NEW YORK – BioNTech said on Thursday that it has entered a strategic partnership with the UK government to expand precision oncology in England.
Steve Barclay, the UK's secretary of state for health and social care, signed a memorandum of understanding with Mainz, Germany-based BioNTech, in which they agreed to work toward treating up to 10,000 cancer patients with personalized therapies by the end of 2030, either within clinical trials or with commercially approved drugs.
To accomplish this goal, the UK government will expand access to clinical trials via its Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, a program that the National Health Service in England is developing in collaboration with Genomics England. The launch pad is designed to identify patients eligible for personalized drug trials and contribute to the development of new vaccines for multiple cancer types. The UK government will also make available its genomics and health data assets.
BioNTech has committed to launching new trials of its investigational therapies, including its personalized messenger RNA-based cancer vaccines, which encode for sets of tumor-specific neoantigens. The drugmaker is studying these vaccines in various cancer indications as single agents and in combination with other immunotherapies.
For instance, BioNTech is evaluating an mRNA cancer vaccine, dubbed BNT113, in HPV16-positive solid cancers including head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. In the Phase II AHEAD-MERIT trial, the company is comparing BNT113 plus Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab) against just Keytruda in head and neck cancer patients with HPV-positive, PD-1-expressing tumors.
Under the MoU with the UK government, clinical trials of BioNTech's personalized mRNA cancer vaccines could potentially begin in England as early as September. BioNTech said it will also invest in an R&D hub in Cambridge, where it will employ more than 70 scientists, and open a new regional headquarter in London to house regulatory, medical, intellectual property, and legal operations.
The agreement with BioNTech comes as the UK government is trying to attract innovative companies and new research investment in the region and has committed to increasing R&D spending to £20 billion ($24 billion) annually.