Atara Biotherapeutics Inc. licensed a pair of mesothelin-directed CAR T treatments, ATA-2271 and ATA-3271, to Bayer AG for $60 million up front with the potential for $610 million in development, regulatory and commercialization milestone payments. Atara is also eligible for tiered royalties that peak in the low double-digit percentage of net sales of the two drugs. South San Francisco-based Atara will provide translational and clinical manufacturing services for the two drugs that will be reimbursed by Bayer.
When the first chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T) therapy, Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel), was approved in 2016 for treating B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, its developer, Novartis AG, confined the initial rollout to just 20 treating centers. Its label carried a black box warning, because of the risk of life-threatening cytokine release syndrome, and Basel, Switzerland-based Novartis put in place a comprehensive risk evaluation and mitigation system to ensure its safe use. Catamaran Bio Inc., a Boston-based startup that has raised $42 million in seed and series A financing, is considering the administration of similarly engineered natural killer cells in walk-in clinics. “If the product is safe, it can be given as an out-patient treatment,” Chief Scientific Officer Vipin Suri told BioWorld. “As a field, this absolutely has to be our ambition.”
Gracell Biotechnologies Inc. has closed a $100 million series C financing round to advance its CAR T-cell therapy candidates, including autologous product candidate, GC-012F, and allogeneic product candidate, GC-027. Both candidates are in investigator-initiated phase I trials in China.