Is Agenus on GSK's shopping list?

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It's been a busy week or two for GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK)--the company has extended its agreement with Agenus ($AGEN), writing in the option to buy out the company, and has submitted two vaccines for approval, as well as created a joint vaccines venture with Daiichi Sankyo.

GSK and Agenus have extended their existing licensing agreement covering Agenus' QS-21 Stimulon, granting GSK additional rights to use the adjuvant. Agenus has also agreed to grant GSK the first right to negotiate to buy out Agenus or certain of its assets. This right will expire in 2017. Under the terms of the agreement, Agenus gets a non-refundable payment of $9 million, as well as royalties.

The original agreement was set up in 2006 and amended in 2009. Under the existing agreement, GSK is using QS-21 in four vaccines in Phase III trials, including MAGE-A3, a therapeutic for non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma, and preventive vaccines for malaria (RTS,S) and herpes zoster. Other licensees of QS-21 include Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy, and Integrated Biotherapeutics. Overall, internally and with partners, Agenus has 18 programs in clinical development.

GSK has submitted its quadrivalent flu vaccine for approval in the U.S. and Europe, and its H5N1 vaccine for approval in the U.S.

It will be interesting to see how this one turns out--will GSK continue with the agreement or decide that it would rather have Agenus' technology and know-how in-house? Like many big biopharma companies, GSK faces patent expiries as part of the patent cliff, and it may see that acquiring this vaccine specialist will boost its pipeline going forward, complementing the agreement with Daiichi Sankyo. Watch this space.

- read the press release about GSK vaccine submissions
- see the press release from Agenus
- check out the article in MedCity News

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