Agenus Inc (NASDAQ:AGEN) announced toward the end of June that it struck a deal with Chinese Biopharma, Betta Pharmaceuticals to license the sale of balstilimab and zalifrelimab in China and its administrative regions.
Betta Pharmaceuticals is a Chinese company that makes innovative oncology therapies. The license agreement with Agenus will allow the Chinese company to develop and sell zalifrelimab and balstilimab in Mainland China, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong. Betta Pharmaceuticals will pay $35 million to Agenus as part of their agreement. This is courtesy of their cash and equity deal in which Agenus will receive $15 million in cash and $20 million in equity.
The licensing agreement will also feature a loyalty agreement in which Betta Pharmaceuticals will pay $100 million to Agenus in the form of royalties on net sales and milestone achievements. The two treatments will be provided either as monotherapies or as combination treatments in China.
Agenus has been advancing balstilimab, an anti-PD-1 therapy in clinical trials, preparing for a BLA filing before the end of 2020. This includes the therapy’s research as a monotherapy and also as a combination treatment with zalifrelimab, which is an anti-CTLA-4. The studies have been focusing on the treatment of metastatic or refractory cervical cancer.
Clinical trials have demonstrated positive findings for the treatments
The latest clinical trial report from Agenus revealed that refractory metastatic cervical cancer patients treated with balstilimab and zalifrelimab responded positively. The findings were significant enough to warrant a Fast Track designation for balstilimab from the FDA and a similar designation for a balstilimab and zalifrelimab combo.
“Betta is an ideal partner to enable us to address significant patient needs in China while also advancing global development of balstilimab and zalifrelimab,” stated Agenus CEO Garo Armen.
Agenus’ clinical research has demonstrated that combination therapies have demonstrated significant positive findings. The company disclosed some of those findings at the recent American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) meeting, which was held virtually. The company revealed that its phase 1 clinical trial involving AGEN1181, an anti-CTLA-4 showed progressive findings as a combo treatment in anti-PD-1-resistant pre-clinical models. This is great news for the future of oncology therapies.