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Tuesday, Dec 6, 2022
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Atara Records Net Loss in Quarter

Thousand Oaks-based Atara Biotherapeutics reported a loss of $84.1 million in its third-quarter earnings report.

Atara ended the quarter with approximately $265 million in cash and is partially banking on a commercialization with French pharmaceutical company Pierre Fabre to fund the company’s operations into the first quarter of 2024. 

“In September 2022, we announced an additional near-term milestone payment under an updated top cell commercialization agreement with Pierre Fabre,” Atara Chief Executive Dr. Pascal Touchon said in a Nov. 8 earnings call. “Under this agreement, Atara will receive an additional $30 million upon EC approval and subsequent filing of the MAA (marketing authorization application) transfer to Pierre Fabre.” 

The company also turned to restructuring efforts to maximize its cash flow. In the last quarter’s earnings report, Atara issued a corporate strategy update that included the reduction of staff by about 20% across the organization.

“Following our recent restructuring that is now fully implemented, we are on track to reduce our operating cash burn in 2023 and beyond according to plan,” Touchon said in the earnings call.

The chase for maintaining and generating revenue is also wrapped up in the company’s immunotherapy pipeline. Significant priority has been put into research and development according to Atara’s strategy update last quarter. 

Currently, no treatment owned and developed by the company has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but the firm has been in discussions with the agency about requirements for a potential biologics license application submission. According to the FDA, a biologics license application is a request for permission to introduce, or deliver for introduction, a biologic product into interstate commerce.

“A new meeting is planned with the FDA to discuss and potentially align on clinical data package requirements to prepare for a pre-BLA meeting,” the company said.

The treatment closest to approval from the FDA is tab-cel, which is currently in phase three studies as an investigational treatment for Epstein-Barr virus-positive post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease. Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disease is a life-threatening complication associated with solid organ transplants. Tab-cel also aims to treat other Epstein-Barr virus-associated hematologic and solid tumors.

According to the earnings call, the company is seeking a domestic commercial partner for tab-cel.

“Entering into such a partnership will avoid further investment and could provide additional cash inflows, further extend our cash runway,” Touchon said during the call. “We are confident in a significant business opportunity that tab-cel represents in the U.S. with potential for peak sales over $500 million per year across multiple indications.”

Atara’s stock, which traded around the $4.75 mark prior to the earnings announcement, fell to just below $4.00 the following day and has since recovered to more than $5.00. The stock has steadily fallen in the last year, partially due to a botched set of agreements with multinational pharmaceutical company Bayer. The two-year, $670 million partnership was terminated in May.

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