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Agenus Wins $7.5M Milestone Payment From Gilead, Stock Up

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Agenus Inc. (AGEN - Free Report) announced that it has received $7.5 million in cash as milestone payment from Gilead Sciences (GILD - Free Report) after the FDA accepted the company's investigational new drug (IND) application for AGEN1423.

AGEN1423 is a first-in-class molecule, currently developed in partnership with Gilead as a potential treatment for cancer. Agenus is also eligible to receive additional milestones from Gilead in 2019 as well as in the future.

Shares of Agenus were up almost 3.5% following this news on Wednesday. In fact, the stock has rallied 24.4% in the year so far compared with the industry’s increase of 14.5%.

We would like to remind investors that last December, Agenus inked a collaboration deal with Gilead to develop and commercialize up to five immuno-oncology (I-O) therapies. Shares of the company also soared back then post this alliance.

In January 2019, Agenus announced the closing of its I-O partnership deal with Gilead.

Under the terms of the agreement, Agenus receives $150 million in connection with the completion of the contract, which includes a $120-million upfront cash payment and a $30-million equity investment. The pact also includes approximately $1.7 billion as potential future fees and milestones. Gilead received worldwide exclusive rights to AGEN1423. It also received the exclusive option to license two supplementary programs on AGEN1223 and AGEN2373.

Agenus has filed the IND for AGEN1223 and has an IND submission planned for AGEN2373 in the first half of 2019.  The company will be responsible for developing the option studies up to the option decision points during which Gilead may acquire the exclusive rights to the programs on option exercise. For one of the option evaluations, Agenus will have the privilege to opt for shared development and commercialization in the United States. Gilead also received the right to first negotiation for two additional, undisclosed preclinical programs.

We remain optimistic that the collaboration will help Agenus with the much-needed infusion of cash and allow advancement of its pipeline development. Also, Gilead’s global presence and commitment to disruptive therapies will enable Agenus to build a broad pipeline in I-O.

Zacks Rank & Stocks to Consider

Agenus currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Better-ranked stocks in the biotech sector include Celgene Corporation (CELG - Free Report) and Trevena, Inc. (TRVN - Free Report) , both sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Celgene’s earnings estimates have moved 3.8% north for 2019 and 3.9% for 2020 over the past 60 days. The stock has surged 36.2% so far this year.

Trevena’s loss per share estimates has been narrowed 12.9% for 2019 and 11% for 2020 in the last 60 days. The stock has skyrocketed 232.6% year to date.

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