Agenus: Why Canceling Prophage Trial Should Not be Concerning

Some investors are selling AGEN in premarket trading for a reason that might be unimportant anymore with Agenus’ totally changed status now with its new immunotherapy pipeline. The new checkpoint inhibitors products and their checkpoint targets products are the talk of the cancer community and having them has attracted large companies, including Incyte.

Nevertheless, the stock will be trading down today because in a regulatory filing, Agenus (AGEN) reported stopping patient accrual in Phase 2 clinical trial evaluating Prophage G-200  in combination with Avastin (bevacizumab) in patients with surgically resectable recurrent glioblastoma multiforme, a brain tumor that resisted and still resisting all treatments.

The recruitment was stopped after an interim analysis by the Data Safety and Monitoring Board showed the study was unlikely to demonstrate a treatment benefit over bevacizumab alone. A study assessing the combination of HSPPC-96 and Merck’s Keytruda (pembrolizumab) in GBM is about to start.

Prohost Commentaries

Prophage does not belong to the immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors drugs that are filling Agenus pipeline and have attracted Incyte as a collaborator. Prophage is an individualized autologous vaccine candidate derived from the patient’s tumor. It is designed to “educate” the immune system to recognize the tumor as foreign and elicit an anti-tumor response. The trial was for glioblastoma, the nasty brain tumor that resisted all kind of treatments.

We do not believe that this event should harm the firm, on the contrary, it would erase intellectual and financial headaches and enable Agenus to focus on its new immunotherapy checkpoint inhibitors possibilities, which could be great for Agenus.

Just less than a couple of weeks ago Incyte announced it had amended its prior collaboration agreement with Agenus, deciding to invest $60 million as equity at a price of $6 per share. Incyte’s agreements with Agenus includes developing 4 of its cancer checkpoint modulators TIM-3, LAG-3, GITR, and OX40. The TIM-3 and LAG-3 therapies were already royalty plus milestone agreements for Agenus, with Incyte having exclusive global clinical development and commercialization responsibilities. The other two programs GITR and OX40, which had been co-funded programs with profit sharing agreements will be now funded and developed by Incyte while Agenus will receive milestones (if reached) and 15% royalties if the drugs are sold commercially. For all four programs, Agenus might receive of $510 million.

Today’s news, i.e., stopping the trial on Prophage in combination with Avastin will have no impact on Agenus’ future. Today’s stock selling is an automated market reaction to any news that looks negative, regardless of its effect on the firm.

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