The Belgian start-up Persomed is developing a personalized cancer vaccine. Persomed was founded in 2020 in collaboration with VUB and 3 other partners. All of whom have expertise within the field of personalized immunotherapy. The vaccine is intended for patients with tumors who do not respond to the current standard treatment such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, making it a very unique technology.
The process begins by analyzing the patient's tumor on a DNA and RNA level to identify unique neoantigens (tumor-specific antigens) that are presented by the cancer cells. Next, monocytes (a type of white blood cell) are extracted from the patient's blood and loaded with the tumor neoantigen-encoding mRNA and a strong adjuvant. The resulting activated dendritic cells, which are loaded with tumor antigens, are then multiplied and re-injected into the patient to trigger an immune response against the neoantigens in the patient's tumor. This ex vivo vaccination process has the potential to kickstart the dormant or suppressed immune system of cancer patients and can be tailored to the mutational profile of the patient's specific cancer. This personalized approach may be particularly beneficial for cancer patients who have few other options.
All of this started in 2019 with VLAIO funding through ICON; an initiative that later gave rise to MEDVIA – the new Flemish spearhead cluster for health innovation. Thanks to this funding they have managed to develop and optimize their platform technology and obtain the regulatory approvals to start the clinical program.