Amgen, KPCB create new spinout biotech firm
December 2012
by Lori Lesko  |  Email the author


THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.óGlobal biopharmaceutical firm Amgen has partnered with venture capital group Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) to launch Atara Biotherapeutics, a new drug development company focused on innovative therapies for patients with chronic diseases including cancer and kidney diseases.  
Amgen will have a minority equity stake in Atara, while KPCB will initially finance the venture. Atara will have licenses to six Amgen assets in various stages of development ranging from preclinical to Phase I. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
KPCB has backed entrepreneurs in more than 500 ventures leading to 150 IPOs, 350,000 jobs and a deep strategic network. The firm has helped build pioneering companies like Align, Amazon, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Genomic Health, Google, Intuit, Juniper Networks, Netscape, Symantec, VeriSign and WebMD. KPCB partners serve on the boards of Amazon, Apple, Bloom Energy, Flipboard, Foundation Medicine, Google, Hewlett-Packard, Nest, Square, Tesaro and Zynga, among others. KPCB operates from offices in San Francisco, Shanghai and Beijing.
"Amgen is excited to partner with KPCB to help advance molecules in Amgen's pipeline that have the potential to treat serious illnesses," says Dr. Sean E. Harper, executive vice president of research and development at Amgen. "With facilities in both the Bay Area and near Amgen's Thousand Oaks campus, Atara Biotherapeutics will provide the opportunity to further foster biotechnology innovation in Amgen's communities."  
According to a company press release dated Oct. 25, Dr. Isaac Ciechanover, a former partner at KPCB, will serve as Atara's president and CEO.
"We look forward to building on Amgen's research to bring a promising group of therapeutics to patients with serious illnesses," Ciechanover said in a news release, adding in an e-mail: "We have not commented on our programs and strategy as yet."
Despite requests for more information on the new company's plans, no more details about Atari BioTherapeutics were forthcoming by press time. A website page for Atari at went up on Oct. 27, listing a Westlake Village, Calif., address and phone number, but offered no visuals, directors, executives or employees.
Historically, Amgen's oncology portfolio focused on supportive care products for complications arising from cancer treatment, like anemia. However, in recent years, Amgen has put more resources into its oncology therapeutics pipeline in an attempt to develop drugs that directly treat cancer itself. But the company took a hit earlier this year when a late-stage trial Sensipar, a drug designed to treat secondary hyperparathyroidism, failed to reduce the risk of death and cardiovascular problems in patients with a complication of kidney disease.  
The need and market are there. The U.S. National Institutes of Health estimates that 40,250 men and 24,520 women will be diagnosed with kidney cancer this year, with the condition claiming the lives of 13,570 men and women.
Code: E121218

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