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Genentech R&D leader Dietmar Berger moves to Atara Bio, heading up off-the-shelf T cell work

A senior global R&D leader at Genentech is leaving the biotech giant for a new post at South San Francisco’s Atara Biotherapeutics. Dietmar Berger will join Atara $ATRA as global head of R&D, taking the company’s allogeneic T cell treatments through the clinic.

Dietmar Berger

Berger is best known for his recent role at Genentech/Roche, where he’s been working as senior vice president and global head of product development within the company’s hematology and oncology unit since 2014. There, he led medical strategy for Genentech’s portfolio of cancer medicines, including global filings of approved drugs like Gazyva, Cotellic, Alecensa, Tecentriq and Hemlibra.

Atara, founded in 2012, is not the behemoth that Genentech is, but it’s not a small startup either. The Nasdaq-listed company, which has a market cap of $1.75 billion, is developing off-the-shelf, allogeneic T cell immunotherapies for patients with cancer, autoimmune and viral diseases. Originating at Memorial Sloan Kettering and QIMR Berghofer, Atara’s T cells are engineered to allow for rapid delivery from inventory to patients without a requirement for pretreatment, the company says.

Atara’s most advanced program, tabelecleucel, or tab-cel (formerly ATA129), is being developed for patients with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) associated post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder, as well as other EBV associated hematologic and solid tumors, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC).

“I am excited to join Atara and lead research and development during this transformational period, including the ongoing Phase III development of tab-cel, the potential first commercially available off-the-shelf, allogeneic T cell immunotherapy,” said Berger in a statement. “Atara’s robust pipeline in oncology, autoimmune and viral disease, as well as its manufacturing expertise and growing global commercial capabilities uniquely position the company to transform the lives of patients with serious medical conditions. Together with Atara’s strong R&D leadership team, we will continue to focus on rigorous late-stage clinical development and leveraging the full potential of our technology platform.”

Isaac Ciechanover

Atara is also developing ATA188 and ATA190, T cell immunotherapies for the potential treatment of multiple sclerosis.

Berger will report directly to Atara’s president and CEO, Isaac Ciechanover, and will manage all R&D leadership functions.


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