Amgen spinoff Atara cranks its Series B up to $52M

California's Atara Biotherapeutics has heaped more cash onto its second funding round, giving the Amgen ($AMGN) spinoff $52 million in Series B funds to support its programs in kidney disease and oncology.

Last month, the biotech hauled in $38.5 million from the likes of Celgene ($CELG), Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, Domain Associates and ex-parent Amgen. Now Its investors have come back around for a second closing, adding $13.5 million to the sum to help Atara push its two lead candidates through clinical development, and the company is expecting to churn out new data on both in the next 18 months.

PINTA 745, Atara's most advanced drug, is a Phase II peptide-antibody combo that inhibits myostatin in order to fight protein energy wasting, an inflammatory ailment that afflicts patients with end-stage renal disease. Next is STM 434, which is a Phase I-ready oncology therapy that inhibits activin to kill off ovarian cancer and other solid tumors. Finally, in keeping with its Columbian theme, Atara is developing NINA 842, a preclinical myostatin-targeting antibody designed to combat cancer-related weight loss.

The second close brings Atara's two-year haul to $72 million, and CEO Isaac Ciechanover plans to maintain a lean operation and dump the vast majority of that cash into clinical development. Atara maintains a tiny team of 6, and that efficient structure allows the biotech to be flexible with its focus, Ciechanover told FierceBiotech last month.

The company got its start in 2012 when Amgen and Kleiner Perkins agreed to pair one's preclinical assets with the other's cash and get Atara off the ground. Amgen handed over 6 early-stage molecules in the deal, and the company maintains an equity stake in its spinoff.

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