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Fund Established to Develop Cancer Vaccines

Loose bills of multiple=Cancer Research Institute (CRI) a not-for-profit organization in New York to advance the science of tumor immunology and discover new cancer therapies, launched today the Cancer Vaccine Acceleration Fund (CVAF), a new model of philanthropic investment and academic-industry collaboration. CRI established the fund with the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research to encourage development of therapeutic cancer vaccines and other immune system-based therapies.

Therapeutic cancer vaccines harness one’s own immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells throughout the body. Clinical trials have provided evidence that therapeutic vaccines can help patients stabilize their existing cancers, achieve tumor regressions, and delay or prevent cancer recurrence. Despite this promise, says CRI, therapeutic cancer vaccine developers have not yet realized the potential of this new class of treatment.

An analysis of the field two years ago by CRI identified two major challenges to the rapid development of cancer vaccines:

  • Developing cancer vaccines is a complex undertaking because they must incorporate multiple components that acting together to be effective against cancer.
  • The funding gap for early phase clinical trials is large and getting larger, particularly for treatments considered more complex or riskier than average, such as cancer immunotherapy.

CRI says it created the Cancer Vaccine Acceleration Fund to overcome these challenges. CVAF uses a selective screening process to identify and prioritize the most promising cancer vaccines and vaccine components in global development. The fund then seeks out partnerships with pharmaceutical companies to bring these therapies into well-designed clinical trials, where they can be studied in depth and where potentially complementary immunotherapies can be identified.

Like any investor, CVAF seeks to structure its investments to generate a significant return on investment back to CRI if potential therapies supported by CVAF successfully obtain FDA approval. CRI says such returns will be reinvested in additional cancer vaccine clinical trials, helping the program to become self-sustaining.

In addition to funding, CVAF also offers to its partners the clinical trial expertise of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, which has designed and managed immunotherapy clinical trials for more than a decade.

CVAF has collaborations in place with pharmaceutical companies developing two immunotherapies, Tolerx, Inc., a biotechnology company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to support a phase 1 clinical trial of TRX518, an anti-GITR (glucocorticoid-induced tumor necrosis factor receptor)monoclonal antibody. Tolerx designed TRX518 to enhance the immune system by enabling T cells to attack cancer cells more effectively.

The fund estimates $40 million is needed over the next five years to support four to five early phase clinical trials per year. CRI has pledged to contribute $15 million toward that goal. Of the remaining $25 million to be raised, the fund has already secured $7.5 million in five-year commitments from a group of founding directors.

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Photo: borman818/Flickr

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