Cell-based assays have always played an important role in the pharmaceutical industry, providing information about the functional effects of compounds. These functional assays have traditionally accompanied facile biochemical high throughput screening programmes, being applied as secondary assays in the later stages of lead development. However, with the disappointing reality that there is not likely to be a plethora of novel, druggable targets in the post-genomic era, the role of cell-based assays in drug discovery is beginning to change. Competition to develop the “best” agents for well established targets and find more effective ways of identifying “novel” agents is driving the industry towards a “quality” versus “quantity” approach. Advances in genetic engineering, automation compatible functional assay technologies and the introduction of more sophisticated robotic systems, have facilitated the application of cell-based assays to primary screening. However, despite some apparent success to move these assays into the routine “toolbox” for high throughput screening, certain preconceptions and concerns about cell-based assays persist and the subject remains a topic of much debate. Here we use examples from the screening portfolio at Pfizer, Sandwich, to discuss the practical and theoretical considerations of employing cell-based assays in HTS with a focus on G -protein coupled receptors.
Keywords: g-protein coupled receptors, high throughput screening, assay development, cells, function, cell-based, efficacy, affinity
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