Agenus, Inc. (NASDAQ:AGEN) announced on Thursday the selection of a potential lead antibody under its collaboration with pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE:MRK). In line with the terms of th agreement, the latter paid Agenus with $2 million.

Agenus-Merck Partnership

Agenus has discovered a lead antibody candidate along with numerous backup antibodies, which Merck has selected. From here on, Merck will shoulder all product development expenses relating to the lead antibody candidate. Consequently, Agenus will receive milestone payments of up to $100 million including royalties on worldwide sales.

Garo Armen, Ph.D., Agenus Chairman and CEO, expressed that the company is pleased to have identified lead antibody candidates together with Merck. Armen elaborated that this highlights Argenus’ dedication to developing and identifying antibodies for various challenging targets.

Similarly, Robert B. Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Agenus Research and Development (R&D) President is proud about how the company’s platforms have been successful together with Merck’s team. As a result, Stein said that the success goes to prove the discovery innovation’s prowess to provide much-needed therapies for cancer patients whose conditions are barely treated by existing medical approaches.

Q1 Financial and Corporate Highlights

Last April, Agenus released its first quarter earnings report, showing an earnings per share (EPS) loss of $0.37 or a total of $31.80 million. This is slightly up from last year’s EPS loss of $0.28 or a total of $18.80 million.

The company has also noted of significant accomplishments for the period. Last January, Agenus received a clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Investigational New Drug applications (NDA) involving two checkpoint antibodies, the AGEN1884 (CTLA-4 antagonist) ans the INCAGN1876 (GITR agonist with Incyte).

During the period, Agenus also began integrating the manufacturing facility it acquired from Xoma Corporation (NASDAQ:XOMA) in late 2015. With the new facility, Agenus can access further antibody supply requirements for its clinical proof-of-concept initiatives.

For the rest of the year, Armen said that the company hopes to initiate randomized Prophage trials along with combination trials with some immunotherapeutic agents.