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Pure Appl. Chem., 2001, Vol. 73, No. 1, pp. 67-75

Continuing evolution of the drug discovery process in the pharmaceutical industry

Emiliangelo Ratti and David Trist

Glaxo Wellcome SpA Medicines Research Centre, Verona, Italy

Abstract: Many early discoveries in the pharmaceutical industry were through serendipity. Later, targets were mainly identified in animals and systematically exploited through the identification of potent and selective molecules. A disease association was normally obtained through the clinical testing of candidate molecules in patients. The technological advances in the last few years offer the possibility of knowing more about the disease, and this is driving the industry toward a disease-based approach where understanding the disease becomes central to the process. This is now possible thanks to the recent explosion in molecular and cellular biology, together with the application of genetics and genomics. New screening technologies have also revolutionized the identification of chemical leads. Now, high-throughput screening allows a wide chemical diversity to be applied in order to obtain tractable leads, which can then be optimized by the medicinal chemist. It is envisaged that these trends of continuously searching for process improvement will continue, being driven by the need to find medicines that add value in treating unmet medical need.