Pioneering cancer vaccine trials could start in UK by September | UK News

Patients in the UK will get early access to clinical trials for new cancer treatments under a government deal with German pharmaceutical company BioNTech.

BioNTech developed an mRNA vaccine with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer in 2020 during the COVID pandemic.

Its partnership with the UK government aims to deliver personalised treatments to 10,000 patients by 2030 through a new research and development hub in Cambridge.

Clinical trials could begin as soon as September, Health Secretary Steve Barclay said.

The mRNA technology works by targeting specific cells with genetic code from the cancer it is seeking to fight, in contrast to more generalised chemotherapy.

A member of staff poses with a phial of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Cardiff on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the UK's history. Care home workers, NHS staff and people aged 80 and over began receiving the jab this morning.
BioNTech worked with Pfizer to develop the widely-used mRNA vaccination against COVID

The company’s chief medical officer Dr Ozlem Tureci said the UK was the “obvious” candidate to house the new facility due to the NHS’s ability to quickly find participants.

Britain’s “exceptionally agile” health regulator and genomics sector were added bonuses, he said.

BioNTech co-founder and chief executive Ugur Sahin said: “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.

“Today’s agreement shows we are committed to do the same for cancer patients.”

He added: “Our goal is to accelerate the development of immunotherapies and vaccines using technologies we have been researching for over 20 years. 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.”

Physicians Ugur Sahin and 'zlem T'reci
Dr Ozlem Tureci and Ugur Sahin – the husband and wife physicians behind BioNTech

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

“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.”

He added: “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.”

“[It] demonstrates the UK remains one of the most attractive places in the world for innovative companies to invest in research.”