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Orion Bionetworks: Developing Predictive Models to Power the Search for Cures

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Today we announce the launch of Orion Bionetworks, a multi-institution cooperative non-profit alliance that is unlocking the power of shared data and predictive modeling to help transform our understanding of diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and accelerate the search for cures. Alliance partners include leading organizations in patient care, computational modeling, translational research, and patient advocacy: Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis, the Institute for Neurosciences at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, GNS Healthcare, MetaCell, and PatientsLikeMe. Janssen Research & Development, LLC, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company, has provided a $5.4 million scientific sponsorship as part of its Healthy Minds program for the initial phase of this effort.

Orion Bionetworks has been established as a program of the Marin Community Foundation. Its President & CEO, Thomas Peters, Ph.D., hailed the formation of the new alliance. “We are enormously proud to welcome Orion Bionetworks within the Foundation,” said Peters. “We are confident that this blend of expertise and creativity will lead to significant scientific success.”

Key supporting partners include One Mind for Research, Morrison & Foerster, Recombinant Data, and Weber Shandwick.

A Unique Cooperative Alliance

Through Orion Bionetworks, alliance partners contribute to a communal body of knowledge in the pursuit of better disease understanding, prevention and treatment, and gain access to state-of-the-art analytical tools, technologies and inter-disciplinary expertise.

Initially, Orion Bionetworks will focus on integrating clinical, biomarker and imaging data with rich real-world patient data from existing, independent databases of over 7,000 people with MS into a causal computational disease model.

PatientsLikeMe Co-Founder and Chairman Jamie Heywood said, “This silo-breaking initiative allows data from disparate sources, including our patient network of thousands of individuals who monitor their health and share their MS symptom and treatment information, to be analyzed in a way that will transform future discoveries and maximize the benefit for all.”

Computational Modeling

Computational modeling, or biosimulation, is an emerging research platform that has the potential to transform our understanding of human biology and predict which individual or environmental factors influence the development and progression of disease. Application of sophisticated modeling and simulation technologies for drug discovery and development could help the healthcare industry overcome the current economic and product pipeline challenges it faces in a number of therapeutic areas including neuroscience.

Orion Bionetworks is creating a framework to advance causal disease models by supporting the creation of new computational tools and communities and facilitating their access to integrated, large-scale, diverse biological and clinical data from registries and repositories.

“By bringing together this multidisciplinary group of collaborators and enabling the sharing of integrated clinical and ‘omics data, Orion Bionetworks could help realize the promise of computational modeling in disease research,” said Iya Khalil, Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of GNS Healthcare, one of the alliance members. “Causal models learned directly from data will help us understand the biology of the disease and predict which approach to treatment will work for individual patients. This could accelerate the search for cures.”

Advancing Understanding of Multiple Sclerosis

Orion Bionetworks’ initial focus is multiple sclerosis. MS affects over 2.5 million individuals worldwide. It is an exceedingly complex spectrum of diseases that involves both acute inflammation and chronic, progressive neurodegeneration in the brain and spinal cord. Physicians are challenged with managing patients whose course ranges from mild disease with modest levels of disability to a small number of treatment-refractory cases with profound disability. Currently, no one can predict an individual patient’s course or whether they will respond to a prescribed therapy. Further, while we can suppress the inflammatory component of MS to some extent, there is no treatment for its neurodegenerative component and no treatment that cures a patient. Thus, this unpredictable illness takes a tremendous toll on patients and their families. However, with recent advances in biomedical science and analytic methods, MS is uniquely ready for the new tools of predictive modeling, which can integrate diverse datasets and answer critical questions beyond the reach of individual research efforts.

“The path forward is clear: through Orion Bionetworks, one large dataset of patients can be explored very deeply with all available platforms to create a reference atlas of MS,” said Philip De Jager, MD, PhD, a physician researcher at the Institute for Neurosciences at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “With such an atlas of MS, we can chart a route forward towards the personalization of MS care and the targeting of MS-related neurodegeneration.”

Additional information on the organization and partnership opportunities is available on the organization’s website, www.orionbionetworks.org.

Source: Business Wire