Cancer vaccine trials to begin in Britain this year

BioNTech - Dado Ruvic/Reuters
BioNTech – Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Cancer vaccine trials will start in the UK this year after the Government signed a deal with BioNTech, the company that created the mRNA technology behind the Pfizer Covid jab.

The agreement will enable BioNTech to conduct cutting-edge clinical trials, with British patients set to be enrolled as soon as autumn. The so-called cancer vaccines are not preventative but are therapeutic tools designed to fight established disease and advanced tumours.

BioNTech created the world’s first authorised mRNA vaccine for Covid in 2020, which works by injecting a person with a small piece of genetic code to create a specific immune response.

It was found to be safe and effective at protecting against severe disease from Covid, and updated omicron-specific jabs are being rolled out to the over-50s.

Britain was the first country to give people the BioNTech vaccine, and the company has now invested an undisclosed amount of money to conduct innovative mRNA vaccine research in the UK.

It is understood a lab of around 70 scientists will be created in Cambridge to spearhead the research, while the firm will also set up a London-based office as its UK headquarters.

Patients will be recruited by the company for the trials via the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, which is being created by the NHS and Genomics England and will help researchers find ideal candidates for various drugs. Other companies will also be able to use the tool to match up patients with suitable trials.

Multiple forms of cancer to be targeted

Multiple forms of cancer, including breast, lung and pancreatic, will be targeted by BioNTech’s vaccine technology, as well as Covid, malaria and TB.

It is hoped that the technology and partnership will be found to be safe and effective, embedded into standard care and that 10,000 doses will be given to UK patients by 2030.

The announcement comes less than a month after it was confirmed that the UK had signed a deal with Moderna, the world’s other premier mRNA medicines manufacturer, to make mRNA vaccines in Britain.

“BioNTech helped lead the world on a Covid-19 vaccine and they share our commitment to scientific advancement, innovation and cutting edge scientific technology, making them perfect partners for a deal to work together on cancer vaccines,” said Steve Barclay, the Health Secretary.

“This partnership will mean that, from as early as September, our patients will be among the first to participate in trials and tests to provide targeted, personalised and precision treatments using transformative new therapies to both treat the existing cancer and help stop it returning.”

Potential to improve outcomes for patients

Prof Ugur Sahin, the chief executive and do-founder of BioNTech, said the rapid rollout of the Covid jab in Britain had been a key reason in the firm’s decision to run UK clinical trials.

“This agreement is a result of the lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic. Drug development can be accelerated without cutting corners if everyone works seamlessly together towards the same goal,” he said.

“The collaboration will cover various cancer types and infectious diseases affecting collectively hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“If successful, this collaboration has the potential to improve outcomes for patients and provide early access to our suite of cancer immunotherapies as well as to innovative vaccines against infectious diseases in the UK and worldwide.”

Data published last year and presented at a conference in Chicago showed that in eight of 16 people with pancreatic cancer a custom immune response was created to target their tumour by nine doses of the cancer vaccine, each given a week apart.

Published by anthonyhayble

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