Agenus said today that Merck & Co. has extended their year-old, approximately $100 million-plus collaboration for the discovery and development of therapeutic antibodies against undisclosed Merck immune checkpoints for cancer.

The collaboration’s discovery phase has been extended to April 2016, Agenus said.

“This collaboration has resulted in encouraging outcomes, and we’re delighted that a leader in the rapidly developing immuno-oncology space has elected to extend this discovery phase of our collaboration,” Robert Stein, M.D., Ph.D., Agenus’ CSO, said in a statement.

The collaboration began last year after Agenus agreed to use its 4-Antibody Retrocyte Display™ platform to discover and develop antibodies for cancer against two undisclosed Merck checkpoint inhibitor targets.

Merck agreed to oversee clinical development and commercialization of candidates generated under the collaboration. In return, the pharma giant agreed to pay Agenus up to about $100 million in payments tied to completion of clinical, regulatory, and commercial milestones for two Merck drug candidates, plus royalties on worldwide product sales.

Retrocyte Display is used to generate fully human and humanized therapeutic antibody drug candidates. The platform uses a high-throughput approach incorporating IgG format human antibody libraries expressed in mammalian B-lineage cells.

Retrocyte Display is one of three separate technology platforms by which Agenus supports programs to develop developing Checkpoint Modulators to treat cancer, infectious diseases, and other immune disorders, heat shock protein (HSP)-based vaccines, and immune adjuvants.

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