Cash-poor Agenus finds it­self a gen­er­ous part­ner in Gilead, shares surge

Can­cer drug de­vel­op­er Agenus had a tough 2017 — it had to amend its an­ti­body deal with In­cyte $IN­CY for a quick cash in­fu­sion to over­come a painful tri­al set­back for its lead glioblas­toma vac­cine, in a se­ries of events that cul­mi­nat­ed in a re­struc­tur­ing. On Thurs­day, the Lex­ing­ton, MA-based com­pa­ny had some­thing to cheer about as Gilead $GILD signed on as a part­ner on up to five of its im­muno-on­col­o­gy pro­grams. And cheer it did in­vestors, who lift­ed the stock $AGEN a hefty 57% pre-mar­ket.

Un­der the deal, Agenus gets a much-need­ed $120 mil­lion up­front cash pay­ment and a $30 mil­lion eq­ui­ty in­vest­ment, in ad­di­tion to up to $1.7 bil­lion in po­ten­tial fu­ture fees and mile­stones.

Gilead will re­ceive ex­clu­sive glob­al rights to AGEN1423, which has an es­ti­mat­ed IND fil­ing by year-end 2018. The drug­mak­er will al­so en­joy the ex­clu­sive op­tion to li­cense two ad­di­tion­al pro­grams: AGEN1223 and AGEN2373. Agenus has al­ready filed the IND for AGEN1223 and plans to do so for AGEN2373 in the first half of 2019, the com­pa­nies said.

AGEN1423 is a bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body with the po­ten­tial to en­hance the an­ti-tu­mor ac­tiv­i­ty of myeloid cells, NK cells, T cells, and can­cer as­so­ci­at­ed fi­brob­lasts; AGEN1223 is an­oth­er bis­pe­cif­ic an­ti­body; while AGEN2373 is a mon­o­clon­al an­ti­body that is de­signed to boost the im­mune re­sponse to can­cer cells by en­hanc­ing CD137 sig­nalling in ac­ti­vat­ed im­mune cells, ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­ny’s web­site.

Gilead turned to the lu­cra­tive field of im­muno-on­col­o­gy to re­place its wan­ing hep C fran­chise. Last year, the big biotech swal­lowed Kite Phar­ma for near­ly $12 bil­lion to gain ac­cess to their in CAR-T ther­a­pies. More re­cent­ly, it forked out $50 mil­lion up­front to Tan­go Ther­a­peu­tics to tap in­to their I/O en­gine. With bil­lions of cash in hand, and un­der new CEO Daniel O’Day who is hop­ing to steer the ship to green­er pas­tures, we can on­ly ex­pect the trend to con­tin­ue.

“By year end, our dis­cov­ery plat­forms will have re­sult­ed in six INDs in 2018 and 13 INDs by the 1H2019,” Agenus CEO Garo Ar­men said in a state­ment

 

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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David Ricks, Eli Lilly CEO (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Eli Lil­ly set to in­vest $2.1B in home state man­u­fac­tur­ing boost

Eli Lilly is looking to expand its footprint in its home Hoosier State by making a major investment in manufacturing.

The pharma is investing $2.1 billion in two new manufacturing sites at Indiana’s LEAP Lebanon Innovation and Research District in Boone County, northwest of Lilly’s headquarters in Indianapolis.

The two new facilities will expand Lilly’s manufacturing network for active ingredients and new therapeutic modalities, including genetic medicines, according to a press release.

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Pfiz­er and CD­MOs ramp up Paxlovid man­u­fac­tur­ing with Kala­ma­zoo plant ex­pan­sion lead­ing the way

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, pharma companies and manufacturers are exploring how to step up production on antivirals.

Pfizer is planning to expand its Kalamazoo-area facility to increase manufacturing capabilities for the oral Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid, according to a report from Michigan-based news site MLive. The expansion of the facility, which serves as Pfizer’s largest manufacturing location, is expected to create hundreds of “high-skilled” STEM jobs, MLive reported. No details about the project’s cost and timeline have been released, but according to MLive, Pfizer will announce the details of the expansion at some point in early June.

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FDA spells out the rules and re­stric­tions for states seek­ing to im­port drugs from Cana­da

The FDA is offering more of an explanation of the guardrails around its program that may soon allow states to import prescription drugs in some select circumstances from Canada, but only if such imports will result in significant cost reductions for consumers.

While the agency has yet to sign off on any of the 5 state plans in the works so far, and PhRMA’s suit to block the Trump-era rule allowing such imports is stalled, the new Q&A guidance spells out the various restrictions that states will have to abide by, potentially signaling that a state approval is coming.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at the World Economic Forum (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP Images)

All about ac­cess: Pfiz­er moves to a non-prof­it mod­el for drug sales in 45 low­er-in­come coun­tries

Leading the way to increase access to cheaper drugs worldwide, Pfizer said Wednesday it will provide all current and future patent-protected medicines and vaccines available in the US or EU on a not-for-profit basis to about 1.2 billion people in 45 lower-income countries.

Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal and Uganda are the first five countries to sign on to this accord, which will also seek to blaze new paths for quick and efficient regulatory and procurement processes to reduce the usual delays in making new medicines and vaccines available in these countries.

US sees spike in Paxlovid us­age as Mer­ck­'s mol­nupi­ravir and As­traZeneca's Evusheld are slow­er off the shelf

New data from HHS show that more than 162,000 courses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral Paxlovid were administered across the US over the past week, continuing a streak of increased usage of the pill, and signaling not only rising case numbers but more awareness of how to access it.

In comparison to this week, about 670,000 courses of the Pfizer pill have been administered across the first five months since Paxlovid has been on the US market, averaging about 33,000 courses administered per week in that time.

Te­va, Al­ler­gan reach yet an­oth­er opi­oid set­tle­ment — ef­fec­tive­ly end­ing WV tri­al

Teva and Allergan have reached settlements with multiple states over their involvement in the opioid crisis. Their latest is worth 9 figures.

West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey announced the newest settlement, worth $161.5 million, at a press conference on Wednesday. The deal would resolve claims that the companies helped fuel the state’s opioid epidemic. If it goes through, it could become the largest state-negotiated settlement in West Virginia’s history, according to Reuters.

Roche un­veils three new mon­key­pox tests as cas­es rise

Health experts maintain that the current monkeypox situation is a stark contrast to Covid. Even so, a handful of biotechs have sprung to action, including Roche, who quickly developed a set of three tests to detect the virus.

Roche and subsidiary TIB Molbiol unveiled their Lightmix Modular Virus test kits on Wednesday — three unique test kits that can help track the spread of monkeypox.

The first kit detects orthopoxviruses, including all monkeypox viruses originating from the West African and Central African forms of the virus. The second kit is a specific test that detects monkeypox viruses only, while the third simultaneously tests for both orthopoxviruses and monkeypox viruses.

New law­suit ac­cus­es GSK of 'de­vice hop­ping' to block gener­ic in­haler com­pe­ti­tion

Despite inhalers being on the market for decades, many patients still can’t afford them. A new lawsuit filed in Missouri federal court puts the blame on GSK.

Last week, plaintiff Elliot Conrad Dale — who’s paid for GSK’s Ventolin and Arnuity Ellipta inhalers — filed a class-action lawsuit against the pharma giant, accusing it of scheming to block generic versions of its brand-name inhalers.