Incyte takes over antibody work from Agenus as pair rejig pact

The two are changing up the deal they made two years ago

Incyte will work alone on developing and selling the GITR and OX40 antibody programs that it has been working on with Agenus as the partners retool their working partnership as Agenus looks to make some quick cash. 

In early 2015, the pair agreed to work on the antibodies INCAGN1876 (anti-GITR agonist) and INCAGN1949 (anti-OX40 agonist) together in a development and commercialization pact, but this deal has now been seriously tweaked, which was originally worth $60 million in cash with promises of up to $350 million in biobucks.

Incyte will now however take on responsibility “for funding and conducting global development and commercialization,” from these candidates, it said in a statement, adding that if one or both get approved down the line, then Agenus can get 15% royalties on global net sales of each approved product. The original deal saw both splitting costs and profits. 

Meanwhile, the ongoing TIM-3 and LAG-3 antibody programs “remain royalty-bearing programs, at tiered rates of 6 to 12%, with Incyte retaining exclusive world-wide clinical development and commercial responsibilities.”

The new deal also sees Agenus get today an “accelerated milestone payment” of $20 million from Incyte in conjunction with the two meds. All in all, and across all programs in the collaboration, Agenus could see up to $510 million in future potential development, regulatory and commercial milestones.

That’s not all, as both have also signed up to a separate stock purchase agreement that sees Incyte buy 10 million shares of Agenus common stock today at $6 per share. As of yesterday, the biotech was trading at just over $4 a share, with a market cap of around $360 million.

Incyte, meanwhile, has a market cap of more than $22 billion and trades at around $121 a share.

“The antibody discovery collaboration between Incyte and Agenus has progressed well and has already resulted in two programs in clinical trials. We look forward to further developing our GITR and OX40 antibody programs, and exploring immunotherapy combinations with these compounds and other agents in the near future,” said Hervé Hoppenot, CEO of Incyte.

Why has Agenus changed up its deal? Its chair and CEO Garo Armen explains: “We believe the amended agreement will help streamline the development of our collaboration portfolio, provide the opportunity to prioritize our other internal programs towards rapid commercialization and help foster the development of our portfolio of novel I-O programs.

“The revised agreement will also strengthen Agenus’ balance sheet and reduce cash burn.”

Back in the fall of 2015, Agenus traded away future royalties on a GlaxoSmithKline-partnered vaccine adjuvant in exchange for up to $115 million, saying at the time that it planned to invest the proceeds in its growing pipeline of immuno-oncology treatments.

Under that royalty financing deal, Agenus handed over the rights to QS-21, used alongside GSK vaccines for malaria and shingles, to an investor group led by Oberland Capital for a $100 million loan, recouping another $15 million if and when the shingles vaccine wins FDA approval.

Agenus has gradually shifted its focus toward immuno-oncology over the past few years, buying up new technologies to flesh out its cancer pipeline.

Back in early 2014, the company had just $25 million in the bank and was trading at less than $3 a share after a GSK-related clinical setback.