WASHINGTON (AP) -- Shares of Agenus Inc. rose in trading Friday on positive late-stage results for a malaria vaccine which contains booster technology made by the biotech drugmaker.
THE SPARK: Results for GlaxoSmithKline's malaria vaccine were published in the New England Journal of Medicine this week, showing infants injected with the product had one-third fewer cases of malaria than infants receiving an older vaccine. The new vaccine was well tolerated and side effects were similar between the two products.
Agenus, based in Lexington, Mass., makes the QS-21 Stimulon booster, which is designed to strengthen the body's immune response to a vaccine, increasing its effectiveness. The technology is being studied in 17 trials for vaccines, including GlaxoSmithKline's.
THE BIG PICTURE: Scientists have been working for decades to develop a malaria vaccine, a complicated endeavor since the disease is caused by five different species of parasites. Malaria is spread by mosquitoes and kills more than 650,000 people every year, mostly young children and pregnant women in Africa.
There has never been an effective vaccine against a parasite. Worldwide, there are several dozen malaria vaccine candidates being researched.
THE ANALYSIS: Roth Capital Partners analyst Joseph Pantginis reiterated a "Buy" rating on the stock, saying it bodes well for future results on the vaccine due out next year.
"We are encouraged by these interim results and believe that a statistically significant improvement in reduction of malaria incidence in infants represents an important step forward," the analyst wrote in an investment note.
SHARE ACTION: Agenus Inc. rose 21 cents, or 4.9 percent, to $4.46 in afternoon trading. The stock has more than doubled in the year to date.