Strand Therapeutics Awarded Two Phase I NIH SBIR Grants to Advance Programmable, Long-Lasting mRNA Therapeutics for Melanoma and Breast Cancer

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–()–Strand Therapeutics, a privately held developer of next-generation, programmable mRNA therapeutics for cancer immunotherapy and other diseases, today announced that the company was awarded two Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop mRNA-based therapeutics for melanoma and triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). The total funding amount awarded to Strand is approximately $800,000.

While there have been advances in the development of treatment options for melanoma, the number of diagnoses continues to increase. Furthermore, standard of care using anti-PD-1 immunotherapy has been limited with not all patients responding to the therapy. To address this need, the first award granted to Strand will support the development of programmable mRNA circuits that express cytokines which regulate the activation of immune cells, to stimulate an adaptive immune response as a neoadjuvant therapy for melanoma.

TNBC is an aggressive form of breast cancer, accounting for 10-15% of all cases, and is another cancer indication in need of more targeted and effective medicines. Patients have a poor prognosis with limited treatment options. While checkpoint inhibitor therapies including anti-PD-1 antibodies have improved outcomes in patients, only a small percentage respond to this treatment strategy. The second award will allow Strand to engineer synthetic self-replicating mRNA therapies expressing locally-acting cytokines with the goal of improving anti-PD-1 therapy responses.

“It is well known that cytokines can be utilized to achieve an anti-tumor effect in cancer patients. However, treatment strategies that involve cytokines can be highly toxic, and therefore, its efficacy can be limited. To that end, we can use our programmable, self-replicating mRNA therapeutic platform to localize cytokine expression that will potentially enable more precise and longer-lasting anti-cancer immune responses,” said Jake Becraft, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Strand. “This generous support from NIH’s NCI will enable us to create synthetic mRNA-based therapeutics that can be safer and more effective than currently available treatment options for both melanoma and breast cancer patients.”

About Strand Therapeutics

Strand Therapeutics is an emerging biopharmaceutical company poised at the forefront of mRNA therapeutics and synthetic biology. The company has created the first platform for programmable, long-acting mRNA therapeutics for cancer and other diseases that are poorly addressed by traditional approaches. Bioengineered for high efficacy and low toxicity, Strand’s next-generation mRNA therapies deliver multi-functional treatments for deadly diseases. The company’s initial focus is the development of mRNA therapies that act through multiple mechanisms to deliver potentially curative treatments for solid tumors. Strand is also developing programmable mRNA for the generation of cell therapies capable of greatly expanding patient access to the technology in a cost-effective, re-doseable, off-the-shelf form. Strand Therapeutics was founded in 2017 by world leading mRNA researchers from the MIT Synthetic Biology Center, creators of the field of mRNA-based synthetic biology. The company is based in Cambridge, MA. For more information, visit our website at

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