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Agenus reports positive results for its HerpV drug


Agenus (NASDAQ:AGEN), maker of therapeutic vaccines for cancer and infectious diseases, reported on Monday that its HerpV drug elicited helper T cells in patients with genital herpes.

HerpV is a therapeutic heat shock protein-based vaccine and contains QS-21 Stimulon which is designed to boost the immune response to a vaccines antigen.

Chairman of Agenus, Garo Armen said: "The publication of our herpes vaccine results marks the beginning of an exciting period. Over the next 18 months, we expect pivotal data from multiple important clinical programs that incorporate QS-21, which are being developed by our corporate partners."

Currently, QS-21 is being studied in clinical trials in about 15 vaccine indications, Of that number, four are in phase-three studies by Agenus' licensees, which include GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) and Janssen Alzheimer Immunotherapy, a unit of Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ).

The study’s lead author Prof. Laboratory Medicine Anna Wald said that this is the first evidence that a therapeutic for genital herpes has elicited CD4 and CD8 helper cell responses in humans. 

"We are very encouraged by these clinical results as published literature suggests that cellular immunity needs to be stimulated for successful treatment of genital herpes,” Wald said.

About 35 Herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) patients received the vaccine and the QS-21 stimulon vaccine without QS-21, QS-21 alone, or placebo. Patients were given three treatments at two-week intervals, during the four-arm phase one study.

Patients taking HerpV showed significant CD4 helper cell response to HSV-2 antigens, while the bulk of those patients established a CD8 T cell response. The vaccine was well tolerated, with injection site pain as the most commonly reported adverse event.

Agenus said it intends to advance HerpV into a phase-two study next year. It will measure the effect of vaccination on viral shedding in people infected with HSV-2.

Viral shedding refers to the reproduction, expulsion, and host-cell infection caused by viruses. After duplication has been completed and the host cell is exhausted of all resources in making its viral offspring, the virus may begin to leave the cell.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control, genital herpes affects more than 60 million Americans, or one in six people aged 14 and 49. The disease often results in recurrent painful sores in the genital area.

While the initial focus of development has been in HSV-2, the heat shock protein technology platform can potentially be utilized for off-the-shelf treatment of many types of infectious diseases such as HPV, HIV, hepatitis, malaria and tuberculosis.

Agenus is a biotechnology company that develops treatments for cancers and infectious diseases. It is focused on immunotherapeutic products.

The New York-based company’s stock rose 9.93% to 62 cents Monday.

Quick facts: Agenus Inc

Price: 5.18 USD

Market: NASDAQ
Market Cap: $950.23 m

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