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Gilead Sciences Commits $150M to Agenus in Cancer Drug R&D Pact

Xconomy San Francisco — 

For the second time this week, Gilead Sciences has partnered with a Boston-area biotech, this time with a deal that covers up to five experimental cancer immunotherapies being developed by Agenus.

Under the deal terms, Foster City, CA-based Gilead (NASDAQ: GILD) will pay Agenus (NASDAQ: AGEN) $120 million cash up front and make a $30 million equity investment in the company. Depending on the progress of the drugs, Gilead could pay its Lexington, MA, partner up to $1.7 billion more in fees and milestones.

Gilead will get exclusive global rights to AGEN1423, which Agenus is preparing to bring into clinical testing. This drug is a bispecific antibody, a type of treatment that hits two different targets on a cell. The deal also gives Gilead the exclusive option to license drugs from two more preclinical Agenus programs, AGEN1223 and AGEN2373. Agenus is responsible for developing these two drugs up to the point when Gilead decides whether to license them. For one of those drugs, Agenus will have the right to share in development and commercialization in the U.S., according to the agreement. Gilead will also receive the right of first negotiation for two additional preclinical Agenus programs that were not disclosed.

Gilead is known mainly for its HIV drugs, as well as its hepatitis C treatments. But the company has been making deals to diversify its pipeline. On Wednesday, Gilead announced a partnership with Cambridge, MA-based Scholar Rock (NASDAQ: SRRK) focused on fibrosis.

Cancer has also been a focus of Gilead’s dealmaking. Last year, Gilead paid $12 billion to acquire Kite Pharma, a developer of a type of cancer immunotherapy called CAR-T. That deal brought to Gilead the non-Hodgkin lymphoma drug axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta), which won FDA approval last year. Gilead’s pipeline also includes other cancer therapies that Kite had been developing.

Photo by the National Cancer Institute