Despite an extraordinary investment in R the yield of successful new drugs has been disproportionately low in recent years, suggesting that the whole process of drug development requires rethinking and reform. Most analyses on this issue focus on molecular target discovery considerations. Target identification is characterized by a surplus of potential targets, but there is a translational bottleneck primarily due to limitations of currently employed target validation platforms. Meanwhile, the clinical entities, to which treatments are directed, are also highly complex in terms of pathophysiologic mechanisms and manifestations. In the present study we discuss the limitations of current molecular target discovery approaches mainly in regard to selectivity and efficacy. We also describe the constraints imposed on drug development by the current diagnostic constructs and the tendency towards dissecting the complex clinical phenotypes to component intermediate phenotypes. Finally, we describe how the reconsideration of molecular and clinical targets in polygenic diseases may lead to new strategies of pharmacological intervention directed against component dysfunctions, rather than the whole complex phenotype. Such strategies involve the combination of single ligands that act selectively on multiple molecules involved in a particular disease, or the employment of “multi-targeted” drugs, i.e. single drug molecules that hit selectively multiple receptors sharing common binding sites.
Keywords: Systemic evaluation of ligands by exponential enrichment, High throughput screening, Acute respiratory distress syndrome, Multiple organ distress syndrome, Extracellular signal-regulated kinase, Human genome program
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