1.2.3. Screening candidates

After the identification and a detailed study of the key target in the development of the disease, there is a second stage based on the screening or selection of the future drugs that will effectively perform on that causal target. This approach dictates the discovery of most marketed drugs presently.
In the selection of chemical compounds, scientists should have an accurate idea about what sorts of candidates are able to bind to the biological receptor in a suitable way, thus minimising the number of compounds that need to be initially screened. This number will be further decreased by the use of specialized software and virtual libraries that contain detailed knowledge about the different pharmacological compounds to be analysed.
Subsequently, the screening carried out in the laboratories uses automated equipment with multiwell plates (carrying the biological receptor), in these plates the performance of the different candidates to study is evaluated in a relatively short period of time.

In principle one would think that the better binding pharmacological compound-target is, the better the expected result should be, but this is not always the case, since knowing the mechanism of disease progression and the role of all its targets is nearly impossible. This is why researchers have developed an alternative approach to this problem, named the phenotypic approach. Using technique a living model[1] of the disease is used and scientists conduct research to see if the candidate has been able to reduce or eliminate the signs of the disease in some way, without knowing the targets and their mechanisms of action.
The main advantage of this method is its higher potential to discover first-class compounds, but not knowing the receptor makes it much harder to modify the chemical compounds. Also, it will be unknown how these likely modifications could affect the binding with the biological target.

Relatively recently, a new type of compounds called biologic compounds have been used, which rather than being produced in a chemical lab, originate from living systems.
Most of them are not going to bind to any targets because they are copies of existing molecules in our organism.
For example, insulin[2] has been produced by genetic engineering by introducing DNA in bacteria colonies. These bacteria grow, multiply and by reading the inserted human genetic code produce the insulin.
Some of these biological compounds can also perform over receptors, because tailor made proteins and antibodies can be designed to bind or interfere with those elements that cause diseases in cells.

[1] These living models are cells, cellular tissues or even mice developed to model human diseases.
[2] Hormone made up of 51 aminoacids, produced and secreted by pancreatic beta cells. It is in charge of regulating glucose levels in blood.

Source: UTAustinX: UT.4.01x Take Your Medicine - The Impact of Drug Development.

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