Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci reported by the BBC as the "husband and wife behind one of the most successful Covid vaccines" The couple co-founded the German biotech company BioNTech in 2008, "exploring a new technology involving messenger RNA (messenger RNA or mRNA) to treat cancer" .
And although they partnered with Pfizer to apply the same approach to the Covid vaccine, "doctors now hope it could lead to new treatments for melanoma, bowel cancer and other types of tumors."
BioNTech has several trials underway, including one where patients are given a personalized vaccine to trigger their immune system to attack their disease. The mRNA technology used works by sending an instruction to cells to produce an antigen or protein. In Covid this antigen is part of the spike protein of the virus. In cancer it will be a marker present on the surface of cancer cells. This will teach the immune system to recognize and target infected cells for destruction.
Speaking on BBC Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Professor Tureci said: "The mRNA acts as a marker and allows us to tell the body to produce the drug or vaccine... in this case cancer antigens that distinguish cancer cells from normal ones. normal cells".
Harnessing the power of mRNA to produce vaccines was not proven until Covid. But the “success” (our “ours”) of mRNA vaccines in the pandemic has encouraged scientists to test the technology in cancer.
The Guardian reports that vaccines targeting cancer could be available “before 2030”, although Özlem Türeci warns that “As scientists we are always hesitant to say that we will have a cure for cancer. We have a number of discoveries and we will continue to work with them."
BioNTech was working on mRNA cancer vaccines before the pandemic, but turned to Covid vaccine production in the face of the global emergency. The company currently has several cancer vaccines in clinical trials.