Amazon launches cancer vaccine trial

Amazon veers further into the healthcare industry by launching a cancer vaccine trial in partnership with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

A clinical FDA-approved phase 1 trial is looking to recruit 20 participants aged 18 and over, according to an official filing submitted to a database run by the US National Library of Medicine. The filing says that the trial seeks to develop personalized vaccines to treat breast and melanoma skin cancers.

Seattle-based Fred Hutchinson Center sponsors and leads the study, while Amazon is listed as its collaborator. The filing was submitted last October, and the study started this June. The aim is to complete it by November next year. More trials and research would follow to meet strict FDA requirements, which means the vaccine is still likely to be years away from launching commercially.

If successful, it could become a better and more affordable alternative to chemotherapy, according to Business Insider, which first reported the news. Citing people familiar with the matter, it said that Amazon’s secretive Grand Challenge lab initially oversaw the cancer vaccine project. The project’s research team of medical doctors and health tech engineers were now said to report to Amazon’s vice president of devices, Robert Williams.

Amazon is not the only company seeking to develop personalized cancer vaccines. Germany’s BioNTech is already a few steps ahead, announcing last year that the first patient had been treated in its phase 2 cancer vaccine trial for advanced melanoma. BioNTech’s research is based on the mRNA technology it used to develop the best-selling Covid-19 vaccine in partnership with the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer.

Amazon’s push into a field comes as it increases its healthcare focus, including a launch of an online pharmacy in 2020.