Analysts upgrade forecast for immunooncology company

Agenus on the Move

Analysts have just delivered a major upgrade to the near-term forecasts for Lexington, Massachusetts-based Agenus, Inc., reported Simply Wall Street. Consensus numbers for revenue and earnings per share (EPS) increased, with the analysts’ views much more bullish on the company’s business prospects. Investor sentiment seems to be improving as well.

After the upgrade, the current consensus from Agenus’ three analysts is for revenues of US$263M, reflecting a 284 percent increase on Agenus sales over the past 12 months. The loss per share is expected to greatly reduce in the near future, narrowing 76 percent to US$0.28. Before this consensus update, the analysts had been projecting revenues of US$158m and losses of US$1.03 per share in 2021.

Shares of Agenus Inc., which were trading at around $6 during the last week of August, have nearly doubled in value year-to-date. Agenus is an immunooncology company that discovers, manufactures and develops checkpoint antibodies, cell therapies, adjuvants and vaccines designed to activate immune response to cancers and infections. The company’s portfolio includes checkpoint antibodies, cell therapies, vaccines and adjuvants, representing a combination of synergistic agents to deliver curative patient outcomes. The company’s most-advanced product candidate, Balstilimab, designed to treat recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer with disease progression following chemotherapy, is under FDA review, with a decision expected in December.

RTTNews said that the key value drivers of Agenus are AGEN1181, AGENT-797, AGEN2373 and AGEN1777. AGEN1181 is in phase I/II trials as monotherapy and in combination with Balstilimab in subjects with advanced solid tumors. Updated clinical data for AGEN1181 alone and in combination with Balstilimab will be presented at an upcoming conference in the second half of this year.

AGENT-797, which is an unmodified, allogeneic iNKT cell therapy, is in a phase I trial in subjects with relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. This compound has completed dose escalation in a phase 1 trial in COVID-19 acute respiratory distress syndrome, with phase 1/2 expansion trials in viral ARDS underway. AGENT-797 is developed under Agenus’ subsidiary Mink Therapeutics (formerly AgenTus Therapeutics). Mink Therapeutics filed a Form S-1 for a proposed public offering in late July.

AGEN2373, a fully human monoclonal antibody that boosts the immune response to cancer cells, is in a phase I study. The study aims to evaluate the safety, tolerability, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics profiles of AGEN2373 as a monotherapy and in combination with Balstilimab and to assess the maximum tolerated dose in subjects with advanced solid tumors.

A phase I trial of AGEN1777 alone and in combination with an anti-PD-1 in advanced solid tumors is supposed to begin this quarter. Bristol Myers Squibb has a global exclusive license to this compound.

According to Garo Armen, PhD, chairman and chief executive officer of Agenus, “In the first half of this year, we announced a collaboration with BMS and advanced our flagship clinical candidate AGEN1181 to an important data inflection point. In the second half, we will disclose this data at a key cancer conference and be ready with our commercial platform in preparation for a balstilimab launch.”

The company reported that it ended the second quarter of 2021 with a cash balance of $74 million as compared to $100 million at December 31, 2020. Subsequent to the quarter end, Agenus received $200 million related to its BMS partnership.

For the second quarter ended June 30, 2021, the company’s cash used in operations was $56 million, and Agenus reported a net loss of $84 million or $0.37 per share, which included a number of non-cash items. This compares to cash used in operations for the same period in 2020 of $37 million and a net loss of $48 million or $0.28 per share. Non-cash operating expenses for the second quarter ended June 30, 2021 were $30 million, compared to $18 million for the second quarter of 2020.

The company’s cash used in operations for the six months ended June 30, 2021 was $98 million with a net loss of $138 million or $0.65 per share compared to cash used in operations of $72 million and a net loss for the same period in 2020 of $94 million or $0.59 per share. Agenus recognized revenue of $22 million and $42 million for the six-months ended June 30, 2021 and 2020, respectively, which includes revenue related to non-cash royalties earned, revenue recognized under our collaboration agreements, and in 2020, $14 million from an upfront license fee received.

Agenus presented various clinical data at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting: Phase 2 data for balstilimab showed a response rate of 20 percent in PD-L1 positive tumors, overall response rate of 15 percent, and median duration of response of 15.4 months. Balstilimab showed superior tumor killing compared to approved anti-PD-1s such as pembrolizumab and nivolumab.

Phase 1 data for AGEN2373, a CD137 agonist antibody, in patients with advanced solid tumors also were presented at ASCO 2021. No dose limiting toxicities were seen at doses up to 3 mg/kg, including no liver toxicity. Combination trials are in planning. Process for scale up of QS-21 manufacturing continues to advance. The VISION platform knowledge base expanding to support AGEN1181 response prediction and combination discovery.

Results from a Phase 2 trial of balstilimab plus zalifrelimab combination in recurrent or metastatic cervical cancer will be presented in a Mini Oral Session at the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress 2021 on September 19.

Simply Wall Street summarized, “The analysts are definitely expecting Agenus’ growth to accelerate, with the forecast 14x annualized growth to the end of 2021 ranking favourably alongside historical growth of 27% per annum over the past five years. By contrast, our data suggests that other companies (with analyst coverage) in a similar industry are forecast to grow their revenue at 10% per year. Factoring in the forecast acceleration in revenue, it’s pretty clear that Agenus is expected to grow much faster than its industry. Given that the consensus looks almost universally bullish, with a substantial increase to forecasts and a higher price target, Agenus could be worth investigating further.”

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