With more and more health ailments affecting everyone on the planet, it has become increasingly necessary to have better and accurate methods to find medicines in the pharmaceutical industry. In 1900, one-third of all deaths in the U.S. were due to diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea.
With more technological developments in the fields like data science and artificial intelligence, it seems like inventing new drugs for viruses and other microorganisms would not be a long process, but in fact, it is a process that takes years of hard work, time, dedication, and commitment of the medical professionals.
These days, we have various computational drug discovery companies that are trying to use and apply new technology and computer-based techniques to find medical solutions to various diseases. But this is not how it all started.
History of drug discovery
Drug discovery is a term given to the process of finding new medicinal candidates for existing or new disease-causing microorganisms. The two most important historical periods of drug discovery can be traced back to the early nineteenth century and the late twentieth century.
In the early days, manufacturing a drug was either done by observing the most effective chemical compounds that were found in traditional medicines, or it was simply a matter of chance. The most successful example of a discovery that was actually a mere serendipitous encounter, is the discovery of penicillin.
Modern methods of drug discovery
There are various ways that a drug can be discovered and put into use by people around the world. Phenotypic screening for drug discovery or PDD and target-based drug discovery are two main methods in which new drugs are manufactured by pharmaceutical professionals.
Phenotypic screening for drug discovery
This method has shown some benefits over the contemporary target-based drug discovery method and most of the modern drugs had been invented using the phenotypic drug discovery process. In this method, a drug is first identified, before any prior knowledge of the molecular target.
A phenotype is basically any biological characteristic that can be observed or measured, for example, heart rate. It may even be a developmental, physiological, or behavioral trait of an organism.
In this method, the effect of a drug is studied on the overall phenotypic pattern of an organism rather than just studying the effect of the drug on a specific part of the target cells or tissues.
Target-based drug discovery
In this method, it is essential to know the functioning of the molecular targets before going further with the development of drugs to target the same cells or tissues. This is only possible if the discovery of the target has already happened.
Thus, for target-based drug discovery, the discovery of target must precede the drug invention and development and target identification is of utmost importance to proceed with this process. In most cases, protein targets are used, for example, enzymes.
Before a drug is manufactured, various tests and experiments are performed in order to study the direct or indirect involvement of the target in the disease.
In order to perform target-based screening and drug discovery, it is important to have enough knowledge and data about the target cells, as drug discovery follows the knowledge of target cells in this case. The more that is known about the target, the easier it gets to study the effects of drugs on its behavior.
These days, technology is helping with modeling the structure and knowing more in detail about the target cells. Various computational drug discovery companies provide services to collect maximum data about the target cells.
Advantages of Target-based drug discovery method
The target-based drug discovery process has been more successful than the phenotypic drug discovery process. Between 1999 to 2013, more than seventy percent of the drugs that were approved by the U.S. FDA were actually identified and invented through target-based drug discovery methods.
This process has been successful in identifying not just small molecule drugs, but also antibodies and various other protein biologics. The most important advantage of target-based methods of discovering drugs is that they are simpler to be executed.
The other advantages include them being faster, easier, and more cost-efficient than other methods of drug discoveries.
When a molecular target is well researched, drug discovery methods can also use other chemical and biological procedures like crystallography, biochemistry, computational modeling, binding kinetics, molecular pharmacology, genomics, and mutational analysis to better understand the effect of a drug on the target.