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Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
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Tumor Neoantigen Selection Alliance (TESLA)

We aim to improve cancer vaccines for patients through AI.

Why This Research

Tumor neoantigens act like a red flag to the immune system: they tell the body something has gone wrong. In this case, that something is cancer. Growing out of control, mutating.

Scientists figured out a way to take neoantigens and turn them into targets for therapeutic cancer vaccines – personalized to each patient.

But how can we predict which mutations in a patient’s DNA will make the best personalized cancer vaccine? One that helps kill cancer cells but not normal cells, and riles up the immune system in just the right way?

You take the best minds, the best algorithms and form an AI cancer supergroup to find the answer.

What We’re Doing

PICI and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) did just that when they launched the Tumor Neoantigen Selection Alliance in fall 2016. This global bioinformatics consortium includes scientists from more than 40 of the leading neoantigen research groups in academia, nonprofit and industry.

Through predictive algorithms and machine learning, the group is sniffing out which cancer neoantigens encoded in DNA and RNA can be recognized and stimulate an immune response.

Finding the right predictive algorithms for targeting neoantigens could allow scientists to create more cancer immunotherapy treatments tailored to each patient.

About the Research

Research teams take DNA and RNA sequences from samples of human tissue and blood. Using their own algorithms and machine learning methods, they formulate a list of predicted neoantigens.

To see how well those predictions stack up, the proposed neoantigens are evaluated through laboratory testing.

Each participant receives feedback to inform and improve their predictions in the future. With each iteration, predictions should get more precise.

This data-driven process will help us pinpoint the best targets for personalized cancer treatments. The end result: more effective, targeted cancer vaccines tailored to each patient.

Where We’re at Now

We evaluated the consortium’s neoantigen predictions for melanoma and lung cancer, chosen for their high tumor mutational burden – or how many mutations a tumor has, essentially.

We expect to publish the data in 2020.


This project is a multi-institution collaboration of investigators from more than 40 organizations worldwide. Meet the scientists leading the charge: