Atara Biotherapeutics partners with Fujifilm on cell therapy manufacturing

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

January 28, 2022 -- Atara Biotherapeutics has entered into a long-term strategic agreement with Fujifilm under which Fujifilm will acquire Atara's T-cell operations and manufacturing facility in Thousand Oaks, CA, for $100 million upfront, retaining Atara's current staff at the site. The firms will also enter a long-term supply agreement, which could extend to 10 years.

Atara Biotherapeutics leverages its novel, allogeneic, Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) T-cell platform to develop therapies for patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Following completion of the transaction, FDB, a contract development and manufacturing organization in advanced therapies, will provide Atara with access to the capability needed to manufacture clinical and commercial-stage allogeneic cell therapies, including tabelecleucel, which is under regulatory review in Europe for EBV post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease, ATA188 for the treatment of multiple sclerosis, and allogeneic CAR T therapies ATA3271 and ATA3219.

FDB will also expand use of the Thousand Oaks site and leverage the staff to manufacture a broader portfolio of cell therapies. Atara will retain its staff and capabilities in manufacturing process science and will scale up for allogeneic cell therapies.

Under the terms of the deal, Atara will receive $100 million at closing. Fujifilm plans to offer positions to approximately 140 current staff at the site. The agreement is expected to reduce Atara's planned operating expenses over the multiyear period.

The upfront consideration, the reduction in operating expenses -- combined with Atara's existing cash, cash equivalents, and short-term investments -- are expected to fund Atara's planned operations into the fourth quarter of 2023 after the anticipated completion of the randomized, placebo-controlled phase II study of ATA188. ATA188 is Atara's investigational, off-the-shelf, T-cell candidate that has the potential to reverse disability in progressive multiple sclerosis.

Atara will retain the recently established Thousand Oaks-based Atara Research Center, which will house Atara's preclinical, translational sciences, manufacturing process sciences, and analytical development teams. Atara will also retain a technical operations team to manage external manufacturing, quality, logistics, and supply.

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