Atara Biotherapeutics building $55M CAR-T gene therapy plant in Southern California

Artist's rendering of Atara Biotherapeutics’ new ATOM CAR-T gene therapy manufacturing facility in Thousand Oaks, California. (Atara Biotherapeutics)

Atara Biotherapeutics has initiated construction of a new CAR-T gene therapy manufacturing facility in Thousand Oaks, California, where it will produce cells for allogeneic treatments.

Dubbed ATOM for Atara T-cell Operations and Manufacturing, the 90,000-square-foot facility will house manufacturing as well as R&D labs and office space.

The company estimates the final cost of the site to be between $50 million and $55 million, and it is projected to create about 100 new skilled jobs when completed in 2019.

Atara, which was founded in 2012, is currently in late-stage trials for what it calls tabelecleucel, or “tab-cel,” which is a potential treatment for Epstein-Barr virus-associated post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder. 

Many CAR-T cell therapies, mainly focused on cancer treatments, are autologous cell therapies that take cells from a sick patient, modify them and then inject them back into the same patient. Cells for allogeneic treatments are harvested from donors matching a patient. While it can take weeks to turn around autologous therapies, allogeneic treatments can be available in several days.

The company recently released results of a midstage study with tab-cel used on 35 patients in whom Genentech’s Rituxan had failed. In that study, 68% of those patients who had a cell transplant and in whom Rituxan had failed were still alive after one year versus an expected 16 to 56 days. A second study included 14 patients who received a solid organ transplant; they had a median survival rate of 21.3 months versus an expected 12 to 13 months.