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Drug discovery

In the fields of medicine, biotechnology and pharmacology, drug discovery is the process by which new candidate medications are discovered. In the fields of medicine, biotechnology and pharmacology, drug discovery is the process by which new candidate medications are discovered. Historically, drugs were discovered by identifying the active ingredient from traditional remedies or by serendipitous discovery, as with penicillin. More recently, chemical libraries of synthetic small molecules, natural products or extracts were screened in intact cells or whole organisms to identify substances that had a desirable therapeutic effect in a process known as classical pharmacology. After sequencing of the human genome allowed rapid cloning and synthesis of large quantities of purified proteins, it has become common practice to use high throughput screening of large compounds libraries against isolated biological targets which are hypothesized to be disease-modifying in a process known as reverse pharmacology. Hits from these screens are then tested in cells and then in animals for efficacy. Modern drug discovery involves the identification of screening hits, medicinal chemistry and optimization of those hits to increase the affinity, selectivity (to reduce the potential of side effects), efficacy/potency, metabolic stability (to increase the half-life), and oral bioavailability. Once a compound that fulfills all of these requirements has been identified, the process of drug development can continue, and, if successful, clinical trials. One or more of these steps may, but not necessarily, involve computer-aided drug design. Modern drug discovery is thus usually a capital-intensive process that involves large investments by pharmaceutical industry corporations as well as national governments (who provide grants and loan guarantees). Despite advances in technology and understanding of biological systems, drug discovery is still a lengthy, 'expensive, difficult, and inefficient process' with low rate of new therapeutic discovery. In 2010, the research and development cost of each new molecular entity was about US$1.8 billion. Currently, basic discovery research is funded primarily by governments and by philanthropic organizations, while late-stage development is funded primarily by pharmaceutical companies or venture capitalists. To be allowed to come to market, drugs must undergo several phases of clinical trials, and most drugs fail. Small companies have a critical role, often then selling the rights to larger companies that have the resources to run the clinical trials. Discovering drugs that may be a commercial success, or a public health success, involves a complex interaction between investors, industry, academia, patent laws, regulatory exclusivity, marketing and the need to balance secrecy with communication. Meanwhile, for disorders whose rarity means that no large commercial success or public health effect can be expected, the orphan drug funding process ensures that people who experience those disorders can have some hope of pharmacotherapeutic advances. The idea that the effect of a drug in the human body is mediated by specific interactions of the drug molecule with biological macromolecules, (proteins or nucleic acids in most cases) led scientists to the conclusion that individual chemicals are required for the biological activity of the drug. This made for the beginning of the modern era in pharmacology, as pure chemicals, instead of crude extracts of medicinal plants, became the standard drugs. Examples of drug compounds isolated from crude preparations are morphine, the active agent in opium, and digoxin, a heart stimulant originating from Digitalis lanata. Organic chemistry also led to the synthesis of many of the natural products isolated from biological sources. Historically, substances, whether crude extracts or purified chemicals, were screened for biological activity without knowledge of the biological target. Only after an active substance was identified was an effort made to identify the target. This approach is known as classical pharmacology, forward pharmacology, or phenotypic drug discovery. Later, small molecules were synthesized to specifically target a known physiological/pathological pathway, avoiding the mass screening of banks of stored compounds. This led to great success, such as the work of Gertrude Elion and George H. Hitchings on purine metabolism, the work of James Black on beta blockers and cimetidine, and the discovery of statins by Akira Endo. Another champion of the approach of developing chemical analogues of known active substances was Sir David Jack at Allen and Hanbury's, later Glaxo, who pioneered the first inhaled selective beta2-adrenergic agonist for asthma, the first inhaled steroid for asthma, ranitidine as a successor to cimetidine, and supported the development of the triptans. Gertrude Elion, working mostly with a group of fewer than 50 people on purine analogues, contributed to the discovery of the first anti-viral; the first immunosuppressant (azathioprine) that allowed human organ transplantation; the first drug to induce remission of childhood leukaemia; pivotal anti-cancer treatments; an anti-malarial; an anti-bacterial; and a treatment for gout.

[ "Biochemistry", "Bioinformatics", "Pharmacology", "Drug", "Computational biology", "Chemical space", "Reverse pharmacology", "cancer drug discovery", "compound profiling", "Cheminformatics" ]
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