What happened

A rather up-and-down stock even in the up-and-down world of biotech, Agenus (NASDAQ:AGEN) was seeing a bit of a peak on Tuesday. In mid-afternoon trading, the company's shares were up by 7.5% on the back of an encouraging earnings report.

So what

That morning, Agenus published its Q3 results. These showed that the immuno-oncology-focused biotech booked just under $253 million in revenue, well up from the $14.8 million in the same quarter last year. It also earned a net profit -- specifically, $177.3 million ($0.72 per share), a dramatic improvement over the nearly $52 million the company lost in Q3 2020.

Cancer attacking an organism.

Image source: Getty Images.

According to Zack's, the average analyst estimate for revenue was nearly 40% lower. Meanwhile, those prognosticators were anticipating a net profit of only $0.46 per share.

Agenus' cash position also improved significantly over the one-year stretch. At the end of this Q3, it held more than $261 million in cash, equivalents, and short-term investments. The year-ago figure was less than $100 million. The major factor in the increase was a $200 million up-front payment the company received from Bristol Myers Squibb for licensing its AGEN1777 antibody program.

Now what

Agenus was a company indisputably in need of good news. In October, it incurred the wrath of many investors by withdrawing the Biologics License Application it filed for balstilimab for the treatment of second-line cervical cancer. Balstilimab is a cancer immunotherapy treatment that has a prominent place in the company's pipeline.

Agenus will continue to develop balstilimab as part of combination therapies, but investors didn't take too kindly to the setback. The company's comfortable Q3 beat should restore some faith in its current operations and future direction. 

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.