Cancer vaccine trials could start in England in the autumn

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Trials of personalized cancer vaccines in England are to be accelerated after a government deal with the company behind one of the main Covid vaccines.

UK health secretary Steve Barclay is due to sign a memorandum of understanding with BioNTech on Friday to “ensure that the best possible treatments” for cancer are made available as soon as possible.

The deal means cancer patients in England will get early access to trials investigating mRNA therapies such as cancer vaccines, possibly as early as this autumn.

MRNA therapies are tailored to the individual and provide the immune system with the genetic code of a specific tumor so that it can only attack the tumor, whereas chemotherapy attacks many different cells as well as cancer.

BioNTech has partnered with Pfizer to develop a widely used mRNA Covid vaccine, and its partnership with the UK government could deliver 10,000 doses of personalized treatments to UK patients by 2030 through a new research and development facility.

Barclay said: “Once cancer is detected, we need to ensure that the best possible treatments are available as soon as possible, including breast, lung and pancreatic cancer.

“BioNTech has helped the world develop a Covid-19 vaccine and shares our commitment to scientific advancement, innovation and cutting-edge scientific technology, making them ideal partners to conclude an agreement to work together on cancer vaccines.”

He added: “This partnership means that starting in September, our patients will be among the first to participate in trials and tests to provide targeted, personalized and precise therapies using new transformative therapies, both to treat existing cancer and and help stop it coming back.”

Professor Uğur Şahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, said: “The UK has successfully delivered Covid-19 vaccines so quickly because the National Health Service, academia, regulator and private sector have worked together in an exemplary manner.

“This deal is the result of lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic. Drug development can be accelerated without cutting corners if everyone works seamlessly together to achieve the same goal. Today’s agreement shows that we are committed to doing the same for cancer patients.”

Şahin added: “Our goal is to accelerate the development of immunotherapy and vaccines using technologies we have been researching for over 20 years. The collaboration will cover various types of cancer and infectious diseases affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

“If successful, this partnership could improve patient outcomes and provide early access to our cancer immunotherapy suite as well as innovative vaccines against infectious diseases – in the UK and around the world.”

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