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The Covid pandemic accelerated the development of cancer vaccine

The Covid pandemic gave a major boost to the vaccine field. The Danish biotech company Expres2ion Biotechnologies, which is developing a vaccine against breast cancer, testifies to this.

“Covid was bad, but it was also very good. It attracted much attention to the actual point of vaccines in a world where forgotten diseases now seem to resurface due to vaccine hesitation,” says Max Søgaard, Senior Vice President of R&D and Technology at Danish company Exres2ion Biotechnologies.

The vaccine company was one of the companies that switched to developing a COVID-19 vaccine during the pandemic, together with biotech company Adaptvac, as part of an EU-funded consortium. The vaccine is based on the same platform as the company’s cancer vaccine against HER2-positive breast cancer.

Following Phase I clinical trials, Bavarian Nordic took control and drove the vaccine through Phase II and III. The Covid vaccine showed promising results in humans in a Phase III study, but it never reached the market, as Bavarian Nordic felt there was no commercial benefit to the vaccine as it is a difficult vaccine to adapt quickly to new virus variants.

Max Søgaard will speak at New Horizons in Biologics and Bioprocessing

On 28 May, Max Søgaard will speak at the New Horizons in Biologics & Bioprocessing event in Copenhagen on developing a novel VLP-based vaccine candidate for treatment of HER2+ breast cancer.

However, the lessons learnt from the development of the Covid vaccine are now being used by Expres2ion in developing its breast cancer vaccine. And had it not been for the Covid pandemic, the platform would not have been validated as quickly as it actually was, Max Søgaard believes.

“We are now finalising production and hope to submit an application for a clinical trial this year and hopefully start it next year.”

The cancer vaccine developed by the company against HER2-positive breast cancer uses so-called virus-like particles, which have proven effective against human papillomavirus (HPV), which can, in some cases, cause cervical cancer, for example. HER2 is a protein found in the body that is abundant in HER2-positive breast cancer and causes cancer cells to divide rapidly.

“The immune system is trained not to counteract this protein for obvious reasons, but the vaccine allows us to present it in such a way that the immune system starts reacting to HER2.”

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