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


2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

Q&A: Bris­tol My­er­s' Kris­ten Hege on cell ther­a­py, can­cer pa­tients and men­tor­ing the next gen­er­a­tion

Kristen Hege leads Bristol Myers Squibb’s early oncology discovery program carrying on from the same work at Celgene, which was acquired by BMS in 2019. She’s known for her early work in CAR-T, having pioneered the first CAR-T cell trial for solid tumors more than 25 years ago.

However, the eminent physician-scientist is more than just a drug developer mastermind. She’s also a practicing physician, mother to two young women, an avid backpacker and intersecting all those interests — a champion of young women and people of color in STEM and life sciences.

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Eisai and METAvivor plan to debut the latest 'This is MBC' campaign at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

Ei­sai re-ups metasta­t­ic breast can­cer aware­ness cam­paign with strik­ing pa­tient pho­tographs

Eisai is debuting the newest ads in its long-running “This is MBC” campaign this week. In what’s become an annual tradition, Eisai and metastatic breast cancer advocacy partner METAvivor will show the striking photographs of people living with metastatic breast cancer first at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS).

The new “Imagine” campaign features 12 patients photographed around waterfalls to symbolize that same kind of sudden drop into a pool that MBC causes in a person’s life, said Beth Fairchild, co-founder of #CancerCulture who was the president of METAvivor six years ago when the campaign began. Fairchild, who is living with MBC, has helped create all of the annual “This is MBC” campaigns.

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Pfiz­er and BioN­Tech look to toss Mod­er­na patent suit, call­ing claims 'unen­force­able'

Pfizer and BioNTech took a swing at Moderna’s Covid-19 patent claims in Massachusetts federal court on Monday, calling them “invalid,” “overbroad” and “unenforceable.”

The defendants also filed counterclaims against the Cambridge, MA-based biotech, seeking a dismissal of the case, recovery of court fees and an official judgment invalidating Moderna’s claims.

Moderna sued Pfizer and BioNTech back in August, alleging that the partners’ Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty copied parts of Moderna’s vaccine technology patented before the pandemic, when it was developing an mRNA vaccine for MERS, another respiratory illness.

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Glen­mark hit with warn­ing let­ter over pro­ce­dures, qual­i­ty con­trol is­sues at In­dia man­u­fac­tur­ing plant

The generics producer Glenmark Pharmaceuticals has been handed a warning letter by US regulators.

The letter, which was sent to the manufacturer on Nov. 22, noted issues from an inspection over the summer at Glenmark’s facility in the town of Colvale, India, in the state of Goa.

According to the letter, the FDA found that Glenmark’s investigation of rejected batches of drugs “failed to extend to other batches, dosage strengths, and drug products.” The warning letter also noted that the site had failed to establish “adequate written procedures” for production and process control to ensure drugs have the correct strength, quality and purity.

Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

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Klick Health is lighting the way, literally, this holiday season to encourage connection for lonely seniors in long-term care facilities.

Klick Health an­nu­al hol­i­day spot­light se­nior lone­li­ness and the pow­er of con­nec­tion

Every year Klick Health leans into a cause for the holidays, and this year it’s highlighting the sometimes lonely season for seniors. So Klicksters, as employees call themselves, decided to brighten one nursing home community in hopes of inspiring others to do the same.

Klick literally lit up the Tony Stacey Centre for Veterans Care, a long-term care home in Toronto where 75% of residents receive no visitors during the holiday season. The agency brought staff and family along with lighting crews and musicians for a “Light the Way” event, creating a video of the experience debuting on Tuesday.

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Sum­i­to­vant sub­sidiaries En­zy­vant and Al­ta­vant merge in­to com­bined com­pa­ny

Two Sumitovant Biopharma entities are merging under one name, effective immediately.

Enzyvant Therapeutics and Altavant Sciences announced they have merged to form a singular entity focused on developing therapies for patients with rare diseases. The combined company will keep the name Enzyvant and along with clinical development will eventually include in-house manufacturing.

Bill Symonds, the current CEO of both Altavant and Enzyvant, is now CEO of the merged company.

Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion lays ground­work to un­wind Il­lu­mi­na's $7B+ Grail merg­er

The European Commission has recommended steps that — though not yet final — would require Illumina to “swiftly” unwind its controversial $7.1 billion Grail buyout.

The Commission delivered a “statement of objections” on Monday, detailing the process Illumina would need to take in divesting Grail, its blood testing spinout launched in 2016. Illumina re-acquired Grail back in August, despite criticism from both the FTC and EU.