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.

2023 Spot­light on the Fu­ture of Drug De­vel­op­ment for Small and Mid-Sized Biotechs

In the context of today’s global economic environment, there is an increasing need to work smarter, faster and leaner across all facets of the life sciences industry.  This is particularly true for small and mid-sized biotech companies, many of which are facing declining valuations and competing for increasingly limited funding to propel their science forward.  It is important to recognize that within this framework, many of these smaller companies already find themselves resource-challenged to design and manage clinical studies themselves because they don’t have large teams or in-house experts in navigating the various aspects of the drug development journey. This can be particularly challenging for the most complex and difficult to treat diseases where no previous pathway exists and patients are urgently awaiting breakthroughs.

Kristen Hege, Bristol Myers Squibb SVP, early clinical development, oncology/hematology and cell therapy (Illustration: Assistant Editor Kathy Wong for Endpoints News)

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Gossamer Bio CEO Faheem Hasnain at Endpoints' #BIO22 panel (J.T. MacMillan Photography for Endpoints News)

Gos­samer’s Fa­heem Has­nain de­fends a round of pos­i­tive PAH da­ta as a clear win. But can these PhII re­sults stand up to scruti­ny?

Gossamer Bio $GOSS posted a statistically significant improvement for its primary endpoint in the key Phase II TORREY trial for lead drug seralutinib on Tuesday morning. But CEO Faheem Hasnain has some explaining to do on the important secondary of the crucial six-minute walk distance test — which will be the primary endpoint in Phase III — as the data on both endpoints fell short of expectations, missing one analyst’s bar on even modest success.

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Eu­ro­pean Com­mis­sion lays ground­work to un­wind Il­lu­mi­na's $7B+ Grail merg­er

The European Commission has recommended steps that — though not yet final — would require Illumina to “swiftly” unwind its controversial $7.1 billion Grail buyout.

The Commission delivered a “statement of objections” on Monday, detailing the process Illumina would need to take in divesting Grail, its blood testing spinout launched in 2016. Illumina re-acquired Grail back in August, despite criticism from both the FTC and EU.

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Only three pharma advertisers spent any money at all, which is about the same as the past several weeks. AstraZeneca rejoined the active advertiser list, although at $700 spent hardly worth a personal Musk expression of gratitude. GSK remained active with $3,500 spent ad much lower than its previous spending, according to the Pathmatics data. Only Bayer spent any significant amount in advertising, with $244,000 spent last week, but that’s a considerable drop from almost $500,000 spent on OTC, prescription and corporate Twitter ads in each of the previous two weeks.

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But on Friday, Affinia threw in the S-1 towel and concluded now is not the time to step onto Wall Street. The biotech has put out few public announcements since the spring of this year. Endpoints News picked the startup as one of its 11 biotechs to watch last year.

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Arialys Therapeutics filed incorporation documents in the Golden State last December and applied its name for trademark protection with the US Patent and Trademark Office the week prior to that. Paperwork with the SEC also outlines plans to offer up equity in exchange for $55 million.

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