Development of innovative vaccines against cancer
Prof. Dr. med. Ugur Sahin
Experimental Oncology III, Medical Clinic, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz | BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals GmbH
Recipient: Experimental Oncology III, Medical Clinic, Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
Funding: GO-Bio Phase I (1.3.2007 - 28.2.2010, 1.242.119 Euro)
Recipient: BioNTech RNA Pharmaceuticals GmbH
Funding: GO-Bio Phase II (1.3.2010 - 31.12.2013, 2.892.862 Euro)
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is related to the genetic molecule deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). For a long time, scientists have been trying to develop vaccines on the basis of RNA. These so-called ribopharmaceuticals are a kind of ‘single-use working copies’ of individual genes, which are broken down after their use in the formation of proteins. This enables the triggering of a targeted response on the side of the immune system, although without permanent changes in the genetic material of cells.
However, RNA vaccines are not yet sufficiently stable for direct application: when in injected, they are broken down too quickly to have a palpable effect in the body. Using genetic engineering procedures, Ugur Sahin and her team have now developed vaccines based on optimised RNA chains that have been shown to trigger an efficient immune response in animal models, resulting in the inhibition and regression of tumours.
This patented technology for the pharmacological optimisation of RNA represents a broadly applicable biotechnological tool for the improvement of existing vaccines. Aided by the Go-Bio funding, it is hoped to found a company that will build on this platform technology and offer services as well as develop proprietary vaccines for cancer immunotherapy.