2017 NMFZ prize awarded to Lena Kranz, PhD

Mainz, June 2017 – Lena Kranz, PhD, has been awarded for her doctoral thesis the 2017 NMFZ prize of the Natural Science and Medical Research Center Mainz (NMFZ), part of the University Medical Center of Mainz. The NMFZ awards the prize for research on the molecular mechanisms behind structure and function of biologically active systems, which has resulted from an interdisciplinary collaboration of at least two members of different disciplines of the Johannes Gutenberg-University. TRON, whom Lena Kranz cooperated with very closely throughout her studies, congratulates her on this achievement.

During her thesis work, Lena worked on messenger RNA (mRNA-based) cancer vaccines for intravenous application. The goal was to achieve targeted translation of tumor antigens in antigen-presenting cells and generate a systemic antitumoral immune response. In June of last year, she published the results under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin (Department of Immunology/Medicine) and in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Peter Langguth (Department of Pharmacy) as well as the partners TRON and BioNTech in the scientific journal Nature. This is the first example of an intravenously administered and clinically relevant cancer vaccine. First results of a Phase I melanoma study to assess dose, safety and tolerance, performed in part at the University Medical Center Mainz, show a strong T cell immune response and type I interferon cytokine profile already at very low doses. Very good safety and tolerance were confirmed also for higher doses.

In recent years, cancer immunotherapy has celebrated its first lasting successes. This branch of cancer therapy, marked by high specificity and low occurrence of side effects, is up and coming and will continue to shape the future of cancer therapy.