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

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

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An NHS vaccinator administers the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 booster shot to a woman at a vaccination center in London. BioNTech has launched a large-scale trial of mRNA therapies to treat cancer and other diseases in the UK

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LONDON — The United Kingdom government announced a partnership with a German firm on Friday BioNTech to test potential vaccines for cancer and other diseases, as campaigners warned that any breakthrough must remain accessible and affordable.

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

They will be administered to early- and late-stage patients and will target both active cancer cells and preventing them from returning.

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

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

“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 span a variety of cancers and infectious diseases collectively affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”

Peter Johnson, Cancer UK’s national clinical director, said mRNA technology has the potential to transform approaches to a range 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 cancer mRNA vaccines, including collaborations between US companies Modern and Merckare also sued.

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

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

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Mohga Kamal-Yani, policy co-chair of the People’s Vaccine Alliance — a global group of health organizations, economists and activists — said news about the trial was 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 made available and accessible to developing countries,” Kamal-Yani said.

A government spokesman told CNBC that the research was too early to discuss pricing and distribution, but pointed to the track record of distributing free Covid-19 vaccines.

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