This week, we’re in Vienna, Austria, visiting OncoQR, a biotech specializing in therapeutic cancer vaccines for patients with pancreatic and breast cancer.

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Mission: OncoQR develops cancer vaccines that stimulate antibody production and activate the immune system. The company’s vaccines are made up of two parts, a “war-head” that binds to immune cells in blood and skin to help the vaccine be taken up by the immune system, and an “immunogen” that activates tumor-specific white blood cells to attack the cancer.

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The company’s lead candidate targets pancreatic cancer by activating antibodies that neutralize gastrin, a major growth factor involved in this type of cancer as well as forms of gastric cancer. OncoQR has a second vaccine for treating breast cancer that induces an antibody immune response.

Both candidates have shown in vivo proof of concept in non-human primates. In the next two years, the company plans to develop additional vaccines and seek partners or sell the commercialization rights of its products to other companies in order to bring its treatments into the clinic.

What we think: Therapeutic cancer vaccines have been notoriously difficult to develop, with Bavarian Nordic terminating a Phase III study for its pancreatic cancer treatment last year, for example. CureVac, a German company, failed in a Phase II study for its prostate cancer vaccine last year as well. Moreover, OncoQR faces considerable competition, coming, for example, from Targovax, which received positive Phase I/II results for its pancreatic cancer treatment earlier this year.

With pancreatic cancer being one of the most deadly cancers and breast cancer being on of the most invasive cancers in women, having multiple treatment options can only benefit patients.


Image by trabantos/Shutterstock

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