Merck, Agenus Extend Immuno-Oncology Pact
Agenus Inc. an immunology company developing treatments for cancers and other diseases has extended its collaborative research term under its existing collaboration and license agreement with Merck & Co. Inc., for the discovery and development of therapeutic antibodies to Merck proprietary immune checkpoints for the treatment of cancer.
Under the original agreement, Agenus will discover and optimize fully human antibodies against two undisclosed Merck checkpoint targets using the its Retrocyte Display platform. Merck will be responsible for the further development and commercialization of candidates generated under the collaboration. The discovery phase has been extended to April 2016. As previously disclosed, under the terms of the agreement, Agenus is eligible to receive approximately $100 million in milestone payments as well as royalties on worldwide product sales.
Agenus’ proprietary discovery engine, Retrocyte Display, is used to generate fully human and humanized therapeutic antibody drug candidates. The Retrocyte Display platform uses a high-throughput approach incorporating IgG format human antibody libraries expressed in mammalian B-lineage cells. Agenus recently acquired a yeast antibody display platform termed Secant, developed by Celexion, LLC. Secant allows rapid generation of soluble, full-length human antibodies. SecantT and Agenus' mammalian antibody display platform have complementary strengths and further bolster Agenus’ abilities to generate and optimize fully human monoclonal antibodies.
In terms of its pipeline, Agenus' heat shock protein-based vaccines have completed Phase II studies in newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme, and in the treatment of herpes simplex viral infection; the heat shock protein-based vaccine platform can generate personalized as well as off-the-shelf products. The company's QS-21 Stimulon adjuvant platform is partnered with GlaxoSmithKline and with Janssen Sciences Ireland UC and includes several candidates in Phase II trials, as well as shingles and malaria vaccines which have successfully completed Phase III clinical trials.