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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Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (Shutterstock)

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