Dr. Mirja Harms awarded with a stipend by the Novartis Foundation to explore therapeutic CD3-Fab-peptide conjugates for cancer treatment

The Novartis Foundation, formerly established by the Sandoz AG Nürnberg as a “Sandoz Foundation for Therapeutic Research”, has been supporting medical scientists and innovative research projects since 1969. One of their funding programs – the graduate stipend program – awards 8000€ to young graduate scientists, who have made exceptional contributions through high-impact publications and innovative research projects. The stipend nominations are assigned by university faculties that are appointed by the foundation every three years and aim to support up-and-coming scientific talents over the course of one year.

In 2023, one of the five yearly stipends has been awarded to Dr. Mirja Harms of the Institute for Molecular Virology. With her expertise in peptide design and characterization, she will generate modified antibody-peptide conjugates using so-called tumor-targeting-peptides (TTPs). EPI-X4, a CXCR4-specific peptide ligand, and it’s derivatives, will be conjugated to CD3-Fab antibody fragments and tested in vitro, while lead conjugates will be tested in vivo.

This approach holds promise in delivering CD3-antibody-based anti-cancer immunotherapies with higher specificity, reduce off-target effects, as well as induce more durable clinical responses. Antibody-TTP conjugates are explored for cancer treatment as an alternative to conventional approaches that may cause severe side effects or post-surgical complications.

Congratulations Mirjaand good luck with all endeavours!

From left to right: Prof. Markus Huber-Lang, Prof. Thomas Wirth, Dr. Mirja Harms, Prof. Jan Münch. Picture by Ursula Russo.