Latest stage of Tigit mania nets Agenus $200m

Agenus spent 27 years burning through over $1bn of investor cash with little to show for it, but suddenly things are looking up. Its lead asset has just been filed with the US FDA, a deal with Gilead gave it $150m in December 2018, and today Agenus followed this up by adding Bristol Myers Squibb as a licensing partner, bringing in another $200m up front. This amounts to the biggest licensing deal Agenus has ever struck, and ironically its subject is a preclinical asset, the anti-Tigit bispecific AGEN1777. This marks the latest stage of Tigit mania, a phenomenon that has seen Roche and Merck & Co make huge investments in their contenders tiragolumab and vibostolimab respectively, Gilead strike a deal with Arcus, the Belgian biotech Iteos float, and Mereo close a $70m private placement. A further irony is that Bristol already has its own anti-Tigit MAb, BMS-986207, in phase 1/2. AGEN1777, for which a US IND has not even yet been filed, is an Fc-enhanced MAb that hits Tigit and an undisclosed T/NK cell inhibitory receptor. Perhaps once BMS-986207 trials start reading out next year it will become evident why Bristol felt the need to seek out a backup.

Agenus's oncology licensing deals
Partner Pharmacology target Deal date Up-front terms
Merck & Co ILT4 Apr 2014 Undisclosed
Incyte Various, including GITR, Ox40, Tim3 & Lag3 Jan 2015 $25m cash + $35m equity investment
Gilead CD137 & Treg depletion Dec 2018 $150m cash + $30m equity investment
Bristol Myers Squibb Tigit May 2021 $200m cash
Source: Agenus.

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