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mRNA Cancer Immunotherapies Division

Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin


Promoting the rapid transfer of laboratory research into the clinic









Why it matters

Immunotherapies such as immune checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive cell transfer with genetically engineered T cells have led to unprecedented durable clinical benefit, particularly in patients with melanoma and B cell malignancies, respectively. However, the current success of these therapeutic approaches is impaired by intrinsic and acquired tumor resistance and responses are limited to a subset of patients. Thus, there is a need for better patient selection based on the identification of efficient biomarkers that can predict response or resistance to immunotherapies. Our team aims to implement machine learning-based computational methods that can better capture tumor heterogeneity and model complex biological networks in order to identify immunotherapy-relevant tumor features and predict clinical outcomes with high accuracy.


Lab focus

We conduct research on "mRNA Cancer Immunotherapies", including antigen-specific immunotherapies using both antibody- and T-cell-based approaches. In addition to classical laboratory techniques, the focus is on multi-omics data generation, and integration and interpretation using bioinformatic methods. The aim is - in line with the philosophy of HI-TRON Mainz - to promote the rapid transfer of laboratory research into the clinic.

Head of Division mRNA Cancer Immunotherapies

Prof. Dr. Ugur Sahin

[since 2023] Head of Division, HI-TRON Mainz 
[since 2014] W3 Professor, University Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany 
[2010 – 2019] Founding Member and Managing Director, Translational Oncology (TRON), University Medical Center, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany 
[since 2008] Co‐Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), BioNTech SE, Mainz, Germany 
[2006 – 2013] W2 Associate Professor, Department of Experimental and Translational Oncology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany 
[2003 – 2015] Head of the Tumor Vaccine Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany 
[2001] Co‐Founder, Ganymed Pharmaceuticals (now a subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc.), Mainz, Germany 
[2000] Visiting Scholar, Institute of Experimental Immunology, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland 
[1999] Habilitation in Molecular Medicine and Immunology, Saarland University, Homburg (Saar), Germany 
[1992 – 2000] Physician working in internal medicine and haematology/oncology, Saarland University, Homburg (Saar), Germany 
[1992 – 1994] Degree in Mathematics, Hagen Distance‐Learning University, Hagen, Germany 
[1991 – 1992] Assistant physician working in internal medicine and haematology/oncology, University of Cologne, Germany 
[1992] PhD in Human Medicine, University of Cologne, Germany 
[1984 – 1990] Degree in Medicine, University of Cologne, Germany 

[since 2018] Founding Member and Chair, Scientific Management Board, Helmholtz Institute for Translational Oncology (HI‐TRON), Mainz, Germany 
[since 2015] Member, American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), USA 
[since 2014] Member, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), USA 
[since 2017] Acting Head, University Center for Tumor Diseases Mainz (UCT Mainz), Germany 
[2008‐2016] Chairperson, Scientific Advisory Board, Ganymed Pharmaceuticals AG, Mainz, Germany (now a subsidiary of Astellas Pharma Inc., Tokyo, Japan) 
[since 2004] Member, German Society for Immunology (DGfI)

[2023] Member, Orden Pour le mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste, Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien 
[2022] Honorary Ring, University Medical Center of the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, Germany 
[2022] Werner von Siemens Ring, Werner von Siemens Ring Foundation, Germany 
[2022] Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, Paul Ehrlich Foundation, Frankfurt am Main, Germany 
[2021] Jeantet‐Collen Prize for Translational Medicine, Louis‐Jeantet Foundation, Geneva, Switzerland (together with Özlem Türeci and Katalin Karikó) 
[2021] Deutscher Zukunftspreis – the German Federal President's Award for Technology and Innovation (together with Özlem Türeci, Christoph Huber and Katalin Karikó) 
[2021] German Immunology Award, German Society for Immunology (DGfI) 
[2021] Inducted into the Hall of Fame for German Research, manager magazin, Hamburg, Germany 
[2021] Meyenburg Prize, Meyenburg Foundation, Heidelberg, Germany 
[2021] European Manager of the Year, European Business Press (EBP), Ljubljana, Slovenia 
[2021] Honorary Doctorate, Faculty of Medicine, University of Cologne, Germany 
[2021] Princess of Asturias Award for Technical & Scientific Research, Princess of Asturias Foundation, Oviedo, Spain 
[2021] Great Cross of Merit (with star) of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany 
[2021] Axel Springer Award, Axel Springer SE, Berlin, Germany 
[since 2021] Member of the German Academy of Sciences and Literature 
[since 2021] Member, German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina 
[since 2021] Member, European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), Heidelberg, Germany 
[2020] Person of the Year, Financial Times, London, UK 
[2020] German Sustainability Award (DNP), German Sustainability Award Foundation 
[2019] Mustafa Prize, Tehran, Iran 
[2019] German Cancer Award, German Cancer Society (DKG) 
[2017] Advanced Grant in Life Sciences, European Research Council (ERC) 
[2012] Excellence Cluster Award for TRON Projects, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 
[2011] STEP Award, F.A.Z. BUSINESS MEDIA GmbH – the F.A.Z. publishing house, Frankfurt am Main, Germany 
[since 2008] Member, Program Committee, Association for Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT) Regulatory Research Group, Mainz, Germany 
[2006, 2010] GO‐Bio Award, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) 
[2005] Georges‐Köhler Prize, German Society for Immunology (DGfI) 
[1997] Calogero Pagliarello Research Award, Calogero Pagliarello Foundation, Homburg, Germany 
[1995] Merit Award, American Society of Oncology (ASCO), USA 
[1995] Vincenz Czerny Prize, German Society of Hematology and Medical Oncology (DGHO)

