Agenus Inc. Could be on The Verge of a Breakout Rally

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Written By Kevin MacDonald

Agenus Inc. (NASDAQ: AGEN) is advancing the development of botensilimab (“BOT”) in combination with balstilimab (“BAL”) across various oncology indications, including colorectal cancer (“CRC”).

The company is scheduled for an FDA meeting later this year, which could potentially lead to the filing for marketing approval of BOT/BAL in specific types of CRC. This filing is contingent upon data from a 234-patient phase 2 study that has yet to be released.

Updated Timelines

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Previously, Agenus had projected a mid-year timeline for filing a Biologics License Application (“BLA”) with the FDA for BOT/BAL in second/third line microsatellite stable CRC (MSS CRC)..

However, during the Q4 ’23 earnings call in March 2024, Agenus’s CEO and Chairman, Garo Armen, refrained from confirming a mid-2024 BLA filing. Instead, he emphasized the need to wait for guidance from an FDA meeting planned for mid-year before providing a more specific timeline.

By April, the company indicated a “later this year” timeline for the BLA submission, and the May 2024 corporate presentation updated this to “year-end 2024.”

Speculation on BLA Submission Timing

Despite the shift in timelines, there is still some uncertainty. A type B End-of-Phase 2 meeting with the FDA is scheduled for July, after which Agenus might prepare and submit the BLA. It is speculated that the submission could occur earlier in Q4 rather than later, though this remains uncertain.

Corporate Statements on Timeline Adjustments

Agenus has been cautious about committing to specific timelines before the FDA meeting. This approach reflects the company’s strategy to avoid premature guidance and align its plans with regulatory feedback.

This cautious optimism is evident in statements made during corporate earnings calls and press releases. For instance, Garo Armen’s comments during the Q4 ’23 earnings call highlighted the importance of the upcoming FDA meeting in determining the exact timeline for the BLA submission. This approach ensures that investors receive realistic and achievable goals based on regulatory feedback, reducing the risk of potential setbacks.

Financial Overview

Agenus has bolstered its cash position through a $100M royalty financing agreement with Ligand Pharmaceuticals (LGND), announced on May 7. This agreement includes an upfront $75M payment, with an option for an additional $25M investment, covering BOT/BAL and six partnered drugs. The company also retains the option to syndicate up to $125M more.

For Q1 ’24, Agenus reported $52.9M in cash and cash equivalents as of March 31, 2024. The company’s R&D expenses were $43.9M, G&A expenses were $16.9M, and it recognized $28M in revenue. The net loss was $63.5M, with net cash used in operating activities amounting to $38.2M.

Factoring in the $75M payment from LGND, the cash balance totaled $127.9M, with a net cash position of $114.3M after accounting for long-term debt. At the current burn rate, this would suffice until year-end 2024, though increased spending could alter this.

Strategic Development and Clinical Progress

Agenus’s clinical development strategy focuses on leveraging the potential of BOT and BAL in multiple oncology indications. The combination of these two agents aims to address unmet medical needs in CRC and other cancers.

The ongoing phase 2 study involving 234 patients with MSS CRC is a critical component of this strategy. Successful results from this study could pave the way for a BLA submission and subsequent marketing approval.

Pipeline Expansion and Future Trials

Beyond CRC, Agenus is exploring the efficacy of BOT and BAL in other cancer types, including melanoma and pancreatic cancer. The company anticipates additional data from these trials in the second half of 2024. Furthermore, investigator-sponsored trials are expected to provide more insights into the combination’s potential in neoadjuvant treatment of CRC.

These trials will help Agenus build a robust clinical profile for its lead candidates, potentially increasing their market value and appeal to investors and partners.

Market Potential and Competitive Landscape

The market potential for BOT and BAL in oncology is significant, given the ongoing need for innovative cancer therapies. If the phase 2 data are favorable and the FDA grants accelerated approval, Agenus could capture a substantial market share in MSS CRC.

The competitive landscape includes other immunotherapy and targeted therapy approaches, but the unique mechanism of action of BOT and BAL could offer a competitive advantage.

Strategic Partnerships and Collaborations

Agenus’s ability to secure strategic partnerships, such as the royalty financing agreement with Ligand Pharmaceuticals, underscores its potential to attract interest from larger pharmaceutical companies. These partnerships can provide additional resources and expertise to support the development and commercialization of BOT and BAL.

Collaborations with academic institutions and research organizations further enhance Agenus’s research capabilities, fostering innovation and expanding its clinical pipeline.

Ratings and Risks

Credits: DepositPhotos

The timeline for a BLA filing has slipped throughout the year, but the upcoming FDA meeting in July could provide clarity and potentially lead to a filing. A readout from the phase 2, 234-patient study in MSS CRC without liver metastases could follow this meeting. Additional data from ongoing trials, including neoadjuvant treatment of CRC, melanoma, and pancreatic cancer, are expected in the second half of 2024.

Given the promising data from BOT/BAL in CRC and the potential for a BLA filing post-FDA meeting, Agenus is an exciting prospect. Positive news regarding the filing could trigger a rally in the stock.


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