Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the UK government and BioNTech in January 2023, an agreement has been established to provide cancer patients with “improved access” to cancer trials. The partnership will ensure that more patients are able to explore personalised cancer treatments. Trials have already begun in the UK, but most patients are expected to enrol from 2026 onwards. The goal is to provide personalised treatments to around 10,000 patients by 2030.  

Leading the field 

BioNTech intends to establish new laboratories in Cambridge with over 70 “highly skilled” scientists, and a regional hub for the UK. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commented that the “landmark new agreement” brings the country “one step closer” to life-saving treatments for thousands of patients. 

“The UK is a global leader in life sciences – helping to create thousands of highly skilled jobs and pioneering research – and it is a testament to this success that BioNTech have chosen to make this significant investment here today.”  

Mr Sunak believes that a personalised vaccine approach to cancer has potential to “completely revolutionise the way we treat this cruel disease”. Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, agrees that the partnership is a “huge step forward in the fight against cancer”.  

“This further demonstrates that the UK is an attractive location for innovative companies to invest and pioneer cutting edge treatments for our patients and underlines this government’s commitment to research and development.”  
Working with the NHS 

The Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad (CVLP) will be led by NHS England and Genomics England. This will encourage quick identification of eligible cancer patients to join trials. It does this through a database of suitable NHS patients. The NHS CEO Amanda Pritchard emphasised that the NHS “will not stop” efforts to “pioneer new treatments”. The CVLP, she said, will give patients the “earliest possible access to cutting-edge technology”.  

“Thanks to advances in treatment and care alongside NHS awareness campaigns, cancer survival is at an all-time high, but the potential to stop cancer from returning is truly remarkable.” 

Chris Wigley is Genomics England’s CEO and describes the CVLP as a “rocket” being launched.  

“Since the times of Darwin, Franklin, and Sanger, the UK has been a true world leader in genomic science and healthcare.” 

He is “thrilled” that the partnership takes genomics “beyond diagnosis” towards “a future of personalised cancer treatment”.  

Personalised mRNA  

The trials are centred around the revolutionary mRNA platform, with immunotherapies to target shared mutations or individual tumours. CEO and co-founder of BioNTech, Professor Uğur Şahin, is “truly honoured” to be an “integral part of this landmark partnership”.  

“The United Kingdom’s expertise in genomic analyses in cancer patients is a critical component of our shared endeavour to make mRNA-based and precision cancer immunotherapies widely accessible through clinical trials.” 

Professor Şahin hopes this partnership will facilitate better outcomes for patients “worldwide”. 

We look forward to hearing more from BioNTech during the keynote panel on cancer vaccine timelines at the World Vaccine Congress in Barcelona this October.  

For more on vaccine partnerships and agreements, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter here.