AG Sahin
Obere Zahlbacherstr. 63
Building 911
55131 Mainz

Selected publications

  1. Beck JD, Diken M, Suchan M, Streuber M, Diken E, Kolb L, Vascotto F, Peters D, Beißert T, Türeci Ö, Kreiter S, Vormehr M, Sahin U. An mRNA-encoded, long-lasting Interleukin-2 restores CD8+ T cell neoantigen immunity in MHC class I-deficient cancers. Published online 2023
  2. Weber D, Ibn-Salem J, Sorn P, Suchan M, Holtsträter C, Lahrmann U, Vogler I, Schmoldt K, Lang F, Schrörs B, Löwer M, Sahin U. Accurate detection of tumor-specific gene fusions reveals strongly immunogenic personal neo-antigens. Nature Biotechnology. 2022; 40 (8), 1276–1284
  3. Sahin U, Oehm P, Derhovanessian E, Jabulowsky RA, Vormehr M, Gold M, Maurus D, Schwarck-Kokarakis D, Kuhn AN, Omokoko T, Kranz LM, Diken M, Kreiter S, Haas H, Attig S, Rae R, Cuk K, Kemmer-Brück A, Breitkreuz A, Tolliver C, Caspar J, Quinkhardt J, Hebich L, Stein M, Hohberger A, Vogler I, Liebig I, Renken S, Sikorski J, Leierer M, Müller V, Mitzel-Rink H, Miederer M, Huber C, Grabbe S, Utikal J, Pinter A, Kaufmann R, Hassel JC, Loquai C, Türeci Ö. An RNA vaccine drives immunity in checkpoint-inhibitor-treated melanoma. Nature. 2020; 585 (7823): 107–112
  4. Reinhard K, Rengstl B, Oehm P, Michel K, Billmeier A, Hayduk N, Klein O, Kuna K, Ouchan Y, Wöll S, Christ E, Weber D, Suchan M, Bukur T, Birtel M, Jahndel V, Mroz K, Hobohm K, Kranz L, Diken M, Kühlcke K, Türeci Ö, Sahin U. An RNA vaccine drives expansion and efficacy of claudin-CAR-T cells against solid tumors. Science. 2020; 367: 446–453
  5. Sahin U, Derhovanessian E, Miller M, Kloke B-P, Simon P, Löwer M, Bukur V, Tadmor AD, Luxemburger U, Schrörs B, Omokoko T, Vormehr M, Albrecht C, Paruzynski A, Kuhn AN, Buck J, Heesch S, Schreeb KH, Müller F, Ortseifer I, Vogler I, Godehardt E, Attig S, Rae R, Breitkreuz A, Tolliver C, Suchan M, Martic G, Hohberger A, Sorn P, Diekmann J, Ciesla J, Waksmann O, Brück A-K, Witt M, Zillgen M, Rothermel A, Kasemann B, Langer D, Bolte S, Diken M, Kreiter S, Nemecek R, Gebhardt C, Grabbe S, Höller C, Utikal J, Huber C, Loquai C, Türeci Ö. Personalized RNA mutanome vaccines mobilize poly-specific therapeutic immunity against cancer. Nature. 2017; 547 (7662): 222–226

Lab News

01/2024: A new member joins the Sahin lab: Dr. Thomas Kerzel-Gnaneswaran.

11/2023: A new member joins the Sahin lab: Dr. Akhil Velluva.

10/2023: Two new members join the Sahin lab: Costanza Zanetti and Sakshi Singh.

2023: Sahin lab starts collaboration with the NCT/DKFZ/DKTK MASTER Program.