Madiha Derouazi, Elodie Belnoue and team

Therapeutic vaccine platform to treat cancer

Technical field
Medical technology
AMAL Therapeutics
Together with their team, Madiha Derouazi and Elodie Belnoue have invented a platform to make therapeutic cancer vaccines that help the immune system recognise and destroy cancer cells in the body.

Winners of the European Inventor Award 2022

While commonly used to treat cancer patients, chemotherapy tends to be harsh and often patient prognoses are poor. Traditional vaccines are prophylactic, preventing diseases or lessening their effects, whereas therapeutic vaccines treat people that are already ill. Oncologists believed that a therapeutic cancer vaccine was nearly impossible until Madiha Derouazi and Elodie Belnoue made a breakthrough. Together with their team, they invented KISIMA (which means "well" in Swahili), a technology platform to produce therapeutic vaccines to treat cancer.

The platform allows for the assembly of three essential components to produce vaccines that generate a strong immune response: tumour-specific antigens to prompt an immune response, a molecule to help boost this immune response, and a cell-penetrating peptide to deliver this cargo into the cells. The vaccines are designed to be used in combination with drugs that activate the immune system and to complement rather than replace surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. By changing the antigens in the vaccine, the platform can produce therapeutic vaccines to treat different types of cancer. Additionally, these vaccines are easier to manufacture and administer, have high efficacy rates and are competitively priced.

From "impossible" to commercialisation

Derouazi founded AMAL Therapeutics in 2012 to develop the vaccines, and Belnoue, who studied immunology, was her first employee. In 2019, the company was acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim for EUR 425 million. They are currently focusing on metastatic colorectal cancer and glioblastoma and have started human trials of their colorectal cancer vaccine.

Patent numbers: