Our heartfelt congratulations: TRON founders Ugur Sahin and Özlem Türeci receive the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) of the German Republic for the short-term development and approval of a vaccine against Covid-19 with their company BioNTech, as announced by the Office of the Federal President. Türeci and Sahin had made a "decisive contribution to the containment of the Corona pandemic" through their "tireless efforts."
The award of the highest German Order of Merit to the entrepreneurial couple by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier will take place on March 19 in Bellevue Palace in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. This will be the first time that the Federal President has presented the Order in person this year.
A video of the event will be available on the website of the German President.
In this recent study published in European Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (EJNMMI), researchers from TRON, JGU Medical Center and BioNTech employed an in vitro transcribed mRNA encoding for sodium iodide symporter (NIS) to efficiently visualize and quantify the biodistribution of NIS RNA-lipoplex nanoparticles targeted to spleen or lung. Tissues expressing the RNA-encoded NIS were rapidly and accurately identified via in vivo small animal PET/MRI upon radioactive Iodine-124 administration providing a novel powerful tool for monitoring the biodistribution of RNA-loaded nanoparticles.
Read more in the original publication: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13550-021-00753-2
Within the last year, a few infections with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) quickly turned into the global COVID-19 pandemic infecting and threatening death for millions of people all over the globe. The viral spike protein is responsible for viral binding and entry to host cells and thus mediates infection. Hence, the protein is also of particular interest and the major target for recently approved mRNA vaccines or neutralizing antibodies.
In this study, Barbara Schrörs and her colleagues gathered 147,413 genomic assemblies and 2,393 NGS sequencing datasets to detect non-synonymous spike protein mutations and infer their frequency within a given sample and the effect on potential antibody binding sites and known T cell epitopes. They confirm a low mutation rate, but also discovered an increase of mutation rates of the spike protein over time. In addition, some of the discovered mutations might have an effect on antibody binding or T-cell recognition and thus have an impact on the efficacy of current or upcoming vaccines.
The authors conclude that the results demonstrate the increasing importance of monitoring SARS-CoV-2 sequences for an early detection of variants that require adaptations in preventive and therapeutic strategies.
The study was published as a pre-print in BioRxiv (https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.04.429765v1).
[Image: SARS-CoV-2 spike-glycoprotein (PDB: https://pdb101.rcsb.org/motm/246)]
Congratulations! TRON researcher Fulvia Vascotto was part of the team around Annette B. Vogel and Ugur Sahin, publishing pre-clinical results in Nature. The study supported the rapid development of BioNTech/Pfizer´s vaccine COMIRNATY (BNT162b2), the now globally deployed mRNA based vaccine against Covid-19. The recently published paper displays immune response data of two vaccine candidates (BNT162b1 and BNT162b2) in animal models. In mice, a single intramuscular dose of either candidate elicits a dose-dependent antibody response with high virus-entry inhibition titers and strong TH1 type CD4+ and IFNg+ CD8+ T-cell responses. Prime/boost vaccination of rhesus macaques with BNT162b candidates elicits SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing geometric mean titers 8.2 to 18.2 times that of a SARS-CoV-2 convalescent human serum panel.
To learn more, you can read the original publication here.
Dr. Özlem Türeci and Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin have been awarded the Academy Prize of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate for innovative and forward-looking research for their extraordinary achievements leading to the development of a vaccine against the Corona virus.
On behalf of all TRON employees, we warmly congratulate Dr. Özlem Türeci and Professor Ugur Sahin, our co-founder, long-time Scientific Director and current advisor, on receiving the Academy Award.
Read more here.
Loss of immunological self-tolerance followed by attack of self-reactive T cells to target organs plays a major role in the formation of autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS). In a very recent study published in Science, our researchers (in collaboration with Johannes Gutenberg University Medical Center and BioNTech) employed a non-inflammatory RNA vaccine that targets self-antigens to antigen presenting cells without inducing co-stimulation. This therapy was able to modulate self-reactive T cells, induce regulatory T cells and re-establish self-tolerance leading to suppression of the disease in various mouse models of MS. The results of this study may help the development of potent therapies against complex autoimmune diseases.
A noninflammatory mRNA vaccine for treatment of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis
Krienke et al.
TRON in the Media
Welcome to TRON
TRON – Translational Oncology at the University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz gGmbH is a biopharmaceutical research organization that pursues new diagnostics and drugs for the treatment of cancer and other severe diseases with high medical need. A focus of TRON is the development of novel platforms for individualized therapies and biomarkers, translating basic research into drug applications. TRON partners with academic institutions, biotech companies and the pharmaceutical industry, executing research with leading-edge technologies and supporting the development of innovative drugs to promote human health.