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The IIMCB will lead the consortium within the Virtual Research Institute (WIB) focused on mRNA in cancer immunotherapy

The International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw (IIMCB) has been awarded the project entitled “Horizon for Excellence in messenger RNA applications in immunoOncology” - acronym: HERO, financed by the Virtual Research Institute (WIB) from the Polish Science Fund. The project will be carried out by a team of scientists from the IIMCB (coordinator), the University of Warsaw, the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Medical University of Warsaw. The total budget is over PLN 69 million.

The HERO project focuses on developing the next generation of mRNA therapeutics and their application in cancer immunotherapy. The consortium brings together an interdisciplinary group of excellent scientists. The leader of the consortium, Prof. Andrzej Dziembowski (IIMCB) is a biologist which a long-lasting research interest in RNA biology.  Dr. Joanna Kowalska and Prof. Jacek Jemielity (University of Warsaw) are experts in RNA chemistry, especially the synthesis of modified nucleotides, with a history of successful commercialization of discoveries related to mRNA therapeutics. Prof. Marcin Nowotny (IIMCB), a structural biologist by training, is an expert in the catalysis of enzymes involved in nucleic acid metabolism, including RNA synthesis and degradation. Prof. Robert Hołyst (Institute of Physical Chemistry) is an expert in using fluorescence-based technics for the study of movement, diffusion, and interactions of macromolecules in cells. Prof. Marta Miączyńska (IIMCB) is a cell biologist and expert in endocytosis and cellular trafficking.  Last but not least, Prof. Dominika Nowis, and Prof. Jakub Gołąb (Medical University of Warsaw), cancer immunologists who will propose and validate new experimental therapeutic approaches.

“We are currently at a unique moment of medical biotechnologies with the implementation of cancer immunotherapy and the launch of the first highly effective mRNA vaccines. However, therapeutic mRNA technology is relatively new and has many limitations. Thus, there is a lot of space for technological improvements. At the same time, the potential for new therapeutic applications of mRNA in cancer immunotherapy is enormous and goes far beyond the current clinical development of neoantigen vaccines. Successful implementation of such therapies needs the tight cooperation of scientists from different research fields”. – said Prof. Dziembowski, the HERO leader and the Head of the Laboratory of RNA Biology - ERA Chairs Group at the IIMCB.

Virtual Research Institute is a program that aims to finance researches with high commercialization potential in the area of medical biotechnology - oncology. It was established by a piece of legislation introduced in April 2019 on supporting scientific activity from the Polish Science Fund. The program is addressed to the most outstanding and talented Polish scientists conducting activities at the highest world level - representatives of universities and research institutes. The pool of funds available in the competition is PLN 450 million. In the call for proposals, the organizer received 12 applications for PLN 509 million in total. The applications were subject to formal and content-related evaluation based on scientific, economic, and social criteria. The Łukasiewicz Research Network - PORT Polish Center for Technology Development acts as the Managing Entity for the Virtual Research Institute from Wrocław.

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