Parker Institute, Cancer Research Institute team up on neoantigen-based cancer vaccines

Researchers at 30 prestigious groups are coming together under a collaboration between the legacy Cancer Research Institute and tech billionaire Sean Parker’s new Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Their goal? To advance development of personalized cancer vaccines based on neoantigens.

Dubbed the Tumor neoantigEn SeLection Alliance, the collaboration will bring together researchers from a wide range of scientific fields, including immunology, data science, genomics, molecular biology, physics and engineering.

Among the groups participating are the Broad Institute, Caltech, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, National Cancer Centre Singapore, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche’s Genentech, AstraZeneca’s MedImmune and Neon Therapeutics. 

Researchers will mainly be focused on neoantigens, which can appear on the surface of cancer cells when they divide and multiply.

Parker, founder of file-sharing platform Napster and later founding president of Facebook, established the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy under his Parker Foundation with a $250 million injection in April.

The new team plans to test algorithms that predict tumor markers in DNA, hoping to create new personalized cancer vaccines to “turn all cancers into a curable disease,” as described by Adam Kolom, Parker Institute’s VP of business development and strategic partnerships.

Each participating group will receive genetic sequences from both normal and cancerous tissues and come up with a set of predicted neoantigens using their own algorithms. Those results will be tested to determine which predictions are most effective in stimulating a T-cell response, and the info will be shared so that participants can learn from each other.

Although this is the first large-scale collaboration between the newly formed Parker Institute and the Cancer Research Institute, which was founded in 1953, it is certainly not the industry’s first attempt at using neoantigen research to advance cancer treatments. A series of such efforts sprung up last year as Neon TherapeuticsModerna and Gristone each set out in the field.

So far, cancer vaccines have seen meager success, but it is unlikely that continued efforts will yield nothing. A recent report by GBI Research put the value of the cancer vaccines market at $7.5 billion by 2022, up from $2.5 billion in 2015.

The alliance will first focus on cancers with many neoantigens, such as advanced melanoma, colorectal cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, and could potentially expand into a wider range of cancers.