Press Release: National Geographic announced today the greenlight of THE CANCER VACCINE (working title), a new documentary special that will take viewers to the frontlines of the fight to cure cancer. With National Geographic’s inside access, THE CANCER VACCINE will follow Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci – husband-and-wife team who built German biotechnology giant BioNTech – as they and their team race competitors, skeptics, governments and cancer itself to create an entirely new class of medicines that use the body’s own defenses to defeat cancer.

“THE CANCER VACCINE will give viewers a front-row seat to one of the biggest events in history unfolding in real time – the scientists racing to find a potential cure for cancer,” said Tom McDonald, executive vice president of Global Factual and Unscripted Content, National Geographic. “With unprecedented inside access, we are honored to be able to shine a light on the heroes – the scientists, patients and people, who are working to combat this disease that affects far too many of our friends, families and neighbors.”

Imagine a world where a cancer diagnosis – even the most aggressive kind – no longer means brutal chemotherapy or a death sentence and a world where every individual cancer patient gets a bespoke drug, individually tailored to the unique genetics of their tumor, which could keep patients cancer-free for the rest of their lives.

THE CANCER VACCINE will take viewers to the frontlines of breakthrough science alongside the scientists, researchers and patients at the heart of this extraordinary endeavor, culminating in a story of inspiration, heartbreak, suffering and joy.

From Academy®- and BAFTA-winning Oxford Films (“Hilary and Jackie,” “Restoration” “Diana, Our Mother”) and directed by BAFTA-winning filmmaker Patrick Forbes (“The Phantom,” “Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies”), THE CANCER VACCINE takes viewers to the heart of the cutting-edge research and patient trials that could have the power to change the way cancer is treated forever. From the construction of the huge, machine-controlled factory capable of manufacturing individualized drugs to the crucial trials with select patients whose lives are on the line, this documentary dives into the complexities as well as the achievements the BioNTech team face on their journey toward these groundbreaking cancer therapies.

THE CANCER VACCINE begins with the inspiring story of Şahin and Türeci’s fight against COVID-19 with the development of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. For years the couple had been derided as cranks; and mRNA, the technology that they championed, deemed useless. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic proved that mRNA could work and deliver a vaccine that would protect millions of people around the world against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

However, a cancerous tumor is a far harder foe than a coronavirus. SARS-CoV-2 is the same person to person, but every tumor is different in everyone who suffers from it – which is why most current treatments only work in a fraction of the people to whom they are administered, and usually only then if the cancer is caught early.

Şahin and Türeci have set themselves an incredibly difficult task: to create utterly personalized medicines. They will deliver bespoke instructions for each individual patient’s immune system on how to destroy cancer in their body. With this approach they hope not just to save lives but to transform medicine, creating an entirely new class of drugs and therapies that work with a body’s defenses, not against them.

So far early patient trial results are encouraging. Pancreatic cancer kills 88% of patients within three months of diagnosis. Half the patients in BioNTech’s Phase 1 trial continued to show no sign of relapse 18 months after they were first treated. One of the physicians involved described it simply as “a miracle.”

But that is only an early trial. This documentary special will be there every step of the way as the BioNTech team strives to turn promising results for a few patients into a miracle cure for the world.

From National Geographic Content, THE CANCER VACCINE is produced in partnership with Oxford Films. For Oxford Films, Nick Kent and Simon Finch are executive producers and Patrick Forbes is director. For National Geographic, Simon Raikes is commissioning editor and Tom McDonald is executive vice president, Global Factual and Unscripted Content.