Fragment-Based Drug Discovery

Fragment-based approaches to finding novel small molecules that bind to proteins are now firmly established in drug discovery and chemical biology. Initially developed primarily in a few centers in the biotech and pharma industry, this methodology has now been adopted widely in both the pharmaceutical industry and academia. After the initial success with kinase targets, the versatility of this approach has now expanded to a broad range of different protein classes. Herein we describe recent fragment-based approaches to a wide range of target types, including Hsp90, β-secretase, and allosteric sites in human immunodeficiency virus protease and fanesyl pyrophosphate synthase. The role of fragment-based approaches in an academic research environment is also examined with an emphasis on neglected diseases such as tuberculosis. The development of a fragment library, the fragment screening process, and the subsequent fragment hit elaboration will be discussed using examples from the literature.

The search for new drugs is plagued by high attrition rates at all stages in research and development. Chemists have an opportunity to tackle this problem because attrition can be traced back, in part, to the quality of the chemical leads. Fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD) is a new approach, increasingly used in the pharmaceutical industry, for reducing attrition and providing leads for previously intractable biological targets. FBDD identifies low-molecular-weight ligands (approx150 Da) that bind to biologically important macromolecules. The three-dimensional experimental binding mode of these fragments is determined using X-ray crystallography or NMR spectroscopy, and is used to facilitate their optimization into potent molecules with drug-like properties. Compared with high-throughput-screening, the fragment approach requires fewer compounds to be screened, and, despite the lower initial potency of the screening hits, offers more efficient and fruitful optimization campaigns. Here, we review the rise of FBDD, including its application to discovering clinical candidates against targets for which other chemistry approaches have struggled.

  • Novel Trends in Fragments Library Design and Evaluation (3D, complexity)
  • Fragment-based approaches applied to tough targets
  • Biophysical methods for fragment library screening (SPR, NMR, ITC)
  • In silico approaches to fragment-based drug design
  • Case studies of fragment-derived compounds in clinical trials

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