Cancer project receives fund injection

The development of synthetic vaccines for cancer treatment is underway, as Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington-based researchers receive a $150,000 grant from the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

The collaborative project from Dr Benji Compton of Te Kāuru—Ferrier Research Institute, and Dr Lisa Connor, who is based in Te Kura Mātauranga Koiora—School of Biological Sciences, seeks to progress ‘self-assembling therapeutic nanovaccines for cancer’.

Their aim is to develop a vaccine technology that causes the immune system to produce antibodies that target cancerous cells and mark them to be killed. To maximise the immune response, the pair will design the vaccines to self-assemble into nano-sized particles.

“This vaccine design has the potential to treat a wide range of cancers with broad population coverage whilst overcoming some of the manufacturing and regulatory hurdles facing other vaccine technologies,” says Dr Compton.

Emphasising the urgent need for further investigation of therapeutic cancer treatments following the recent advances within immunotherapy, Dr Compton is grateful to receive the Health Research Council Explorer Grant. These grants aim to support transformative research ideas that have a good chance of making a revolutionary change to how we manage New Zealanders’ health, and provide $150,000 over two years.

“I feel very fortunate to receive this funding from the Health Research Council. Having been a member of previous Council funding committees, I know first-hand the high calibre of research (and researchers) in New Zealand and how tough it can be to secure competitive external funding.

“Key to this success is having a fantastic collaboration with Dr Lisa Connor, who is able to take these vaccine candidates and demonstrate their therapeutic potential. I am also very grateful for the continued support of the Ferrier Research Institute, in particular Professors Richard Furneaux and Gavin Painter.”

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