New UK partnership to accelerate mRNA research

Vaccine production

It is hoped that a new partnership between the UK government and BioNTech will help accelerate clinical trials of personalised immunotherapies for cancer and infectious disease vaccines. 

The agreement means cancer patients will get early access to trials exploring personalised mRNA therapies, like cancer vaccines. 

Professor Uğur Şahin, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of BioNTech, 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.” 

Access to the trials will be through the Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, which is being developed by NHS England and Genomics England. 

The launch pad will help to rapidly identify large numbers of cancer patients who could be eligible for the trials and explore potential vaccines across multiple types of cancer. Trials for innovative treatments could start as early as autumn 2023. 

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, said: “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.” 

Moderna vaccine partnership 

The UK government has also cemented a 10-year agreement with Moderna, which will see the company invest in mRNA R&D in the UK and build a new Innovation and Technology Centre. 

As well as Covid-19 vaccines, the deal will include vaccines developed for other respiratory diseases, such as flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

Richard Torbett, Chief Executive, Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), commented: “This partnership is fantastic news for British manufacturing and UK-based science and research. It is an important reminder that the Life Sciences Industry has the potential to be a key growth driver for the UK economy.” 

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