Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) has agreed to obtain a worldwide exclusive licence to a cancer antibody programme, AGEN1777, and a second undisclosed target developed by immuno-oncology firm Agenus.
As part of the agreement, BMS will pay $200m upfront to Agenus, which is also eligible for up to $1.36bn in development, regulatory and commercial milestone payments and sales royalties.
The deal will offer BMS exclusive rights to develop and commercialise AGEN1777 and its related products globally.
Agenus will hold options to perform clinical studies and combination studies with some of its pipeline candidates. Upon commercialisation, the company will have an option to co-promote AGEN1777 in the US.
Agenus chairman and CEO Garo Armen said: “Through such transactions we are able to balance between advancing our portfolio with highly qualified collaborators, while retaining our other innovations for speedy development and commercialisation by Agenus.”
AGEN1777 is an Fc-enhanced bispecific antibody that inhibits T cell immunoglobulin and ITIM domain (TIGIT).
It is undergoing preclinical studies to improve anti-tumour activity by acting on specific inhibitory receptors on T and natural killer (NK) cells.
Preclinical studies found this approach has potential in tumour models where the use of only anti-PD-1 or anti-TIGIT monospecific antibodies is not effective.
In the coming months, Agenus plans to submit an investigational new drug (IND) application for AGEN1777 to the US Food and Drug Administration.
BMS will further the candidate’s research and development in immuno-oncology (I-O) for various tumour indications such as non-small cell lung cancer.
Bristol Myers Squibb Tumor Microenvironment Thematic Research Center head Debbie Law said: “AGEN1777’s differentiated mechanism of action provides the potential for potent anti-tumour activity; catalysing our clinical TIGIT strategy aimed at serving more patients with unmet needs in cancer.
“We look forward to working with Agenus to develop this important therapy as we continue to combat I-O resistance.”
In November last year, BMS acquired clinical-stage biopharmaceutical firm MyoKardia for $13.1bn.