Identifying drug targets using genetic sequence information is a primary goal for many of our clients. However, with not all drugs or drug targets being small molecule-based, other therapeutic spaces benefit from sequencing data, a prime example being mRNA vaccines. Establishing the proof-of-concept of mRNA vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic has opened up mRNA vaccine technology as a promising candidate for a variety of applications, and requires a robust understanding of the encoded mRNA sequence and the cell types it interacts with.
BioNTech Launches Clinical Trial for Melanoma Vaccine
One hope for mRNA technology is that it can be used to fight cancer, and to that end, BioNTech is running a clinical trial for advanced melanoma, now in Phase II. Their candidate, called BNT111, codes for four cancer antigens, or proteins, specific to melanoma. Phase I clinical trial data indicated that BNT111 alone or in combination with anti-PD-1 immunotherapy produces a lasting halting or shrinking of tumor growth coupled with strong T-cell-mediated immunity against the antigens in the vaccine.
What is particularly interesting about this trial is that melanoma is a cancer type with a low mutational burden. A high tumor mutational burden (TMB) is an excellent biomarker for successful treatment with anti-PD-1 cancer drugs, but low TMB cancers are more likely to not respond to PD-1 treatment. A therapeutic for an indication of a low TMB will fill a huge gap in personalized cancer immunotherapy.
What Makes mRNA Technology Unique?
More broadly, mRNA vaccine technology is exciting due to its incredible versatility. Nearly any protein, whether a tumor antigen or viral antigen, can be encoded into mRNA and delivered to cells via lipid particles. Now that the technology exists, clinical trials like this one for melanoma will become commonplace as researchers test combinations of proteins for fighting cancer and other diseases.
Outsourcing Bioinformatics Analysis: How We Can Help
For any research questions centering on genetics-based identification of drug targets, pathways, and proteins involved in disease, we can help you tackle the challenging computational task of interpreting genomic data. Bridge Informatics’ bioinformaticians are trained bench biologists, so they understand the biological questions driving your computational analysis. Click here to schedule a free introductory call with a member of our team.
Jane Cook, Journalist & Content Writer, Bridge Informatics
Jane is a Content Writer at Bridge Informatics, a professional services firm that helps biotech customers implement advanced techniques in the management and analysis of genomic data. Bridge Informatics focuses on data mining, machine learning, and various bioinformatic techniques to discover biomarkers and companion diagnostics. If you’re interested in reaching out, please email [email protected] or [email protected].