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QIMR Berghofer and Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc. expand agreement to new immunotherapy programs

QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has expanded its existing agreement on novel immunotherapies with United-States-based biopharmaceutical company Atara Biotherapeutics, Inc.

In October 2015, QIMR Berghofer and Atara entered into an exclusive licence agreement and a research and development collaboration agreement to develop and commercialise off-the-shelf cytotoxic T-lymphocyte therapies (CTLs) using technology developed by the institute.

The therapies are being developed for the treatment of certain cancers, including nasopharyngeal carcinoma and brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme), as well as autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis.

Under the new agreement, QIMR Berghofer and Atara Biotherapeutics have expanded their collaboration to include research and development of new additional CTL programs, which target human papilloma virus (HPV) and BK virus (BKV).

HPV is associated with a number of solid tumors including head and neck cancer, cervical cancer, and anal cancer. BKV is a challenging clinical problem in kidney transplant patients and is a potential cause of organ loss.

The programs are led by the coordinator of QIMR Berghofer’s Centre for Immunotherapy and Vaccine Development, Professor Rajiv Khanna.

“I am delighted that we have expanded our relationship with Atara Biotherapeutics to work together to develop immunotherapy treatments for more virus-related cancers and conditions,” Professor Khanna said.

“Under this agreement, we hope to bring new, off-the-shelf therapies to patients.

“These therapies will be manufactured at Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics at QIMR Berghofer. Q-Gen Cell Therapeutics is one of the largest cell therapy manufacturing GMP facilities in Australia.”

QIMR Berghofer’s Director and CEO, Professor Frank Gannon, said that under the agreement, much of the research and development would be conducted at the institute.

“This new agreement will see further global expansion of QIMR Berghofer’s cytotoxic T-lymphocyte program,” Professor Gannon said.

“This expanded research and development program builds on our joint success to date and demonstrates that QIMR Berghofer is a world leader in the field of immunotherapy.”

Under the agreement, QIMR Berghofer will receive an upfront payment and will receive additional payments based on achievement of certain milestones, as well as royalty payments based on future sales.