Immunotherapies are promising to treat cancer by selectively reactivating the body's own immune system to attack tumor cells.
For the first time, scientists from the German Cancer Research Center and Bayer will work in a joint laboratory located at the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg to develop novel immunotherapies. The joint laboratory will accommodate up to twelve staff, and first projects are expected to start in the middle of this year. The partners will invest up to €3 million in total per year under the expanded alliance.
“The German Cancer Research Center's excellent expertise in basic research in oncology and Bayer's many years of experience in the development of new therapeutic options complement each other perfectly. Within the next five years, we aim to identify at least two new drug candidates in the field of cancer immunotherapy and to move them forward to the start of clinical trials,” says Prof. Dr. Otmar D. Wiestler, Chairman of the DKFZ's Management Board.
“We are looking forward to interlinking our collaboration with the German Cancer Research Center more closely to develop new treatment options in the field of immunotherapy for cancer patients,” said Professor Dr. Andreas Busch, Member of the Executive Committee of Bayer HealthCare and Head of Global Drug Discovery. “Bayer is committed to develop innovative therapies that can help people with serious diseases such as cancer to live longer and improve their quality of life.”
The partners will build on established structures of their existing collaboration including joint review processes of individual projects and resource allocations. The rights to the research results are shared equally between the partners.
"The goal of one of our joint projects is to look for immunosuppressive molecules on the surface of tumor cells. In a next step we want to block them with antibodies and thereby activate the specific immune response against the tumor cells," explains Prof. Dr. Philipp Beckhove, Head of Translational Immunology at the DKFZ. "The new joint laboratory allows us to closely and continuously collaborate with the colleagues from Bayer and, thus, will support the faster translation of concepts from the lab into clinical trials."
The partners can already look back on four successful years of collaborative work. 22 projects have been initiated so far, and some of these have already passed important milestones. They moved on to the next phase of drug development, the compound screening for new potential drug candidates. Up to now, the two partners have invested more than €10 million in their ongoing joint research since 2008.