Major agreement to deliver new cancer vaccine trials

Ground-breaking new cancer treatments have moved a step closer with the signing of a major agreement between the government and BioNTech SE

  • Government signs agreement with BioNTech SE to provide up to 10,000 patients with precision cancer immunotherapies by 2030
  • NHS England’s new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad aims to improve access to personalised treatments and clinical trials
  • BioNTech SE to set up laboratories and a regional hub in England to support the development of immunotherapies

Ground-breaking new cancer treatments have moved a step closer with the signing of a major agreement between the government and BioNTech SE.

Building on a memorandum of understanding signed in January, the partnership will provide cancer patients with improved access to the latest cancer trials and therapies currently being developed.

The government has signed a long term partnership agreement with the German-based company BioNTech – which previously developed a world leading COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer – to ensure more patients can benefit from personalised cancer treatments.

This includes UK-based clinical trials intended to help treat patients through the use of precision immunotherapies which work by stimulating the immune system to recognise and eliminate cancer cells. The aim is to provide access to personalised treatments for up to 10,000 patients by 2030.

BioNTech SE has already begun conducting clinical trials in the UK. Further trials will be launching although the majority of patients are expected to be enrolled from 2026 onwards.

To help deliver this research, BioNTech plans to set up new laboratories in Cambridge with an expected capacity of more than 70 highly skilled scientists as well as a new regional hub for the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, said:

"This landmark new agreement takes us one step closer to delivering life-saving new cancer treatments for thousands of patients right across the country.

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

"Personalised cancer vaccines have the potential to completely revolutionise the way we treat this cruel disease and it is hugely welcome that, thanks to today’s announcement, clinical trials will be rolled out widely."

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay said:

"This partnership is a huge step forward in the fight against cancer.

"By working together with BioNTech on these innovative treatments we can make progress and save lives and I’m excited by the potential these trials have to both treat patients with cancer and those who have had it to stop it returning.

"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."

A new Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad (CVLP) led by NHS England in partnership with Genomics England, will help to rapidly identify cancer patients who could be eligible for potential trials.

It will work by creating a database of suitable NHS cancer patients who will be offered the choice to take part in personalised cancer vaccine trials.

The partnership will aim to help patients with early and late-stage cancers and, if successfully developed, cancer vaccines could become part of standard care.

Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of the NHS said:

"The NHS will not stop in its efforts to pioneer new treatments that could be life-changing for future generations. This is why we are developing our very first Cancer Vaccine Launch Pad, enabling us to identify thousands of NHS patients suitable for cancer vaccine trials – giving them the earliest possible access to cutting-edge technology that has the potential to change cancer care forever.

"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 – and with the first patients set to take part in vaccine trials this autumn, we hope to find a way of vaccinating people against their own cancers and improve their chances of survival."

Trials will focus on personalised mRNA-based cancer immunotherapies - a type of cancer treatment that activates the patient’s immune system and can either be designed to target shared abnormalities in a specific type of cancer or tailored to an individual’s tumour.

Immunotherapies tailored to an individual are created by analysing a patient’s tumour to identify mutations that are specific to that individual’s cancer, then using that information to create an immunotherapy personal to that patient.

The partners involved will work to make processes as simple and effective as possible with BioNTech aiming to start further clinical trials and make potential new therapies available in the UK as soon as possible.

Professor Uğur Şahin, M.D., Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of BioNTech said:

"We are truly honoured to be an integral part of this landmark partnership, alongside the UK government, NHS England, Genomics England, and the National Institute for Health and Care Research.

"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.

"If successful, this collaboration has the potential to improve outcomes for patients with cancer not just in the UK, but also worldwide."

Sean Marett, CMG, Chief Business Officer & Chief Commercial Officer at BioNTech SE, said:

"Through the development by the UK of a unified national contract approach for clinical trials that will let hospitals rapidly sign-up to clinical trials being undertaken in the UK by BioNTech, we are hoping to reach many UK cancer patients that wish to participate in clinical trials with new BioNTech investigational cancer treatments quickly and efficiently."

Business & Trade Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, said:

"This government is supporting our life sciences sector to be among the best in the world, with no better example than our global leadership in developing and rolling out the first Covid-19 vaccines.

"Investment in life sciences is key if we are to become a science superpower by 2030, helping to grow the economy and provide substantial health benefits for the British public and the world."

Patients will be asked by the NHS to consent to be put forward for clinical trials, and surplus tissue samples will be used to assess their eligibility.

The detail of any suitable clinical trials will be made available to the participant and their treating clinical team to see if they would like to take part in the relevant trial.

Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology Chloe Smith said:

"I know from personal experience how it feels to face a cancer diagnosis. I was immensely fortunate to benefit from world-leading care from our wonderful NHS. There are brilliant scientists, researchers, and medics working on the kinds of lifesaving cancer treatments and therapies that this deal will deliver.

"This partnership is the perfect example of how our £94 billion life sciences sector is improving lives across the country. This deal will anchor high-skilled jobs and investment in the UK. But most importantly, it will deliver better outcomes for patients with cancer in England, ensuring that more of them can go on to live long, happy, and healthy lives."

Chris Wigley, Chief Executive Officer of Genomics England said:

"Since the times of Darwin, Franklin, and Sanger, the UK has been a true world leader in genomic science and healthcare. To sustain that leadership, we have to continue to deliver more world firsts, more innovations, and more benefits to patients, both nationally and internationally.

"We talk about the Cancer Vaccine “Launch Pad” – the rocket that is being launched is access to ground-breaking personalised cancer therapies that can transform lives and improve outcomes for those affected by this terrible disease. It’s almost hard to comprehend, but there are medicines made just for you, to attack your very own cancer tumour.

"We’re thrilled that this partnership will see genomics extend beyond diagnosis and take us towards a future of personalised cancer treatment."

Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street
The Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP
The Rt Hon Steve Barclay MP
The Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP