Atara Biotherapeutics, a California-based, privately held drug development company, has entered into an exclusive option agreement with New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) for the development and commercialization of allogeneic T-cell therapies for the treatment of certain cancers and persistent viral infections. Atara will have the option to acquire a worldwide license to three clinical stage T-cell therapies, consisting of:
These three programs share a common technology under which third-party donor-derived whole blood is collected and enriched for T lymphocytes, or T-cells. The T-cells are then exposed to certain antigens, and the resulting activated T-cells are characterized and stored for future therapeutic use. T-cells are a critical component of the body's immune system and can be harnessed to counteract viral infections and some cancers. By focusing the T-cells on specific proteins involved in cancers and infections, the power of the immune system can be employed to combat these diseases.
MSK will receive cash and Atara common stock in return for the exclusive option. If Atara exercises its option to enter into the license agreement, MSK will receive an upfront license payment and be eligible to receive additional payments based on achievement of certain development, regulatory and sales-related milestones, as well as royalty payments. Atara and MSK have agreed to collaborate on further research to develop additional cellular therapies, which may include T-cell therapies against other antigens and/or chimeric antigen receptor-modified T-cells, known as CAR-T.