CureVac buys bioinformatics startup to boost cancer vax program

June 9, 2022

CureVac has inked a deal to buy bioinformatics startup, Frame Cancer Therapeutics, with the aim of boosting development of cancer vaccines.

The $34 million buyout centers around the Amsterdam Science Park startup's proprietary bioinformatics platform, called FramePro, which is based on precise analysis of the DNA and RNA of the tumor of a patient — and then using that information to supply the best vaccine against properties specific for the tumor. 

The German mRNA vaccine maker intends to use to FramePro to identify and validate promising neoantigens for its mRNA cancer vaccine programs.

The platform identifies structural changes within the cancer genome that give rise to new open reading frames. These new open reading frames result in novel proteins that are absent in healthy tissues and thus can be recognized as foreign by the immune system. The resulting neoantigenic proteins may be shared among many patients, potentially enabling the development of more broadly applicable cancer vaccines.

An additional application of Frame’s technology is the development of personalized cancer vaccines. Last Dec., regulators in the Netherlands approved Frame’s clinical trial protocol to evaluate this approach based on a peptide vaccine in 15 patients with non-small cell lung cancer. CureVac says it will refocus the development of personalized cancer vaccines on an mRNA modality.

The buyout is a win for CureVac, who fell behind in the mRNA COVID vaccine race, officially ending its efforts to win approval for its first-generation mRNA COVID-19 vaccine last Oct. The company's mRNA candidate was shown to only be about 48% effective in a pivotal study.

The Frame buyout will be paid in CureVac shares. Following a 50% upfront payment, the residual amount will be split across two project milestone driven steps, announced CureVac.