Researchers working in drug discovery have made remarkable progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in disease. This is largely owed to the advances in technologies such as RNA interference, gene expression and the development of live cell assays, laboratory automation systems and other research tools.
“Over the past 25 years, the pharmaceutical industry has invested heavily in technologies that increase throughput, decrease costs and provide access to new targets,” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Dr. Laleh Safinia. “However, there is a disparity between levels of R&D investment and the development of innovative new drugs.”
The industry is now looking at new ways to improve target identification and validation, manufacture greater numbers of candidate drug compounds and to predict ADME/Tox profiles earlier during the development process. Drug discovery research has turned to developing better in vitro, in vivo and in silico methods and models. Technological advances in combinatorial chemistry, pharmacogenomics, high throughput screening and bioinformatics have also led to reductions in the time and cost of new drug discovery programmes.
“The future trend in drug discovery is the growing interest in biomarkers,” says Safinia. “The development of technology platforms for measuring the biomarkers that are indicators of disease stages or compound toxicity is a promising avenue for streamlining the entire drug discovery process.”
Since 2005, Biomarker discovery has received heavy investment from major pharmaceutical firms and is generating new opportunities in contract research.
“The biggest drive across the industry is in the field of oncology,” Safinia notes. “Cancer indications do not necessarily manifest themselves as easily measurable symptoms and biomarkers could have tremendous application in drug efficacy testing.”
In addition, fragment based drug discovery and fragment based screening, together with label free technology, high content screening (HCS) and predictive drug discovery with the use of in silico platforms will drive the drug discovery market.
Traditionally, high throughput screening has not delivered on its promise of increasing the numbers and quality of new drugs entering clinical trials. The lack of success is due in part to the complexity and the relatively large size of the compounds routinely being screened.
This problem can be addressed by fragment based drug discovery (FBDD), which uses as starting points very small, low molecular weight, drug fragments. These fragments have the potential to keep the overall complexity and molecular weight of each drug candidate low, a key factor in successful drug development.
“Developing safe and effective new drugs is a long, difficult and expensive process,” Safinia says. “While the cost of developing new drugs is increasing rapidly, so is the number of withdrawals from the marketplace due to adverse drug reactions and/or toxicity. Better target selection and the appropriate use of predictive technologies are among the approaches currently being championed for an improvement in the productivity of the discovery of new drug candidates.”
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