Tampa company develops cancer vaccine, starting tests in humans

Local News

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa company has developed a cancer vaccine that targets a specific part of the disease in a patient.

Morphogenesis’ mission is “to change the way chronic diseases are treated by engaging the innate intelligence of the body.”

They’re starting with skin cancer.

“This is a therapeutic cancer vaccine, so it’s not preventative that we normally think of for an infectious disease. So this is actually a therapy to treat many different types of cancer,” said Morphogenesis CEO Patricia Lawman.

Lawman explained how the vaccine works to 8 On Your Side’s Daisy Ruth.

“So basically we’re taking all of the smarts of the immune system, of the body, and bringing it to bear on a person’s tumor. So what we do is basically put a bacterial gene, it’s not a bacteria, it’s not a live bacteria, it’s a single gene that we put into a patient’s tumor cells. This is expressed as a protein on the surface of the tumor cells, like a beacon, if you will, and it brings in the immune system,” she said. “And once the immune system sees our bacterial beacon it can then expose all of the patient’s tumor antigens that are in that person’s tumor.”

The vaccine is still a few years off from going mainstream and needs to go through clinical trials.

Morphogenesis is, however, beginning to test it in humans.

“So we’re starting out small. First in-human is six patients. This will be testing our vaccine alone in melanoma. And then our next study will be…that will be 20 patients testing our vaccine alone,” Lawman said. “And starting next year we’ll be having a phase two study which will be then 160 patients and we’ll be testing all three of those diseases, our vaccine plus probably a checkpoint inhibitor.”

Lawman told us companion animals with naturally-occurring diseases were successfully treated with the vaccine.

“So we’re confident that the safety profile of this vaccine will carry over into humans,” she explained.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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