Atara, Fujifilm Enter Deal to Produce Cell Therapies

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by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Atara Biotherapeutics has reached an agreement with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies for the production of its cell therapy pipeline, including ATA188, an experimental therapy being investigated for the treatment of progressive multiple sclerosis (MS).

Under the agreement, Fujifilm will acquire Atara’s T-Cell Operations and Manufacturing (ATOM) facility in Thousand Oaks, California, for an upfront payment of $100 million. The companies also are entering into a supply agreement that could extend up to 10 years, wherein Fujifilm will provide Atara with access to the capacity and capability needed to manufacture its cell therapies.

“Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies [FDB] is a highly respected, quality-focused, industry-leading manufacturing and development organization that shares our pioneering culture and belief that allogeneic cell therapies will transform the future of medicine,” Pascal Touchon, president and CEO of Atara, said in a press release.

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“We are incredibly proud of our world-class ATOM staff and facility and believe that this strategic partnership will meet our long-term manufacturing needs,” Touchon said. “Our team has developed processes for our products, scaled them up, and built inventory for clinical trials.” he added.

“We believe that now is the right time for a strategic relationship with FDB to provide us with expert manufacturing capabilities, as needed,” he said.

Atara is sponsoring a Phase 2 clinical trial called EMBOLD (NCT03283826) that is testing ATA188 in people with progressive forms of MS. The study is recruiting at locations in the U.S. and Australia.

ATA188 is a T-cell-based therapy that is designed to destroy cells infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a type of herpes virus that research has shown may be a cause of MS. The therapy uses allogenic, or “off-the-shelf” T-cells  — as opposed to autologous cell therapies that use cells derived from the patient — meaning it may be more readily accessible to those who need it.

With the new deal, Atara expects to have sufficient funds to run operations beyond the completion of the trial, the company announced.

As part of the agreement, approximately 140 manufacturing and quality staff at the ATOM site now will be working for Fujifilm.

“We are thrilled that through this acquisition we will add approximately 140 talented staff from Atara’s cell therapy manufacturing facility to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies family. The collective expertise of the team will further support our efforts as a world-class CDMO,” said Martin Meeson, CEO of Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, which is a subsidiary of Fujifilm Corporation.

A CDMO, or contract development and manufacturing company, is a company within the pharmaceutical industry that provides drug development and manufacturing services, usually in the form of outsourced services for pharmaceutical companies.

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