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Orion is developing an immuno-oncology (IO) drug discovery platform in the national research and innovation consortium Cancer IO



The national research and innovation project Cancer IO started in May as a part of Business Finland’s Personalized Health Program. The project will develop new solutions to enhance immunotherapy treatments and support the introduction of new therapies. Orion is one of the companies participating in the project, and the aim is to develop and establish an immuno-oncology drug discovery platform (IO platform) at Orion.

This project coordinated by the University of Helsinki will integrate a significant number of Finnish immuno-oncology projects, which will be carried out at the universities of Helsinki and Turku, three university hospitals and one central hospital as well as in eight Finnish companies. The Cancer IO project also includes several patient organisations and the nine largest IO-investing pharmaceutical companies. Orion is one of the pharmaceutical companies taking part in the project.

Oncology is one of Orion’s core therapy areas in pharmaceutical R&D. In the Cancer IO project, the aim is to develop and establish also an immuno-oncology drug discovery platform (IO platform) at Orion.

Cancer treatments are now increasingly combination treatments, in which immuno-oncology (IO) treatments are key components. IO treatments have shown their efficacy in cancer treatment and particularly when combined with other oncology treatments targeting the drives of tumour growth. The IO platform to be developed during the project will enable the development of new IO treatments in future.

“Collaboration with the academic and industry partners in the Cancer IO network will radically boost the achievement of these goals. The various participants will bring the right expertise and technologies into the project. The Cancer IO consortium will also give access to Finnish biobank samples and the unique cell models which provide opportunities for innovative solutions to the development of personalised therapies,” says Outi Vaarala, Orion’s new Senior Vice President, R&D as of 1 June 2020.

Since the research of IO treatments is a new area for Orion, the development of the research methods and technologies will require new kinds of competence and wide expertise. Orion already invested in strengthening this competence area last year and has recruited an IO team for the development of the IO platform.

Cancer IO

The Cancer IO programme seeks to meet the new challenges of the immuno-oncology era by supporting Finnish top-level research and innovation, by advancing the individualisation and introduction of cancer treatments in hospitals and by creating new methods to evaluate the efficacy of IO therapies in everyday use.

Immuno-oncology (IO)

Cancer immunotherapy or immuno-oncology (IO) is rapidly becoming the new foundation of cancer treatments in addition to traditional surgical and pharmaceutical treatments. However, immunotherapy is a completely different approach compared to all the therapies used so far. Instead of trying to directly destroy cancer cells, immunotherapy seeks unlock the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.

Contact person:
Outi Vaarala, Senior Vice President, R&D, Orion Corporation
Tel. +358 50 966 3472

Contact person for media:
Terhi Ormio, Vice President, Communications, Orion Corporation
Tel. +358 50 966 4646

Orion Corporation
Orionintie 1A, FI-02200 Espoo, Finland

Orion is a globally operating Finnish pharmaceutical company – a builder of well-being. Orion develops, manufactures and markets human and veterinary pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients. The company is continuously developing new drugs and treatment methods. The core therapy areas of Orion's pharmaceutical R&D are central nervous system (CNS) disorders, oncology, Finnish heritage rare diseases and respiratory diseases for which Orion develops inhaled Easyhaler® pulmonary drugs. Orion's net sales in 2019 amounted to EUR 1,051 million and the company had about 3,300 employees at the end of the year. Orion's A and B shares are listed on Nasdaq Helsinki.