BSMA leadership on COVID-19 supply chain challenges
April 7 2020
Atara Biotherapeutics is a clinical-stage company developing off-the-shelf, allogeneic T-cell immunotherapy.
“From our standpoint,” explained Matt Yedwabnick, Senior Director, Supply Chain at Atara, “many of the steps we have taken regarding managing supply chain in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a significant positive impact on our ability to continue to deliver on our corporate goals, key milestones, and mission to serve patients.”
Communication has ratcheted up. “About six weeks ago, we initiated a cross functional response team with representatives from all functions – IT, HR, safety, operations, communications, research. The team holds a daily huddle. There are also sub-teams which can focus on narrower topics. It’s been quite helpful.”
Additionally, Atara has added daily communications summary on COVID-19 and holds frequent all staff meetings.
The workplace has been transformed. Most staff now work from home, but workers involved with essential functions such as manufacturing and testing continue to go into the office.
For these essential function workers, Atara has instituted a number of mitigation measures. These include social distancing, use of personal protective equipment, and split shifts. Additionally, the company schedules non-interacting teams on alternating days.
For raw materials, Matt said, Atara is assessing supplier inventory and adjusting as necessary.
Prior to discarding incoming material packaging, the company sanitizes all boxes, packing, etc.
Atara has had to adjust its shipping lanes, especially those reliant on commercial air carriers. “Airline cancellations have increased our lead time and cost,” Yedwabnick noted. However, despite this, our shipments remained consistent throughout the months of March and April. The company continues to deliver product to patients from its inventory of off-the-shelf, allogeneic tab-cel® and ATA188.
Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, as part of its routine supply planning and operational risk management strategies, Atara had already manufactured significant inventories of its lead product candidate tab-cel® and process intermediates and procured the required starting materials needed to maintain long-term product supply across tab-cel®, ATA188 and other programs.
Also, the Atara clinical study and operational teams have been working closely with sites to ensure the safety of site staff and patients as well as preserve data integrity and access to treatment as appropriate. Where needed, they have established remote study visits, leveraged tele-medicine, home health care, and other methods to ensure continuity of care for patients while preserving key endpoint data.
Regarding working from home, Matt said that the daily operations stand-up meeting has now been translated into virtual space. “It’s even more valuable to stay connected,” he added.
Atara has increased schedule flexibility for staff with children at home.
“As we start to look at potentially reintegrating staff to the office, it’s nice to know that we have put processes, resources and support programs in place to ensure safety and productivity regardless of work force location.”