Immunotherapy

A central focus of TRON is cancer immunotherapy, in which components of the immune system are modulated for the effective treatment of cancer. Together with industry project partners, TRON has created powerful platforms for the development of the potent immunotherapies described below.

 Vaccines have been used for centuries as a means of active immunization to fight infectious diseases. These so called prophylactic vaccines are applied prior to infection to induce antigen-specific immunity and thereby are protective against subsequent challenges caused by the infection.

In our fight against cancer, we need another type of vaccine, namely a “therapeutic” cancer vaccine, which harnesses the immune system`s potential to eliminate cancer. By stimulating tumor-antigen specific immunity, a therapeutic cancer vaccine may effectively combat cancer without damaging the patient’s healthy cells.

At TRON, we are testing various therapeutic cancer vaccine regimens for their efficiency of combating cancer. We have specialized in messenger RNA-based anti-tumor vaccination which we demonstrated to be a safe and effective vaccination tool in the preclinical setting. We are now interested in combining this approach or other vaccine strategies currently tested at TRON with standard cancer therapy regimens. In addition, we believe that individualized cancer vaccines, by addressing patient-specific tumor signatures, also hold the promise for a successful immunotherapy of cancer.

Cellular therapies belong to some of the most successful innovative approaches of personalized cancer treatment. With the recent FDA approval for a dendritic cell based vaccine against castration resistant metastatic prostate cancer, the field of cellular therapies has become of major interest to the scientific community. Independent investigators around the world have demonstrated highly promising results obtained for adoptive transfer of tumor-specific lymphocytes.

TRON researchers have been developing proprietary technologies to clone and characterize antigen-specific cell receptors. A dedicated expert team clones new T cell receptors (TCRs) using an established technology platform. TRON also supports collaborative efforts with partner institutions for customized R&D projects. Current research is focusing on safe means to control and modulate the phenotype of T lymphocytes after TCR-gene transfer. We strive to improve future therapeutic approaches by developing genetically modified lymphocytes for the treatment of severe malignancies.

We believe that single agent therapy is only the first step towards achieving efficient anti tumor effects with immunotherapeutic approaches. The full potential of immunotherapy may only be achieved by combining radiotherapy, chemotherapy or different immunotherapies.

Consequently, we first investigate different agents with respect to their capability to modulate the tumor micro environment as well as adaptive and innate immunity. Selected agents are then combined with established immunotherapeutics and validated in in vivo experiments. The integration of in vitro screening methods with in vivo validation allows us to provide comprehensive pre-clinical data that pave the way for clinical testing.

Nanoparticulate drug delivery agents are colloidal preparations of particles or molecular aggregates in the length scale of about 1 nm to about 1000 nm. Liposomes are among the most established drug delivery formulations in this context. In recent years, several types of nanoparticulate drug formulations have made their way from basic research to late clinical development or even clinical practice.

At TRON, we develop lipid-based and other nanoparticulate formulations for delivery of pharmaceutically active compounds, ranging from small molecules to high molecular weight nucleic acids. We provide custom made formulations for delivery of compounds from the TRON drug development units, such as lipoplex formulations for systemic administration of mRNA.

Futhermore we provide nanoparticulate reference formulations for research purposes, including fluorescence (NIR) labeled liposomes of defined charge and molecular composition or custom made transfection reagents for a given application.