Agenus taps investors after upbeat PhII data for brain cancer vaccine

Agenus has struck a deal to raise about $6.5 million from institutional backers in a direct offering of common stock and warrants. The financing was announced a day after the Lexington, MA-based biotech company ($AGEN) revealed that patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a cancer which attacks the brain, who took its experimental vaccine lived more than twice as long without their cancer getting worse than those on the standard of care.

Shares of Agenus dipped nearly 3% to $2.94 on the news Wednesday morning that the company planned to sell about 2.2 million shares of common stock for $3 per share with warrants to buy 650,000 more shares for $3.75 per share under the terms of the deal. Yet the company's stock price jumped more than 20% on Tuesday on the back of the mid-stage data for its brain-cancer vaccine HSPPC-96.

Agenus shares have taken a roller-coaster ride on Wall Street this month, falling more than 25% on September 5 after the MAGE-A3 immunotherapy from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) that uses Agenus' adjuvant ingredient, QS-21 Stimulon, failed to meet a goal for beating placebo in a Phase III study in melanoma patients. The data dented the profile of MAGE-A3, which is being studied in a variety of cancers.

On Tuesday Agenus returned with the news about a Phase II study of HSPPC-96 in patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma multiforme. The company reported that patients on its vaccine and standard of care, which includes radiation and chemo, lived for 17.8 months without their cancer progressing. While the 46-patient study did not include a placebo arm, the PFS result beat a historical figure of 6.9 months for this patient population on standard treatments.

Agenus plans to seek guidance from the FDA about a potential Phase III, randomized and controlled study of HSPPC-96 in patients with glioblastoma multiforme. The study could pave the way to a filing for regulatory approval if the experimental treatment can repeat past successes.

- here's the financing release
- and the Phase II results
- see Reuters' article about the study