Agenus said today it has acquired Celexion’s SECANT® Yeast Display Platform for generating monoclonal antibodies and other antibody-related assets. Agenus said the $4 million-plus asset deal will speed up its checkpoint inhibitor collaborations with Merck & Co. and Incyte by enhancing its antibody discovery and development capabilities.

SECANT is designed to enable highly-efficient interrogation of checkpoint proteins, among other drug targets. Agenus said it will now be able to use the mammalian Retrocyte DisplayTM platform it bought along with 4-Antibody last year for further optimization of antibodies arising from both there and the SECANT yeast display platform.

“The SECANT yeast display platform is highly complementary to Retrocyte Display, which will allow us to maximize the speed and flexibility in antibody generation and optimization,” Agenus CSO Robert B. Stein, M.D., Ph.D., said in a statement. “We will utilize the combined capabilities to create best-in-class medicines to treat patients suffering from cancer and infectious disease.”

Last year, Agenus agreed to use Retrocyte Display to discover and develop therapeutic antibodies for cancer against two undisclosed Merck checkpoint inhibitor targets, under up-to-$100 million collaboration with Merck.

Retrocyte Display was also at the center of Agenus’ up-to-$410 million-plus collaboration with Incyte launched in January. The companies agreed to use the platform toward commercializing cancer immunotherapeutics by developing checkpoint modulator antibodies directed against four genes.

Agenus also acquired Celexion’s approaches to generate antibodies against membrane bound protein targets such as GPCRs and ion channels. Those approaches will be used to assess antibody binding and help determine functional attributes of agonist and antagonist antibodies in a highly efficient manner, the buyer added.

Agenus paid $1 million cash and $3 million in company stock to Celexion at the closing. Agenus is due to pay an undisclosed additional amount in stock and/or cash over the next 24 months.