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.

A new era of treat­ment: How bio­mark­ers are chang­ing the way we think about can­cer

AJ Patel was recovering from a complicated brain surgery when his oncologist burst into the hospital room yelling, “I’ve got some really great news for you!”

For two years, Patel had been going from doctor to doctor trying to diagnose his wheezing, only to be dealt the devastating news that he had stage IV lung cancer and only six months to live. And then they found the brain tumors.

“What are you talking about?” Patel asked. He had never seen an oncologist so happy.

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Anthony Fauci (AP Images)

West Vir­ginia man faces prison time for threat­en­ing emails to Fau­ci, oth­er health of­fi­cials

NIAID director Anthony Fauci gained hero status amid the pandemic, earning Americans’ trust and even Time magazine’s Guardian of the Year title. But he and other federal health officials have also faced intense threats, according to charges brought by the US Department of Justice.

A West Virginia man is facing up to 10 years in prison after threatening Fauci, former NIH director Francis Collins, and HHS assistant secretary for health Rachel Levine via email, the DOJ said on Monday. Thomas Patrick Connally, Jr., pleaded guilty on Monday to using an anonymous email address to threaten the officials for performing their official duties, including discussing Covid-19 testing and prevention.

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The DC-headquartered firm on Monday filed its latest suit against the agency, with the company raising concerns over the FDA’s failure to grant a fast track designation for Vanda’s potential chronic digestive disorder drug tradipitant, which is a neurokinin 1 receptor antagonist.

Specifically, Vanda said FDA’s “essential point” in its one-page denial letter on the designation pointed to “the lack of necessary safety data,” which was “inconsistent with the criteria for … Fast Track designation.”

Stéphane Bancel, Moderna CEO (Charles Krupa/AP Images)

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Bancel announced early Tuesday via a blog post that he and his wife Brenda will be donating the after-tax proceeds of his original stock options to charity — the stock options Bancel was granted back in 2013 after he became CEO, two years after he first joined the mRNA specialist outfit.

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RNAi therapeutics juggernaut Alnylam Pharmaceuticals made a splash in March when it sued and sought money from both Pfizer and Moderna regarding their use of Alnylam’s biodegradable lipids, which Alnylam claims have been integral to the way both companies’ mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines work.

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(Credit: Shutterstock)

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Pivotal data from the ELEVATE program in ulcerative colitis — which consists of two Phase III trials, one lasting 52 weeks and the other just 12 weeks — illustrate an “encouraging balance of efficacy and safety,” according to Michael Corbo, chief development officer of inflammation & immunology at Pfizer. The company is presenting the results as a late breaker at Digestive Disease Week.

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Robert Califf (Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP Images)

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The letter to FDA commissioner Rob Califf late last week comes as the agency recently rejected Eli Lilly’s anti-PD-1 antibody, which attempted to bring China-only data but ran into a bruising adcomm that may crush the hopes of any other companies looking to bring cheaper follow-ons based only on Chinese data.

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