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Atara Biotherapeutics Announces Immunotherapy Alliance With Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

BRISBANE, Calif., Sept. 23, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Atara Biotherapeutics (Atara) today announced that they have entered into an exclusive option agreement with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) for the development and commercialization of allogeneic T-cell therapies for the treatment of certain cancers and persistent viral infections. Under the terms of the agreement, Atara will have the option to acquire a worldwide license to three clinical stage T-cell therapies consisting of:

  • T-cells activated against Epstein Barr Virus, or EBV (Phase 2);
  • T-cells activated against cytomegalovirus, or CMV (Phase 2); and
  • T-cells activated against Wilms Tumor 1, or WT1 (Phase 1)

These three programs share a common technology under which third-party donor-derived whole blood is collected and enriched for T lymphocytes, or T-cells. The T-cells are then exposed to certain antigens, and the resulting activated T-cells are characterized and stored for future therapeutic use. T-cells are a critical component of the body's immune system and can be harnessed to counteract viral infections and some cancers. By focusing the T-cells on specific proteins involved in cancers and infections, the power of the immune system can be employed to combat these diseases.

The EBV program is in Phase 2 and has been dosed in over 100 patients with initial results published in the journal Blood. Richard O'Reilly, MD, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Chief of the Pediatric Bone Marrow Transplant Service at MSK, notes that "This collaboration brings the expertise and resources together to expand on the exciting clinical results we've observed and will allow us to bring these therapies to a broader patient population."

MSK will receive cash and Atara common stock in return for the exclusive option. If Atara exercises its option to enter into the license agreement, MSK will receive an upfront license payment and be eligible to receive additional payments based on achievement of certain development, regulatory and sales-related milestones, as well as royalty payments. Atara and MSK have agreed to collaborate on further research to develop additional cellular therapies, which may include T-cell therapies against other antigens and/or chimeric antigen receptor-modified T-cells, known as CAR-T.

"Our partnership with MSK supports the Atara vision to identify and develop therapies with broad potential to address a number of serious unmet medical needs using innovative science," said Christopher Haqq, Chief Medical Officer for Atara. "We believe that these off-the-shelf T-cell therapies hold substantial promise for patients who have limited treatment options."

About Atara

Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc. is a privately-held drug development company with a focus on innovative therapies for patients with debilitating diseases. The company's lead programs are focused on myostatin and activin, members of the TGF-beta family of proteins that have demonstrated the potential to have therapeutic benefit in a number of clinical indications. Atara was launched in 2012 by a proven team of drug developers and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. For more information, please visit www.atarabio.com.

CONTACT: MSK CONTACT: Andrea Baird, bairda@mskcc.org, 212-639-3573 MEDIA CONTACT: Tina Gullotta, tgullotta@atarabio.com. 415-287-2427 INVESTOR CONTACT: Tina Gullotta, tgullotta@atarabio.com. 415-287-2427Source:Atara Biotherapeutics