The "new" Agenus investor story is QS-21, an adjuvant added to vaccines to boost immune response. Agenus shares have soared to more than $6 from $2 at the beginning of the year, mainly because of hype around QS-21 and its inclusion in 15 vaccines under clinical development. Most notable are three GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) vaccines or immunotherapies in late-stage clinical trials for malaria, non-small cell lung cancer and melanoma; all contain Agenus' QS-21.
Agenus' stock really took off in early March after the company announced an amended QS-21 agreement with Glaxo, giving the latter "first right to negotiate for the purchase of the company or certain of our assets," according to an Agenus regulatory filing.
Naturally, buzz among retail investors reached a fever pitch on empty speculation that Glaxo was going to buy Agenus. The deal hasn't happened yet, and I have doubts it will ever take place. Without the takeover buzz, Agenus is overvalued.
Glaxo is obligated to pay a mid-single-digit royalty to Agenus on sales of any QS-21-containing vaccine/immunotherapy that is approved and marketed.
Glaxo's malaria vaccine looks to be effective but the company has already stated that it will be giving it away.
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