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

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

An NHS vaccinator 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 British government announced a partnership with a German company on Friday BioNTech to test potential vaccines for cancer and other diseases, as activists warned that any progress must remain affordable and accessible.

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

It will be applied to patients in the early and late stages, and will target active cancer cells and prevent them from returning.

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 therapies to patients by September 2023 by the end of the decade.

The company developed one of the most widespread vaccines against Covid-19 with an American pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Its chief executive, Ugur Sahin, said it had learned lessons from the coronavirus pandemic about collaboration between Britain’s National Health Service, academics, regulators and the private sector in developing the drugs it now uses.

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

Peter Johnson, UK’s National Clinical Director for Cancer, said mRNA technology has the potential to transform approaches to a number of diseases.

The government confirmed to CNBC that the announcement represents a private investment in the UK, but will be supported by a new NHS-funded cancer vaccine launch platform.

Other mRNA cancer vaccines, including collaborations between US companies Modern and Merckis also being judged.

Tim Bierley, a campaigner at the UK-based group Global Justice Now, said big pharmaceutical companies have a “terrible record of raising the prices of new drugs, even when public money has played a key role in bringing them to market”.

“The government has a moral duty to encourage BioNtech to price this potentially life-saving vaccine so that it is available to all,” he said.

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Mohga Kamal-Yanni, co-director of policy for the People’s Vaccine Alliance — a global group of health organizations, economists and activists — said news about the trial is good, but that any outcome “belongs to the people” because of the amount of public 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 spokesman told CNBC that the research was too early to discuss pricing and distribution, but pointed to its record of distributing free Covid-19 vaccines.

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