Scientists believe mRNA vaccines could be a game-changer against many diseases – Copyright GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File MARIO TAMA
German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which developed a pioneering Covid-19 vaccine, will conduct trials in the UK of a cancer treatment using the same mRNA technology, the company announced on Friday.
BioNTech said in a statement that up to 10,000 people will receive immunotherapy tailored to individual tumors by the end of 2030, either as part of a trial or as an approved treatment.
The project is part of a new agreement with the British government aimed at “cancer immunotherapy, vaccines against infectious diseases and expanding the presence of BioNTech in the UK,” the company said.
BioNTech will also open a new R&D center with around 70 staff in Cambridge, as well as establish a regional headquarters in London.
“Our goal is to accelerate the development of immunotherapies and vaccines using technologies that we have explored for over 20 years,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech.
The UK “has been so successful in delivering Covid-19 vaccines so quickly,” he said, demonstrating “that drug development can be accelerated without cutting corners if everyone works together towards the same goal.”
The messenger RNA method debuted with the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which became the first Covid vaccine approved in the West in late 2020.
Scientists believe that mRNA vaccines, which elicit an immune response by delivering genetic molecules that code for key parts of a pathogen into human cells, could be a game-changer against many diseases.
They also take less time to develop than traditional vaccines.
BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine was developed and approved by regulators in less than a year.
BioNTech is also working on mRNA-based vaccines against malaria, influenza and shingles.
The company has been developing mRNA-based cancer therapies since its founding in 2008, and so far they have been trialled in several hundred people.