Created in 2014 by the REYL & Cie Bank, the Research for Life foundation has decided to support the work of Professor Olivier Michielin, head of melanoma consultation at the Lausanne University Hospital (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois) and head of one of the research units in oncology at the University of Lausanne.
A non-profit Swiss foundation, Research for Life provides its support for new developments in the treatment of oncology and childhood diseases. To this end, Research for Life specifically assists young and talented research units that use the latest technological advances to make decisive progress in deciphering and treating emblematic diseases. Professor Michielin's work is part of this initiative.
Both a physicist and doctor, a specialist in immunotherapy, Professor Michielin is developing bioinformatics solutions to then create the compounds to use in his treatment programmes. He uses chemical computer modelling, a field in which he has worked for several years with Martin Karplus, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013.
Applied to his own work, these bioinformatics processes enable the receptors of the immune system to be transformed genetically and their capacity to react against tumour cells to be approved. Firstly modified in the laboratory, the receptors are then reinjected into the patients to optimise immune responses. "These are extremely efficient strategies," emphasises Professor Michielin. "They allow for personalised therapies that have the advantage of providing remarkable results while being less toxic for the organism than other cancer treatments."
The research underway is on melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, but can then extend to other related tumours, for example breast or lung cancers. After the in silico design phases, laboratory tests have confirmed the immense potential of these "super cells". However, they require a further series of validations before being able to start the phase of clinical trials on patients.
"We are very happy to benefit from the support of the Research for Life foundation," adds Professor Michielin. "Thanks to the funds that we have received, we are going to be able to extend the scope of our research and explore new leads, because the possibilities offered by the genomic engineering of T cells are infinite!"