mRNA vaccine company, pHion Therapeutics, has announced a joint Innovate UK award with Queen’s University Belfast. The £1million grant will fund a 24-month project to develop a multi-antigenic therapeutic vaccine for prostate cancer. This next generation vaccine is possible because of pHion’s innovative technology which delivers the mRNA into antigen-presenting cells in stealth mode. The company’s proprietary RALA platform uses a peptide as the ‘taxi’ to deliver the mRNA cargo, and because the peptide is not recognised as foreign, no adverse response is triggered, and the mRNA trains the immune cells to attack the cancer.
The project is a collaboration between founder and CEO of pHion Therapeutics, Professor Helen McCarthy, and Dr Niamh Buckley, both from the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s. The £1million grant was awarded in the recent Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst 2022 Round 2: Industry-led Research & Development funding competition.
Prostate Cancer accounts for 7.3% of all cancers worldwide (1.4 million cases) and 27.8% of all cancers in the UK. The 5-year survival rate for the most aggressive form, metastatic Castrate Resistant Prostate Cancer (CRPC), is only 28.9% in the UK; and the incidence is also set to rise by a further 12% by 2035. Worldwide, a recent Global Cancer Observatory (GCO) study has predicted a 60% increase to ~2.3 million new cases and 740,000 deaths by 2040.
As Professor Helen McCarthy explains: ‘Given the likely trajectory for this aggressive disease, there is an urgent need to develop a next generation vaccine that can reduce mortality rates. Our vision is to begin large-scale toxicology studies by the end of the project and, from there, to progress to clinical trials.”
“The investment from Innovate UK will support growth in the global use of pHion’s unique technology, and further strengthen the UK's position in the emerging gene therapy market.”