Pharma Focus Asia

Atara Biotherapeutics Enters Strategic Manufacturing Partnership with Fujifilm

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc., a leader in T-cell immunotherapy, leveraging its novel allogeneic EBV T-cell platform to develop transformative therapies for patients with cancer and autoimmune diseases, today announced that it has entered into a long term strategic agreement with FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies (FDB), a subsidiary of FUJIFILM Corporation (Fujifilm) under which Fujifilm will acquire Atara’s T-Cell Operations and Manufacturing (ATOM) facility in Thousand Oaks, California for USD 100 million upfront, retaining current manufacturing and quality staff at the site.

The parties will also enter a long-term supply agreement, which could extend to ten years. Following completion of the transaction, FDB, a leading contract development and manufacturing organization (CDMO) in advanced therapies, will provide Atara with access to the flexible capacity and specific capability needed to manufacture clinical and commercial-stage allogeneic cell therapies for its maturing and promising pipeline, including tabelecleucel (tab-cel®), under regulatory review in Europe for EBV+ PTLD, ATA188 for multiple sclerosis, and allogeneic CAR T therapies, ATA3271 and ATA3219. FDB will also expand use of the Thousand Oaks site and leverage its talented staff to manufacture a broader portfolio of cell therapies. Atara will retain its expertise, staff, and capabilities in manufacturing process science to continue to innovate in initial manufacturing and scale up for allogeneic cell therapies.

“FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies 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,” said Pascal Touchon, President and CEO of Atara. “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. Our team has developed processes for our products, scaled them up, and built inventory for clinical trials and the potential commercial launch of tab-cel. We believe that now is the right time for a strategic relationship with FDB to provide us with expert manufacturing capabilities, as needed. Accordingly, we will further focus capital resources on the development and commercialization of our pipeline of potentially transformative therapeutics for serious diseases.”

Atara expects to report cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments of $371.1 million as of December 31, 2021. This information is preliminary, has not been audited, and is subject to change upon the audit of the company’s financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2021.

Under the terms of the deal, Atara will receive USD 100 million at closing and Fujifilm plans to offer positions to approximately 140 current highly skilled manufacturing and quality staff at the site. The agreement is expected to reduce Atara’s planned operating expenses over the multiyear period. Upon closing, the upfront consideration, along with the reduction in operating expenses, in addition to Atara’s existing cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments is expected to fund Atara’s planned operations into Q4 2023, beyond the anticipated completion of the randomized, placebo-controlled Phase 2 study of ATA188, the Company’s investigational off-the-shelf T-cell candidate that has the potential to reverse disability in progressive multiple sclerosis.

Atara retains the recently established Thousand Oaks-based Atara Research Center (ARC), which is fully operational and will house Atara’s Pre-Clinical, Translational Sciences, Manufacturing Process Sciences, and Analytical Development teams to further drive innovation by leveraging the Company’s unique and differentiated allogeneic cell therapy platform. Atara will also retain a talented technical operations team to manage external manufacturing, quality, logistics and supply.

“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,” added Martin Meeson, chief executive officer, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies. “We also look forward to adding the facility to FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies’ existing global footprint and to bolster the expansion of our advanced therapies CDMO business.”

ATOM is a 90,000 ft cutting edge T-cell therapy manufacturing facility fully qualified to support clinical and commercial production and designed with the flexibility to expand to support various production requirements and capacities. The closing of the transaction, subject to expiration of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and other customary closing conditions, is expected to occur in April 2022.

Evercore Group LLC is acting as strategic advisor to Atara and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP is acting as its legal counsel.

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