TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa company that has been researching and developing a vaccine for certain types of skin cancers could be soon receiving a grant to begin research on a cervical cancer treatment for underprivileged women.

8 On Your Side’s Daisy Ruth first spoke with members of Morphogenesis, Inc. in August of 2019 as they began to test their vaccine against certain types of skin cancers.

The vaccine creates a “beacon” on tumor cells and brings the body’s immune system in to expose its antigens.

8 On Your Side learned on Tuesday that Morphogenesis has completed its first-in-human phase one trial of a melanoma vaccine and has now moved into studying patients in earlier stages of skin cancers.

We also learned the company has applied for a grant to move in to treat cervical cancer.

“This particular disease is really bad in countries where women can’t afford all the preventative care that we have here. So we’re really excited because this formulation will allow women to essentially treat themselves for this deadly disease,” said Dr. Patricia Lawman, Morphogenesis CEO.

Dr. Lawman is hoping the research will be funded soon, as the company is in the fundable range. She said Congress must appropriate the money and the company will know what they may be getting by next month, though Dr. Lawman said there is “a pretty good chance that we’ll get it.”

The formula for cervical cancer will be very similar to that of the company’s skin cancer vaccine.

“We’re putting a flag on the tumor cells so that the immune system can recognize them and destroy them. But we need different ways of actually getting these into the tumor cells. So for skin cancers, it’s really easy to do an injection, some of the other cancers. But we can always form different delivery methods that will always make it easier,” Dr. Lawman explained.

Morphogenesis hopes to put the formula in an applicator that women can use to treat themselves.

“I mean, that’s the ultimate goal. So there won’t have to be a medical clinic, people traveling miles and miles when they can’t even afford to do that,” she said.

Dr. Lawman said they will test the formula in trials here in Florida, hopefully in Tampa, and also set up trials in South Africa and the Caribbean, which she said are hot spots for cervical cancer.

“One of the big initiatives across the world is to eradicate cervical cancer. So the preventative part is being addressed, but we want to do is address the other end to help these women who really have no other alternatives,” she said.

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