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BioNTech founder says cancer is next problem to tackle with mRNA tech

The co-founder of German company BioNTech, which successfully delivered the first widely distributed coronavirus vaccine, said that the mRNA technology it used will soon be put to work tackling cancer.

Özlem Türeci, who started BioNTech alongside her husband, said in an interview with The Associated Press that she had been working to use the body's immune system to combat cancer tumors before the coronavirus pandemic stopped the world.

“We have several different cancer vaccines based on mRNA,” Türeci, who is also BioNTech’s chief medical officer, told the AP.

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The coronavirus vaccine made by BioNTech and Pfizer, the AP noted, uses messenger RNA, or mRNA, to deliver instructions to the body to make proteins that will alert it to attack a certain virus. The same technology can in theory be used for cancer tumors.

Türeci told the AP that it can be difficult to predict when a new innovation such as mRNA technology would be available to the public for use.

"But we expect that within only a couple of years, we will also have our vaccines [against] cancer at a place where we can offer them to people,” she said.

On Friday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier awarded Türeci and her husband with the Order of Merit, one of the country's highest honors, according to the AP.