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Agenus CEO Garo Armen.
Agenus CEO Garo Armen.Agenus

Agenus has signed a deal with California-based Gilead Sciences that will pay the Lexington biotech $150 million to help develop and market up to five drugs to treat cancer by taking advantage of the body’s own immune system.

Agenus will get an upfront cash payment of $120 million plus a $30 million equity investment and will be eligible to receive about $1.7 billion more if it reaches certain goals for developing and selling new immuno-oncology medicines.

“Recent advances in immuno-oncology have produced unprecedented benefit to patients; however, many people with cancer still require more effective treatment options,” said Dr. John McHutchison, chief scientific officer for Gilead, which is based in Foster City, Calif.

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The collaboration with Agenus, which was announced Thursday, will “complement our growing oncology portfolio and cell therapy business,” he added.

Garo Armen, chief executive of publicly traded Agenus, called Gilead “an ideal partner” for the “rapid advancement of our pipeline.”

It was the second deal that Gilead announced with a Massachusetts biotech in two days. On Wednesday, Gilead said it had signed a deal that will pay Cambridge-based Scholar Rock $80 million upfront to help develop treatments for diseases that scar tissues and organs.

Shares of Agenus rose more than 23 percent on the Nasdaq exchange Thursday.


Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.