The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) said today they will partner to develop new personalized, targeted cancer immunotherapies—specifically, a new class of neoantigen vaccines. 

The Tumor neoantigEn SeLection Alliance (TESLA) includes 30 cancer neoantigen research groups from universities, companies, and nonprofits. The collaboration aims to help participants test and continually improve their mathematical algorithms for analyzing tumor DNA and RNA sequences in order to predict the neoantigens likely to be present on each patient's cancer and most visible to the immune system.

“We believe that by bringing together the top laboratories in the world that are developing neoantigen prediction software, we will be able to unlock the promise of this next generation of personalized cancer immunotherapies sooner,” Adam Kolom, Parker Institute vp of business development and strategic partnerships and CRI's Clinical Accelerator program director, said in a statement.

The Parker Institute and CRI said they will partner with the open science nonprofit Sage Bionetworks to manage the bioinformatics and data analysis.

Investigators reason that neoantigens represent an optimal target for the immune system, making possible a new class of highly personalized vaccines with the potential for significant efficacy with reduced side effects, since the tumor markers are both specific to each individual and unlikely to be present on normal healthy cells.

Researchers expect to focus their work initially on cancers likely to have larger numbers of mutations and thus more neoantigens—such as advanced melanoma, colorectal cancer, and non-small-cell lung cancer. Over time, investigators plan to broaden the relevance of neoantigen vaccines to a wide range of cancers.

“This alliance will not only leverage the immense talents of each of the researchers but will also harness the power of bioinformatics, which I believe will be critical to driving breakthroughs,” Sean Parker, founder of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and a Silicon Valley entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist, said in a statement. “Bringing together the world's best neoantigen research organizations to accelerate the discovery of personalized cancer immunotherapies is exactly the type of bold research collaboration that I envisioned when launching the Parker Institute.”

Through his Parker Foundation, the co-founder of Napster and Facebook’s first president launched his institute in April with a $250 million grant.

The institute unites more than 300 researchers from 40 laboratories across six top-tier cancer centers: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Stanford Medicine; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); University of California, San Francisco (UCSF); The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; and the University of Pennsylvania.

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