Immunotherapies have been taking the biotech world by storm. Among these are cancer vaccines, which are directed at solid tumors and aim to boost patients’ immune systems to fight cancer.
The cancer vaccine world is broad, with many players.Here’s an overview of some of the current efforts underway by European biotechs.
One big player in the cancer vaccine world is BioNTech, a German biotech working on personalized mRNA-based immunotherapies.
“We try to provide individualized immunotherapies. If you try to compare two patients’ tumors, they are never the same. We recognize this fact and try to develop individualized treatments for each patient,” Sean Marett, the company’s COO, said last June 20 at Labiotech Refresh in Berlin.
One of BioNTech’s cancer vaccine platforms is IVAC (Individualized Vaccines Against Cancer) MUTANOME, where patient’s tumors are sequenced to identify neoantigens, which are then incorporated into an mRNA-based vaccine.
“We’re doing, effectively, de novo target discovery in real time,” Marett says.
The company also has two approaches, FixVAC and RNA WAREHOUSE, which are based on the knowledge that across patient populations, there are shared antigens that are expressed differently in each individual.
“Regarding our FixVac approach, each eligible patient is treated with exactly the same product,” Marett tells Labiotech.
“With respect to our RNA WAREHOUSE concept, we’re calibrating the treatment for each patient to their individualized expression of the cancer-selective shared antigens.”
BioNTech has partnered with big industry players, such as Genentech, to develop its cancer vaccines.
They currently have a number of products in Phase I and Phase I/II clinical trials for various indications, including melanoma, head and neck cancer, and breast cancer.
Another German biotech, CureVac, is also working hard to bring mRNA-based approach to the clinic. Though they recently suffered a Phase II failure of its candidate CV9104 for prostate cancer. The company has additional drugs in the pipeline, including a vaccine targeting non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
The company has additional drugs in the pipeline, including a vaccine targeting non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
“What we’ve learned here is that mRNA is not enough on its own— you have to break tolerance and you have to make it more immunogenic.” CureVac CEO Ingmar Hoerr told Labiotech in January.
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