Personalized cancer vaccines are back — and Genentech is jumping into the fray

Genentech Inc. will shell out an initial $310 million in a partnership with Germany’s BioNTech to develop personalized cancer vaccines, the company said late Tuesday.

Cancer vaccines that can be effectively and cheaply produced are a holy grail of many drug developers, but the field has been dogged by some high-profile failures over the past decade. This time it’s different, researchers and drug company executives have said, because the targets, technology and weapons are different, and the vaccines can be combined with emerging cancer immunotherapies that rev up a patient’s immune system to fight cancer.

Genentech next year plans to start clinical trials that combine its hefty portfolio of cancer immunotherapies — starting with the recently approved bladder cancer treatment Tecentriq, or atezolizumab — with BioNTech’s “IVAC Mutanome,” a cancer vaccine technology. The initial trial will be in multiple cancer types.

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