In-house Drug Discovery

Priority areas of drug discovery research

Our drug discovery policy is "developing original and innovative new drugs." We are adopting a "compound-oriented" approach which focuses on characteristic bioactive lipids and unique target molecules for action to discover innovative new drug candidate compounds. Research is in progress in "four priority areas with high medical needs."

A Drug Discovery System in Each of the Four Priority Areas

Strengthening competitiveness in drug discovery by accumulating and using knowledge and expertise of diseases in each domain.

  • Oncology

    Research Center of Oncology

    As a pioneer in cancer immunotherapy,the Center works toward discovering innovative drugs for cancer patients with our experience, and technology and knowhow, nurtured through R&D of the immune checkpoint inhibitor OPDIVO. The Center are pursuing the original and unique drug seeds and new drug modalities not only through the “Open innovation” with academia and biotech companies in the world with cutting edge technologies and but also promoting translational research.

  • Immunology

    Research Center of Immunology

    Based on the long-year experience of immunology research which has helped create OPDIVO,the Center, the successor to the Research Center of Immunology established in April 2016,strives to keep research capabilities with a primary focus on biopharmaceutical development in immunology, working toward drug discovery in both areas of cancer immunotherapy and autoimmune therapy. The Center is operated in accordance with the policy of advancing unique research with strong awareness of serendipity and insight not to miss it.

  • Neurology

    Research Center of Neurology

    The Center focuses on not only neurons as major components of the nervous system, but also glial cells which maintain and support the environments necessary for survival and multiple functions of neurons. Through our intensive analysis of patient-derived tissues and iPS cells, the Center is dedicated to discovering innovative drugs to provide disease-modifying therapies, as well as symptomatic treatments, to patients with neurodegenerative diseases, which are becoming serious problems in the aging society, and those with mental disorders or chronic pain, which are still largely detrimental to society.

  • Specialty

    Research Center of Specialty Products

    The Center works toward discovery of clinically valuable pharmaceutical products for diseases for which treatment is high in unmet needs, free from the disease field. For this, it is important that the Center accurately determine real healthcare needs of patients, healthcare providers and society in general and come up with drug discoveries with the understanding of pathogenesis. Also based on ONO’s unique compound-orient approach, the Center proceeds with drug discovery.

Case Examples

  • Research Center of Oncology

    ONO-4578/EP4 antagonist

    Prostaglandin E2(PGE2)produced by cancer cells acts on PGE2receptor EP4 expressed on various immune cells to suppress the action of cancer immunity. ONO-4578 is expected to restore cancer immunity and attack cancer cells by blocking EP4.

    COX-2 enzymes expressed on cancer cells produce PGE2, which suppresses the action of cancer immunity through EP4 expressed on various immune cells.
    ONO-4578 is a selective antagonist of EP4. The nonclinical experiments have shown that ONO-4578 exerts its antitumor effect by suppressing the action of PGE2 and restoring cancer immunity.
    It is also expected to enhance the antitumor effect of our anti-PD-1 antibody nivolumab (Opdivo®).

  • Research Center of Immunology

    ONO-4685/PD-1×CD3 bispecific antibody

    PD-1 is a receptor expressed on activated T cells that inhibits activation signals of immune system. CD3 is a component of T-cell activating receptor.
    ONO-4685 is a bispecific antibody that targets both PD-1 and CD3, uniquely designed by Research Center of Immunology based on a hypothesis. Clinical trials of ONO-4685 are underway with an expectation of a new treatment of autoimmune diseases.

    Using our developed genetically modified mice, Research Center of Immunology has verified the hypothesis that ONO-4685 suppresses activated T cells and shows efficacy in an autoimmune disease model.

  • Research Center of Neurology

    ONO-2910/Schwann cell differentiation promoter

    Schwann cells, a kind of glial cell, wrap around axons of peripheral nerve cells to form a myelin sheath and support the function of nerve cells. ONO-2910, which acts on Schwann cells to promote myelination, is expected to improve various symptoms associated with peripheral neuropathy by protecting and promoting regeneration of peripheral nerve cells.

    Schwann cell (blue) wraps around the axon of peripheral nerve cell (orange) to form a myelin sheath. ONO-2910 promotes Schwann cell differentiation and myelination.

  • Research Center of Specialty

    Velexbru/BTK inhibitor

    Velexbru is an oral Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor with high selectivity created by ONO and was approved as the world’s first BTK inhibitor for the treatment of primary central nervous system lymphoma. Velexbru is now under development for diseases other than cancer.

    In autoimmune diseases, the signal transduction of B cell receptors (BCRs), which play important roles in immunity, is known to be constitutively activated.
    By inhibiting BTK, which plays a central role in BCR signaling, Velexbru is expected to offer advantages also in autoimmune diseases including Pemphigus.