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|