Shares in small cap biotechnology company Agenus, Inc. (AGEN) saw its stock gap up over 20 percent before the opening bell this morning on news that the malaria vaccine it’s developing with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) showed positive results in a critical Phase-III trial. Gains evened out as the day wore on, falling below 9.5 percent by early afternoon.
Phase-III Trial for Malaria Vaccine Shows Results
“I am delighted that GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK) RTS,S malaria vaccine candidate, which contains Agenus’ QS-21 Stimulon® adjuvant, has demonstrated the ability to help protect young children and infants from malaria infection,” wrote Agenus Chairman and CEO Dr. Garo Armen, Ph.D. in his blog.
The recently concluded Phase-III trial included over 15,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa and, after 18 months, resulted in 46 percent fewer malaria cases than would be expected without the treatment among children aged 5-17 months at their first vaccination. This included 36 percent fewer severe cases of malaria, and a 41 percent decrease in hospitalizations for malaria.
The trial also showed a 27 percent decrease in cases among children aged 6-12 weeks at their initial vaccination, along with a 15 percent decrease in severe cases and a 17 percent reduction in hospitalizations.
“These findings indicate that RTS,S has the potential to help prevent millions of malaria cases. We are very pleased that our QS-21 Stimulon adjuvant is a key component of AS01, a proprietary adjuvant system used in RTS,S,” said Armen at a conference in Durban, South African while presenting the results. “These results provide further support that QS-21 Stimulon can help advance challenging development programs targeting difficult diseases. Currently there are 21 development programs underway involving vaccines that include QS-21 Stimulon for many different types of cancer, infectious diseases and degenerative disorders.”
A successful malaria vaccine has the potential to be one of the most important developments in medical science since the elimination of small pox. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 219 million cases of malaria worldwide with 600,000 people losing their lives to the parasite each year, most being children living in sub-Saharan Africa. As such, even modest results for a potential vaccine could have a tremendous effect on the health of that region and save hundreds of thousands of lives. Finding a viable preventive treatment has been a consuming passion for the entire medical community as well as philanthropists like former Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Bill Gates.
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