Effective drug discovery begins with the right assay, but the definition of "right" will shift as technology advances. More often than not, "right" is the product of tribal knowledge, namely the traditions of one's close peer group, study lineage and corporate culture. Instead, the right assay should be a fit-for-purpose application born of a broader, continuously updated, and unbiased consensus. As Steve Hamilton, aka The Lab Man, at the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening (SLAS) has often stated in his blog posts, "developing assays – properly – is the cornerstone for life sciences R&D."
Drug Discovery Insights
The16th century alchemical and 19th century science fiction revival of a miniature human being in a test tube is undergoing a radical upgrade. Microfluidics, complex organoid cultures, and nanodetection of phenotypic and genomic outputs are turning the metaphor into a reality to be seriously reckoned with in drug R&D. Here are recent highlights from the (mostly) open access literature, which should bring drug hunters up to speed
The question is often raised, but the answer remains to be uncovered because the definition of drug "target" continues to evolve. Historical conceptualization is focused on catalytic sites, substrate binding sites, or epigenetic modification sites. Current understanding that protein-protein interactions are druggable, along with the emerging realization that "nodes" in signaling pathways and biological networks themselves can be manipulated with small molecules in non-traditional ways, has opened up new targeting options. This review is intended to provide a status update, and you can also access a list of 36 actionable web resources for target hunting.
Consensus seems universal and the news about it flows literally by the minute over gene editing as a future therapy, complete with patent sagas and ethical conundrums. But at the bench, CRISPR's impact is also proving disruptive, and revolutionary, soon to irrevocably change the mechanics of drug discovery and pre-clinical development in multiple ways. One particular set of CRISPR applications should be on every drug hunter's radar: disease relevant cellular reporter models manipulated to reflect disease phenotypes.
Pharma productivity has remained a daunting challenge, notably because R&D departments have been shuffled and reorganized over the last few years in attempts to revitalize the process. One trend, among multiple parallel tracks, has come into fashion. With millions of compounds in inventory, why not re-examine the ones that have consistently shown no activity in bioassays (and presumed are safe if inactive also in toxicological assays) rather than re-invent new ones? Enter the concept of exploring Dark Chemical Matter (DCM).