BioNTech says it will start cancer vaccine trials in the UK from September

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NHS Vaccination gives a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 booster shot to a woman, at a vaccination center in London. BioNTech is launching a large-scale trial of mRNA therapies to treat cancer and other diseases in the UK

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LONDON – The UK government announced on Friday a partnership with a German company BioNTech to test vaccines for cancer and other diseases, as activists warned that any progress must remain affordable and accessible.

Cancer patients in England will have early access to trials involving personalized mRNA treatments, including cancer vaccines, which aim to stimulate the immune system to attack harmful cells.

They are given to patients at an early and late stage and they target both active cancer cells and prevent them from coming back.

BioNTech will establish new research and development centers in the UK, with a laboratory in Cambridge and headquarters in London, and aims to deliver 10,000 treatments to patients from September 2023 to the end of the decade.

The company developed one of the most widely distributed Covid-19 vaccines together with a US pharma company Pfizer. Its CEO, Ugur Sahin, said they had learned lessons from the coronavirus pandemic about collaboration between Britain’s National Health Service, academics, regulators and the private sector in developing drugs that they were concerned about. right now.

“Our goal is to accelerate the development of immunotherapies and vaccines using technologies that we have been researching for more than 20 years,” he said in a statement. “The collaboration will cover various types of cancer and infectious diseases that collectively affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”

Peter Johnson, Britain’s National Clinical Director for Cancer, said mRNA technology had the potential to revolutionize approaches to a number of diseases.

The government confirmed to CNBC that the announcement represented private investment into the UK, but it would be supported by a new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad funded by the NHS.

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Other mRNA cancer vaccines, including collaborations between US companies New and Merckalso being tested.

Tim Bierley, campaigner at the UK-based group Global Justice Now, said there was a “horrible reality of big pharmaceutical companies raising prices on new medicines, even where public money has played a key role to bring them to market.”

“The government has a moral obligation to push BioNtech to set the price of this potentially life-saving vaccine so that it is affordable for all,” he said.

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Mohga Kamal-Yanni, co-director of policy for the People’s Immunization Alliance – a global group of health groups, economists and activists – said news of the trial was good, but that any outcome “relates to the people” because of how many people there are. funding involved.

“The UK government needs to say how it will ensure that any new medicine, vaccine or technology is available and affordable to developing countries,” Kamal-Yanni said.

A government spokesperson told CNBC that the research was at an early stage to discuss pricing and distribution, but pointed to its record in distributing free Covid-19 vaccines.

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