ATA188, Targeting EBV Antigens to Treat Progressive MS: AJ Joshi, MD


The chief medical officer at Atara Biotherapeutics discussed the investigational agent ATA188, its mechanism to treat multiple sclerosis, and what to look for in its upcoming EMBOLD trial data readout. [WATCH TIME: 4 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 4 minutes

"This is not pan B-cell depletion or pan past plasma cell depletion. It’s only attacking the bad players, essentially. It’s these EBV-infected B-cells and plasma cells that are felt to be the causes of the autoimmune cascade and the pathology we’re seeing."

Despite the ever-expanding toolbox of treatment options for patients with relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), there has been little traction in terms of therapeutics for those with progressive forms of the disease. ATA188, an investigational agent developed by Atara Biotherapeutics, has been among the promising agents in the pipeline for progressive MS, after phase 1 open-label results suggested the therapy has a sustained clinical benefit over 39 months.1

Atara’s therapeutic is unique in that it targets Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-infected B-cells and plasma cells in the central nervous system that may catalyze autoimmune responses and MS pathophysiology. It has gained even more attention because of 2 recent publications, one in Science and one in Nature, that have bolstered further solidified the idea that EBV is the leading cause of MS. The first analysis by Albert Ascherio, MD, DrPH, et al included data from more than 10 million individuals and found 32-fold increase in MS incidence in patients who’ve contracted EBV.2

The company plans to release new data from its ongoing phase 2 EMBOLD study (NCT03283826) sometime in 2022. Ahead of its highly anticipated readout, NeurologyLive® sat down with AJ Joshi, MD, chief medical officer, Atara. Joshi provided insight on the mechanistic action of ATA188, how it specifically tackles MS, and the specific takeaways clinicians should be looking for in the upcoming data readout.

1. Bar-Or A, Pender MP, Hodgkinson SJ, et al. Updated open-label extension clinical data and new magnetization transfer ratio imaging data from a Phase I study of ATA188, an off-the-shelf, allogeneic Epstein-Barr virus-targeted T-cell immunotherapy for progressive multiple sclerosis. Presented at ECTRIMS Congress; October 13-15, 2021; Poster P638.
2. Bjornevik K, Cortese M, Healy BC, et al. Longitudinal analysis reveals high prevalence of Epstein-Barr virus associated with multiple sclerosis. Science. Published online January 13, 2022. doi:10.1126/science.abj8222
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