GIST Initiative: CanVirex

CanVirex is a Swiss-based biotech company developing next-generation immunotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer and a second generation COVID-19 vaccine with the promise of broad efficacy and long-lived immunity against SARS-CoV-2.  The company was founded in 2017 as a spin-off from the Heidelberg University Hospital and the National Center for Tumor Diseases.

The Platform:

CanVirex’s technology is based on the common measles vaccine vector, which has a proven safety profile of over fifty years in clinical reporting. The safety, efficacy, adaptability and oncolytic properties of the platform means that it is the ideal vector for targeted delivery of cancer immunotherapeutics and pathogen-specific antigens for novel vaccines, e.g., against COVID-19.

The versatility of the platform technology is immense. The measles virus vector allows the insertion of a wide range of transgenes encoding for cytokines, tumor-associated antigens, antibodies, bispecific T cell engagers and others. Transgenes are snippets of genetic information encoding for immune-modulating drugs or viral antigens (in the case of vaccines) for the induction of specific and therapeutic or prophylactic immune reactions. CanVirex uses the attenuated measles vaccine virus, which is ideally equipped to deliver such transgenes into cells.

The lead candidates for cancer therapy and COVID-19 vaccination have demonstrated preclinical proof of concept with strong multifunctional immune signatures and the perspective of induction of long-lived immunity.

CanVirex developed a proprietary, sustainable, high-yield & cost-effective manufacturing process of its measles virus constructs. In the face of new and potentially more pathogenic SARS-CoV-2 mutants and the shortcomings of existing vaccines, CanVirex has the unique opportunity to establish an innovative second-generation COVID-19 vaccine with broad efficacy against current and future SARS-CoV-2 variants and the induction of long-lived immunity.

Company Infrastructure:

CanVirex builds on more than a decade of preclinical research and benefits from a unique development infrastructure, enabling swift clinical translation of drug candidates. It’s network consists of highly renowned industry partners, clinical institutions and academic research institutions. The company is embedded in the Heidelberg University Hospital infrastructure and closely collaborates with the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF).

The market:

The oncology market is the world’s largest drug market in size and growth. CanVirex’s technology belongs to the immuno-oncology segment, which currently drives growth of the oncology market. The global cancer immunotherapy market size reached a value of USD 78.04 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.1% to USD 153.03 billion in 2027 (Source: Reports and Data ‘Cancer Immunotherapy Market Forecast to 2027’, published in July 2020).

The deals landscape demonstrates that acquisitions and licensing deals are an integral part of the cancer immunotherapy market. In terms of deal numbers, it is one of the most active areas within the whole pharmaceutical industry.

The global vaccine market is significantly growing through the rapid expansion of the COVID-19 vaccine market segment. Key growth driver of the COVID-19 vaccine market is the need for novel, safe, effective, and flexible vaccine technologies. CanVirex’s unique measles vector technology fulfils exactly these criteria for being a market driving technology.

It is estimated that the global COVID-19 vaccine market size reaches a value of USD 14.5 billion in 2021, and the market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 30.9% to USD 73.2 billion in 2027 (Source: Coherent Market Insights ‘Corona Virus Vaccine Market to Surpass US$ 73.2 Billion by 2027’, published in December 2020).


CanVirex’s mission is to develop paradigm-shifting viro-immunotherapeutics for the treatment of cancer and a new generation of COVID-19 vaccines with multifunctional, long-lived immunity against current and new SARS-CoV-2 mutants at affordable prices. Our priority is to develop products that allow survival combined with an improved quality of life, both for cancer patients and in the fight against COVID-19.

More information