The browser you are using is not supported by this website. All versions of Internet Explorer are no longer supported, either by us or Microsoft (read more here:

Please use a modern browser to fully experience our website, such as the newest versions of Edge, Chrome, Firefox or Safari etc.

From enemy to friend – 33 million for reprogramming cancer cells

Fábio Fiúza Rosa (left) and Filipe Pereira (right).
Filipe Pereira (R) coordinates the research project which is allocated 33 million from the EIC. Together with Fábio Fiúza Rosa (L), he is also one of the founders of the company Asgard Therapeutics, a partner in the EIC project. Photo: Asgard Therapeutics

An international research project led from Lund University is now awarded 33 million SEK by the European Innovation Council, EIC Pathfinder. The idea behind the project is to use drugs to reprogram cancer cells into immune cells, in order to increase the body's natural anti-tumor response and fight cancer. And it is small molecules that will do the work.

The research project that has received funding from the European Innovation Council (EIC) within the framework of "Pathfinder Open" is called " RESYNC- Functional chemical reprogramming of cancer cells to induce antitumor immunity"

In recent years, immunotherapies that utilize the patient's own immune system have revolutionized cancer treatment. But sometimes the immune system fails to eliminate tumor cells, especially if the tumor has developed mechanisms to evade immune surveillance, the immune system's ability to fight disease. Many patients also do not respond to these therapies, because the immune cells that recognize foreign substances, antigens, and respond to threats such as infections and tumor cells, are missing or dysfunctional.
"Among our antigen-presenting cells, it is the dendritic cells that most effectively provide antitumor immunity and better patient survival. But the dendritic cells are rare. We have therefore identified three proteins that can reprogram human cancer cells into functional dendritic cells," says Filipe Pereira, professor of molecular medicine at Lund University, principal investigator at Lund Stem Cell Center, and coordinator of the Pathfinder project. He is also the founder of the company Asgard Therapeutics, which is a partner in the EIC project.
The research group, together with Asgard Therapeutics, has developed a way to inject viral vectors that carry the proteins, directly into the patient's tumor. In this way, the cancer cells are reprogrammed into dendritic cells and thus lose their ability to develop into tumors. But this type of cell-based therapy is associated with complex manufacturing and high price tags. In order to be able to use the method clinically on a broad front, the researchers therefore need to develop a systematic method for reprogramming. Together with five international partners, it is now hoped to be able to use small molecule-based reprogramming to change the function of cells. Small molecules are good candidates for making chemical cell transformations, because they are smaller and have an easier time passing through the cell membrane than viral vectors. In addition, they have the potential to be manufactured in larger quantities, in order to meet market demand.
"The goal is now to identify the combination of small molecules that effectively reprograms the cancer cells into dendritic cells. Next, we will connect the cell reprogramming with nanoparticles, which are targeted to specific areas of the body - for example, disseminated tumors - to improve the delivery and increase the therapeutic effect," says Fábio Fiúza Rosa, head of research at and one of the founders of Asgard Therapeutics.

About the research project RESYNC

RESYNC - Functional chemical reprogramming of cancer cells to induce antitumor immunity

The RESYNC project is led from Lund University, Sweden and the consortium includes Asgard Therapeutics AB Sweden, Politecnico di torino Italy, Universitatea Babes Bolyai Romania, Ustav Organicke Chemie a Biochemie, Czech Republic and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

The project is financed by the European Union. However, the views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or the European Innovation Council (EIC). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

EIC Pathfinder Open

Pathfinder Open, a call from the European Innovation Council (EIC), where the aim is to support innovative ideas that in the future have the potential to make a difference, create new technologies and/or market areas or contribute to solving global challenges. This year, 783 projects were evaluated, of which 53 were granted funds.

"Pathfinder Open" is an annual, open call, where you decide your theme yourself. The next announcement is expected to take place in March 2024.

EIC Pathfinder Open, call March 2023

Filipe Pereira is professor of molecular medicine at Lund University and WCMM Fellow at the Wallenberg Center for Molecular Medicine at Lund University . Pereira is also co-founder of Asgard Therapeutics .
Profile in the LU Research Portal

Related articles

"DNA bookmark" helps blood cells remember who they are (swedish)

Lund's Fernström prize to younger researchers for research into cell reprogramming and immunotherapies

Reprograms cancer cells into immune defenders