This decade began with the potential of a wealth of new biological targets for drug research. With the human genome sequenced and the machinery in place to run biological screening on unprecedented numbers of molecules, this decade promised more than most. For the G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), big pharma-sponsored deorphanisation programs, aimed to furnish all the natural ligands.
In many synthetic chemistry laboratories, clamps and round bottom flasks were usurped by a diverse array of parallel reaction blocks, as the combinatorial chemistry revolution geared up to supply the demand created by high throughput screening (HTS).
Few researchers and industrialists have not been exposed to a seemingly constant barrage of statistics showing that the numbers of new drugs making it onto the market are in relentless decline, while research and development costs are soaring.
Most protein targets remain elusive, including the most tractable >100 GPCRs.
So…what went wrong? Have we learned anything? If there is a consensus of current best practices, what are they? ‘Hot Topics in drug discovery’ took place on Wednesday 11 November 2009 and was organised by SCI’s Fine Chemicals Group.
The purpose of the event was to provide informed opinion from a wide range of speakers, from both big pharma and medium biotech, on the early stage drug discovery process. There was a particular emphasis on which aspects of this process have changed over the last decade, and case studies contrasting both HTS and non- HTS approaches to drug discovery.
Martin Slater, BioFocus DPI, UK and SCI’s Fine Chemicals Group Committee