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Thursday, Nov 30, 2023

Atara Biotherapeutics Stock Enjoys Rebound

End of deal with Bayer did not worsen the downtrend.

T-cell immunotherapy company Atara Biotherapeutics Inc.’ stock rose significantly in the last month, despite the termination of a multimillion-dollar deal with Bayer.

Atara, the operator of a 34,700-square-foot research center located in Thousand Oaks, has experienced a steady decline in the market during the past year. Share prices once bounced between $17 and $18, eventually trending downward to about $5 in May this year. 

The downtrend was slightly mollified by Atara’s first-quarter earnings report, which revealed that it beat revenue expectations by more than 68% and earnings per share estimates by 11.25%. Amid its stock price decline, Atara announced in May that its $670 million CAR T-cell therapy license agreement with Bayer was to be terminated.

Under the terms of the deal, Atara was to receive a $60 million payment and up to a total of $610 million for development, regulatory and commercialization milestones, as well as tiered royalties. The deal was established to fund the development of two cell immunotherapy candidates that sought to treat tumors like non-small-cell lung cancer and a form of mesothelioma. 

“We acknowledge Bayer’s decision to end our collaboration following Bayer’s strategic review and asset-level prioritization of its pipeline, including cell and gene therapy,” Jakob Dupont, the head of global research and development at Atara, said in a statement. “Based on the clinical and pre-clinical data generated to date, we remain confident in the potential of ATA2271 and ATA3271 to address patient need in solid tumors and are re-assessing our strategy on how best to generate value from the programs moving forward.”

The deal’s termination came a few months after a patient death was reported by Atara, causing a study of the lead candidate to be paused by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which was conducting a phase 1 trial.

Atara Chief Executive Pascal Touchon said in a statement that Atara would maintain its cash runway guidance into the fourth quarter of 2023.

“Given the exciting developments on ATA188 and tab-cel, and our continued progress toward submitting an IND for ATA3219 in Q4 2022, we plan to focus our resources accordingly while we reassess our strategy for our mesothelin CAR T program,” Touchon said in a statement.

The deal is scheduled to be terminated in September of this year when the rights and licenses granted to Bayer will be returned to Atara. The company will have full rights to continue the clinical development and future commercialization of its programs worldwide.

The announcement of the deal’s planned end did not send Atara’s stock reeling, as shares fluctuated in the succeeding weeks until eventually shooting up to $7.31 on June 24, a 55% increase month over month. 

According to an article from Benzinga Insights, Atara has an average price target of $15.75 with a high of $29.00 and a low of $4.00, according to four analysts who have offered 12-month price targets in the last three months.

Antonio Pequeño IV
Antonio Pequeño IV
Antonio “Tony” Pequeño IV is a reporter covering health care, finance and law for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. He specializes in reporting on some of the biggest names in the Valley’s biotechnology sector. In addition to his work with the Business Journal, Tony has reported with BuzzFeed News on the unsupervised use of Clearview AI, a controversial facial recognition technology. Tony, who also conducts freelance reporting, graduated from the USC’s Master of Science in Journalism program in 2021. He is in his fifth year as a journalist as of 2021.

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