BioMed X and Merck Expand Collaboration Aiming to Leverage Cancer-Specific Vulnerabilities for Targeted Therapies

After successfully completing a project in RNA splicing in cancer this January, BioMed X and Merck continue their oncology collaboration to explore tumor immunogenicity enhancers.

Heidelberg, Germany, April 4, 2023. BioMed X, an independent biomedical research institute, announces the start of its new research project – “New Strategies to Enhance the Immunogenicity of Tumors” – in collaboration with Merck. The focus of this new research group will be to develop novel approaches for enhancing tumor immunogenicity to broaden the population of patients who could benefit from cancer immunotherapy.

“What if we could overcome the immunosuppressive microenvironment of solid tumors with a novel targeted approach?” asks Dr. Christian Tidona, Founder and Managing Director of the BioMed X Institute. “This call for application is inviting original research proposals that explore new ways to enhance the immunogenicity of tumors and thus boost the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors,” explains Dr. Tidona.

A high mutational burden, as well as aberrant mRNA splicing, are sources of neoantigens: unique antigens presented by tumor cells capable of eliciting an effective anti-tumor immune response. The most recently completed BioMed X project was also a Merck collaboration investigating RNA splicing patterns in cancer. “Using a new bioinformatic approach, we were able to query splicing variants that are unique to certain cancers,” said Dr. Alexandra Duarteformer group leader at the BioMed X Institute. “Such splicing abnormalities can shape the complex pathophysiology of cancer cells, including through the expression of immunogenic neoantigens,” added Dr. Duarte, now a Senior Scientist in the Department of mRNA Cancer Immunotherapies of Prof. Dr. UğurŞahin at HI-TRON in Mainz, Germany.

The new project launched today, marking the tenth joint research group between the two partners, expands this line of research by targeting tumor-specific DNA Damage Repair (DDR) mechanisms or exploiting tumor-intrinsic DDR defects to increase the tumor mutational burden and immunogenicity. Researchers who are interested in becoming part of this new BioMed X research team in Heidelberg are invited to respond to this international call for application by submitting a project proposal via the BioMed X Career Space at before May 28, 2023.

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