The mission

The mission of the Institute for Applied Cancer Science (IACS) is to apply scientific knowledge of mechanisms driving tumor development and maintenance into the development of impactful small molecule cancer therapies.

Embedded within MD Anderson’s culture of innovative academic science and clinical excellence, the institute aligns drug discovery and development research directly with the world-class science and clinical care for which MD Anderson is known. The mission is to bring novel, more effective therapeutics to patients.

The Institute’s synergistic approach relies on three key components:

  • A highly experienced team of professional drug discovery and development scientists
  • Real-time access to insights gained by the best physician-scientists in the nation, who treat more than 120,000 cancer patients per year
  • Clinically informed, patient-oriented research programs that are focused on delivering impactful results to patients


Established in November 2011, IACS has been operational since January 2012. Since then, the Institute has built a state-of-the-art laboratory from the ground up, recruited a staff of talented scientists with proven track records in drug discovery and development, and developed a portfolio of projects that are being driven aggressively toward the clinic.

The first of these, IACS-010759, an inhibitor of oxidative phosphorylation for the treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, has completed GLP-toxicology studies and an Investigational New Drug (IND) application will be filed during the second quarter of 2016. IACS-6274 is another selected clinical candidate for a second undisclosed cancer metabolism target that is being developed in partnership with two moon shot disease sites.

The Institute has integrated capabilities in cancer biology, medicinal chemistry, in vitro and in vivo pharmacology, structural biology and computational chemistry, animal modeling, computational and systems biology, as well as translational medicine. Together with the research and clinical resources of the nation’s leading cancer hospital, we have the ability to take a program from a research hypothesis all the way to a clinical candidate supported by robust preclinical data, and into early phase clinical studies in well-defined patient populations.

IACS projects include drug discovery in the areas of cancer metabolism, epigenetics and signal transduction. These projects are weighed through a consideration of not only clinical impact and scientific merit but also technical feasibility. Specific factors considered in the selection criteria for each target include:

  • Disease relevance — including the dependency of specific cancer cells for this protein
  • Ease of therapeutic attack — especially the probability of finding a suitable molecule for proof-of-concept pharmacological studies in a timely manner
  • Clinical need — emphasis on cancer subtypes where no therapy is currently available

The Institute is currently advancing three major drug discovery programs aimed at delivering clinical candidates within the next 12-24 months. In addition, we have a robust a pipeline of earlier stage programs. The nature of our work is collaborative: we work with MD Anderson investigators and have also successfully partnered with external pharmaceutical companies and foundations for some of our ongoing development programs. We will continue to forge partnerships with external parties so that, together, we can advance the most promising novel therapeutic candidates into the clinic to help patients.

Phil Jones, Ph.D. Executive Director and Head of Drug Discovery, IACS

New immuno-oncology collaboration and exclusive license with TESARO

In its inaugural collaboration that focuses on small molecule drug discovery, IACS has signed an exclusive agreement with TESARO, Inc., an oncology-focused biopharmaceutical company. This will fast-track new immune-modulating therapies for cancer patients by discovering and developing small molecule product candidates against immuno-oncology targets. This alliance leverages MD Anderson’s significant expertise in drug discovery and translational medicine and unites it with TESARO’s oncology development and commercialization capabilities. Under terms of the agreement, IACS will be responsible for conducting research activities aimed at identifying clinical candidates while TESARO will receive exclusive worldwide rights to develop and commercialize any small molecule product candidates that result from this collaboration.

Learn more.


Translating research into medical practice

“An institution the size of ours needs to be providing its patients additional options,” says Dr. Jones. “The ultimate goal here is to get some of our projects onto pharmacy shelves and one day have some of the medicines we develop change patients’ lives.”

By embedding a drug discovery operation here within MD Anderson, we have the ability to identify novel targets and then move industry-quality molecules into development and proof-of-concept studies.

Learn more about how IACS is aiming to deliver three clinical candidates within the next 24 months.


Contact us

Institute for Applied Cancer Science
MD Anderson Cancer Center
1901 East Road
Houston TX 77054
Tel: 713-745-2600