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Out of 10,000 substances which enter the screening process, only 20 make it  preclinical development. Ten substances go on to the clinical trial, after which only one is successfully approved.

Finding a Molecule

How it gets started

Research at laboratory

There are several ways of developing a new active substance. A natural substance can be isolated, produced synthetically or optimized via chemical modification. However, it is also possible to produce an active substance completely synthetically and without a natural model. This kind of molecule is called designer molecule.

But before a new drug can be developed, it is necessary to identify the disease which it is intended to treat. The researchers try to identify a ‘target’, a molecule in the human body to which the new active substance can be directed in order to influence the course of a disease. This ‘target’ may be an enzyme or a receptor. Once this target has been defined, the researchers can start looking for a suitable substance.

Molecule libraries often contain several millions of molecules. With the help of robots, these libraries are browsed for potential substances in so-called high-throughput-screenings. These screenings provide initial indications of the activity or properties of a substance. The number of molecules which enter the screening is very high as many of them are dismissed in the process as not suitable. These tests are conducted ‘in vitro’, i.e. with tissue cultures or blood cells. About 20 substances pass these tests. They are then sent to preclinical development.

last update:  21 Sep 2012