Consortium

Consortium of 5 Partners

The MERIT consortium comprises five dedicated partners with the vision to fight cancer through a highly innovative vaccination approach. The consortium is led by BioNTech AG, a highly innovative biotechnology company based in Germany. Four academic centers located in France, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland are highly involved in the patient recruitment and translational research within the MERIT project.

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BioNTech AG (Biopharmaceutical New Technologies) is a spin-off from the Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz founded in 2008. As a holding with seven subsidiaries with over 400 employees, the BioNTech group researches and develops novel technologies, including vaccines and gene-cell therapeutics to boost the body’s immune system for the targeted treatment of numerous cancers. BioNTech AG implemented a preclinically validated individualized vaccine development process that comprises all steps from unbiased cancer mutation discovery by next-generation-sequencing (NGS), target prioritization, rapid RNA vaccine synthesis, vaccination and immunomonitoring. Within the EU funded MERIT Project, BioNTech AG is project coordinator and sponsor of the multi-center trial and is responsible for the vaccine generation, sample logistics, clinical immunomonitoring, and biomarker studies.

EUFETS GmbH, one of BioNTech’s affiliates, will be responsible for the GMP manufacturing of the RNA vaccines (MERIT WAREHOUSE and MERIT MUTANOME).

Contact:
BioNTech AG
An der Goldgrube 12
D-55131 Mainz, Germany
E-Mail: info@biontech.de

Gustave Roussy Institute (GR), located in Villejuif, France, is one of the largest Cancer Centers in Europe. GR has appointed 2500 professionals who have a dedicated competence in health care, teaching and/or research in cancer encompassing 300 scientists, 210 physicians and 880 nurses and assistants. More than 12 000 patients are treated per year at GR with a bed capacity of 368 while more than 162 000 consultations ensuring the follow up of 43 000 cancer bearing individuals. The GR budget for research is 38 million euros dedicated to a yearly training of 2800 MDs or PhDs students in 27 research units (from INSERM or universities) leading to more than 400 publications in peer-reviewed journals per year.

Within the EU funded MERIT Project, the IGR will conduct prospective analyses of the relevance of immunogenic cell death biomarkers in the efficacy of the personalized mRNA-based immunotherapy. The IGR will actively participate in the multi-center phase I trial and recruit patients with TNBC.

Contact:
Gustave Roussy
114, Rue Édouard-Vaillant
94805 Villejuif Cedex, France

The Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Therapy (LMCT) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is actively involved in the development of innovative immunotherapy strategies of cancer and infectious diseases. The main goal of the ongoing research is to develop an integrated partnership between immunotherapy and conventional cancer treatment. The LMCT is located on the Life Science Campus of the VUB and is associated with the Medical School and the University Hospital of the VUB. The LMCT is member of the ‘Oncology Research Center’ established to enforce the interactions and collaboration between the several cancer-subdisciplines and cancer-research domains. To optimize the transfer of the translational research activities, a “Cancer Immunotherapy Therapy Unit” has been established with the clinical scientists of the Departments of Medical Oncology (head: J. de Greve) & Hematology (head: R. Schots), respectively.

Within the EU funded MERIT Project, the LMCT will test, in order to prepare MERITv2.0, new combinations of immunomodulatory molecules to enhance the immunogenicity of the personalized mRNA-based immunotherapy. The Cancer Clinic of the University Hospital will actively participate in the multi-center phase I trial.

Contact:
LMCT
Laarbeeklaan, 103
1090 Brussels, Belgium
E-Mail: yessam@vub.ac.be

The Department of Dermatology at the University Hospital of Zurich has expertise in optimizing vaccines and performing pre-clinical and clinical vaccination studies. Internal research results have led to the implementation of several immunotherapy trials for both the desensitization of allergy patients (particularly using intra-lymph node injection of allergens) and therapy of cancer (particularly using mRNA based vaccines).

Through this work, the University Hospital of Zurich has know-how and patents on vaccine formulations, delivery routes and immunomodulating drugs. Within the EU funded MERIT Project, our group will aim at optimizing the vaccine and its efficacy by use of proprietary adjuvants, concomitant treatments (immunomodulation, chemotherapies) and original delivery routes.

Contact:
University Hospital Zurich
Department of Dermatology
Steve Pascolo or Thomas Kuendig,
Gloriastrasse 31
CH – 8091 Zurich, Switzerland
E-Mail: steve.pascolo@usz.ch

UU has expertise in cancer genomics, clinical trials and structured longitudinal collection of data and samples from cancer patients. Genomic and proteomic analysis platforms and bioinformatics support is provided through core facilities at the Swedish Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) that provides state-of-the-art technologies for high-throughput biosciences. Together with Uppsala University Hospital, a systematic longitudinal biobanking scheme optimized for clinical cancer genomics has been fielded since 2010 (U-CAN).

This encompasses (1) standardized and centralized biobanking of blood products and fresh frozen tumour/normal tissues from ~96 % of cancer patients and (2) real time databases for cancer care whereby structured therapy-related data can be easily obtained also for research purposes. The Hospital has a well-functioning clinical trials unit with the highest rate of patient inclusion in oncology trials in Sweden. The trials unit has experience with immunotherapies and the necessary patient base to contribute 5 patients to the clinical trial proposed here.

In the MERIT project, UU will (1) develop and validate novel informatic tools for diagnostic mutation analysis in NGS data, (2) apply said tools to analyse tumour and normal sequences collected in the clinical trial and (3) together with the Uppsala University Hospital participate in the clinical trial by contributing est. 5 patients.

Contact:
Tobias Sjöblom
Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology
Uppsala University
Dag Hammarskjölds v 20
751 85 Uppsala, Sweden
Email: tobias.sjoblom@igp.uu.se