuno-oncology company, has formed a collaboration and license agreement with Merck & Co, for the discovery and development of therapeutic antibodies to immune checkpoints for the treatment of cancer. Under the terms of the agreement, Agenus will discover and optimize fully human antibodies against two undisclosed Merck checkpoint targets using its 4-Antibody Retrocyte DisplayÂ® platform. Merck will be responsible for clinical development and commercialization of candidates generated under the collaboration.
Under the agreement, Agenus is eligible to receive approximately $100 million in potential payments associated with the completion of certain clinical, regulatory and commercial milestones for two candidates from Merck. In addition, Agenus is eligible to receive royalty payments on worldwide product sales. Agenus acquired 4-Antibody AG, a private European-based biopharmaceutical company in February 2014. The 4-Antibody assets include the Retrocyte Display technology platform for discovery and optimization of fully human antibodies against a wide array of molecular targets. Agenus has multiple preclinical checkpoint modulator programs in development including, GITR and OX40 agonists and antagonists of TIM-3, LAG-3, PD-1 and CTLA-4. These programs are being pursued through a strategic collaboration with Ludwig Cancer Research. Clinical data from studies employing monoclonal antibodies that bind to checkpoint molecules, such as cytotoxic T lymphocyte antigen-4 (CTLA-4) and programmed death receptor-1 (PD-1), have generated interest in the field of immuno-oncology. Antibodies that bind to PD-1 and CTLA-4 are designed to help immune cells overcome the checkpoint defenses of cancer cells. Other checkpoint proteins, such as GITR and OX40, are receptors found on T cells that stimulate immune function. Agenus and Ludwig Cancer Research are driving leadi programs to discover and develop fully human monoclonal antibodies that bind to key checkpoint proteins and activate or block their activities for use in cancer therapy.