- Researchers trust they may have found the key to curing cancers simply by manipulating the structure of previously less-than-effective cancer vaccines.
- A new startup, Flashpoint Therapeutics, is seeking to cure cancer by changing the structure of current cancer vaccines.
Led by nanotech entrepreneur and Northwestern University International Institute for Nanotechnology Director Chad Mirkin, Flashpoint Therapeutics, plans to utilize research from the Institute to transform the field of cancer vaccines. These vaccines, known as immunotherapies, activate T-cells to target cancerous tumors.
Cancer Vaccines Can Be Transformed To Curative With Proper Structure Design
According to Mirkin, a member of Crain’s 2020 Tech 50 list and the 40 Under 40 Class of 2001, cancer vaccines can be transformed from ineffective to curative with proper structural design.
He explains that cancer vaccines have been ineffective due to a lack of focus on structure, unlike other pharmaceutical drugs.
The current approach to cancer vaccines involves a mix of antigens, which target the immune system, and adjuvants, which stimulate the effectiveness of the antigen, without considering the optimal ratio between the two.
Michelle Teplensky, a former Northwestern postdoctoral associate and co-founder of Flashpoint with Mirkin, adds that there must be a balanced combination of antigens and adjuvants to maximize the vaccine’s effectiveness.
In a statement, Northwestern said that Mirkin has invented and developed spherical nucleic acids, which allows scientists to pinpoint exactly how many antigens and adjuvants are being delivered to cells and enable tailoring of how the vaccine components are presented and the rate at which they are processed.
Flashpoint’s Cancer Vaccine Structure Is More Effective
A recent study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering, authored by Teplensky, now an assistant professor at Boston University, demonstrates that Flashpoint Therapeutics’ method of creating a cancer vaccine structure is more effective compared to traditional vaccines.
Flashpoint, which was recently founded and is raising seed funding, aims to begin clinical trials of its vaccines next year, starting with cervical cancer and two other types of cancer. The CEO of Flashpoint, Adam Margolin, declined to disclose the amount of financing.
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