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MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery Division, Orionis Biosciences Launch Project Helios to Advance Novel Small-Molecule Cancer Medicines

Collaboration designed to uncover new drug-target interactions at genome scale

BOSTON & GHENT, Belgium & HOUSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Orionis Biosciences, a life sciences company pioneering innovation in genome-scale drug discovery, and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center’s Therapeutics Discovery division today announced the launch of Project Helios, a research collaboration designed to unlock new drug development opportunities through genome-scale mapping of drug-target interactions.

Combining Orionis’ unique high-throughput drug discovery technologies with the Therapeutics Discovery division’s expertise in small-molecule therapies and translational biology, Project Helios aims to create an unparalleled collection of drug-target interaction data to enable rational drug discovery, optimization and repurposing. The project will focus initially on developing therapies for unmet needs in oncology, with the possibility of expanding to additional therapeutic areas in the future.

“We are excited to be collaborating with MD Anderson’s Therapeutics Discovery team in launching Project Helios, a fundamental step toward new approaches in drug discovery that will enlighten our understanding of the dark proteome. This effort will build on a wealth of public data, chemical and clinical knowledge that has been assembled over many years across the pharmaceutical industry and biomedical institutions,” said Niko Kley, chief executive officer at Orionis.

Molecular interactions between small-molecule drugs and proteins define both their therapeutic efficacy as well as undesired adverse effects. A comprehensive unraveling of these interactions is fundamentally important both for illuminating new drug development opportunities and devising safer medicines with fewer related toxicities.

“We are pleased to be collaborating with Orionis on this exciting initiative to understand drug-target interactions at a new level of detail. The intersection of the data from Project Helios with the unparalleled translational research and drug discovery capabilities at MD Anderson should yield important insights for therapeutics development, hopefully resulting in impactful new medicines for patients with cancer,” said Philip Jones, Ph.D., vice president of Therapeutics Discovery at MD Anderson.

Project Helios will conduct systematic and unbiased mapping of drug interactions across the human proteome with a large portfolio of bioactive, chemically diverse small molecules, including experimental and approved drugs. The findings may provide opportunities to repurpose approved therapies, optimize therapeutic approaches for known targets and develop therapies for novel targets.

“We expect Project Helios to generate a unique data set for the application of new machine-learning models for multivariate, genomic-scale drug design and to further illuminate what we refer to as the ‘Drug Pocketome’ [small-molecule binding sites on drug targets],” said Riccardo Sabatini, chief data scientist at Orionis.

About Orionis Biosciences

Orionis Biosciences is a life sciences company pioneering technological innovation in genome-scale drug discovery and tunable molecular design of novel therapeutic drug modalities. Our technologies and pipeline include proprietary A-Kine™ biologics and Allo-Glue™ small molecule platforms with broad, innovative applications to the reprogramming of disease states. The company is currently advancing multiple novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. Learn more at

About MD Anderson

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston ranks as one of the world's most respected centers focused on cancer patient care, research, education and prevention. The institution’s sole mission is to end cancer for patients and their families around the world. MD Anderson is one of only 51 comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). MD Anderson is ranked No.1 for cancer care in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” survey. It has ranked as one of the nation’s top two hospitals for cancer care since the survey began in 1990 and has ranked first 16 times in the last 19 years. MD Anderson receives a cancer center support grant from the NCI of the National Institutes of Health (P30 CA016672).


Orionis Biosciences
Madeline Davidshofer

MD Anderson
Clayton R. Boldt, Ph.D.

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Last Updated: 09-Mar-2021