ONO-4641 is a next-generation sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) receptor agonist selective for S1P receptors 1 and 5. The objective of the study was to characterize the immunomodulatory effects of ONO-4641 using preclinical data. ONO-4641 was tested in bothin-vitropharmacological studies as well asin-vivomodels of transient or relapsing–remitting experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE).In vitro, ONO-4641 showed highly potent agonistic activitiesversusS1P receptors 1 and 5 [half maximal effective concentration (EC50) values of 0·0273 and 0·334 nM, respectively], and had profound S1P receptor 1 down-regulating effects on the cell membrane. ONO-4641 decreased peripheral blood lymphocyte counts in rats by inhibiting lymphocyte egress from secondary lymphoid tissues. In a rat experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) model, ONO-4641 suppressed the onset of disease and inhibited lymphocyte infiltration into the spinal cord in a dose-dependent manner at doses of 0·03 and 0·1 mg/kg. Furthermore, ONO-4641 prevented relapse of disease in a non-obese diabetic mouse model of relapsing-remitting EAE. These observations suggest that ONO-4641 may provide therapeutic benefits in the treatment of multiple sclerosis.