Idea2Data: Toward a New Paradigm for Drug Discovery.
ABSTRACT: Increasing the success rate and throughput of drug discovery will require efficiency improvements throughout the process that is currently used in the pharmaceutical community, including the crucial step of identifying hit compounds to act as drivers for subsequent optimization. Hit identification can be carried out through large compound collection screening and often involves the generation and testing of many hypotheses based on available knowledge. In practice, hypothesis generation can involve the selection of promising chemical structures from compound collections using predictive models built from previous screening/assay results. Available physical collections, typically used during hit identification, are of the order of 106 compounds but represent only a small fraction of the small molecule drug-like chemical space. In an effort to survey a larger portion of chemical space and eliminate inefficiencies during hit identification, we introduce a new process, termed Idea2Data (I2D) that tightly integrates computational and experimental components of the drug discovery process. I2D provides the ability to connect a vast virtual collection of compounds readily synthesizable on automated synthesis systems with computational predictive models for the identification of promising structures. This new paradigm enables researchers to process billions of virtual molecules and select structures that can be prepared on automated systems and made available for biological testing, allowing for timely hypothesis testing and follow-up. Since its introduction, I2D has positively impacted several portfolio efforts through identification of new chemical scaffolds and functionalization of existing scaffolds. In this Innovations paper, we describe the I2D process and present an application for the discovery of new ULK inhibitors.
Project description:In recent years, the neglected diseases drug discovery community has elected phenotypic screening as the key approach for the identification of novel hit compounds. However, when this approach is applied, important questions related to the mode of action for these compounds remain unanswered. One of such questions is related to the rate of action, a useful piece of information when facing the challenge of prioritising the most promising hit compounds. In the present work, compounds of the "Leishmania donovani box" were evaluated using a rate of action assay adapted from a replicative intracellular high content assay recently developed. The potency of each compound was determined every 24 hours up to 96 hours, and standard drugs amphotericin B and miltefosine were used as references to group these compounds according to their rate of action. Independently of this biological assessment, compounds were also clustered according to their minimal chemical scaffold. Comparison of the results showed a complete correlation between the chemical scaffold and the biological group for the vast majority of compounds, demonstrating how the assay was able to bring information on the rate of action for each chemical series, a property directly linked to the mode of action. Overall, the assay here described permitted us to evaluate the rate of action of the "Leishmania donovani box" using two of the currently available drugs as references and, also, to propose a number of fast-acting chemical scaffolds present in the box as starting points for future drug discovery projects to the wider scientific community. The results here presented validate the use of this assay for the determination of the rate of action early in the discovery process, to assist in the prioritisation of hit compounds.
Project description:Abstract The survival advantage of glioma stem cells (GSCs) represents a critical mechanism for growth, therapy resistance and recurrence in glioblastoma. So far, targeting GSCs has not been highly specific, since these cells co-opt the normal developmental signaling pathways. We have demonstrated that the activated CDK5-CREB1 signaling axis regulates GSC self-renewal and also promotes radiation-resistance. Thus targeting CDK5 signaling is highly rational, yet there are challenges. Most of the available CDK5 inhibitors also target other CDKs non-specifically. In collaboration with The Center for Molecular Evolution and Drug Discovery, we are developing novel CDK5 inhibitors that are highly potent and specific. METHODOLOGY: The CKD5-p25 crystal structure (pdb code 1UNL) was used to conduct a virtual high throughput screen (vHTS). A library of 10 million commercially available compounds which had been filtered to ensure they possessed good drug-like properties was screened against the crystal structure. The top 33 compounds based on their predicted target binding, synthetic feasibility and availability were tested in an in vitro kinase assay to measure CDK5 inhibition. RESULTS: Of the 33 potential hit, 11 compounds showed a CDK5 inhibition of < 50 µM. These 11 hits represent 4 distinct chemical scaffolds. Two of them have IC50 < 1 µM, with one compound having an IC50 < 0.4 µM. The vHTS and subsequent in vitro testing have therefore confirmed the identification of several new series of potent CDK5 hit compounds. We are now characterizing the kinase selectivity of our different hit series and evaluating their activity in cell-based assays. This will help focus efforts on the most promising 1–2 scaffolds for further medicinal chemistry optimization to improve the compounds’ potency, selectivity and brain penetration. Ultimately, our optimized compounds will be tested in GBM models to demonstrate their effectiveness in inhibiting CDK5 as a new approach for treating GBM.
Project description:High-throughput screening (HTS) is the primary driver to current drug-discovery efforts. New therapeutic agents that enter the market are a direct reflection of the structurally simple compounds that make up screening libraries. Unlike medically relevant natural products (e.g., morphine), small molecules currently being screened have a low fraction of sp3 character and few, if any, stereogenic centers. Although simple compounds have been useful in drugging certain biological targets (e.g., protein kinases), more sophisticated targets (e.g., transcription factors) have largely evaded the discovery of new clinical agents from screening collections. Herein, a tryptoline ring-distortion strategy is described that enables the rapid synthesis of 70 complex and diverse compounds from yohimbine (1); an indole alkaloid. The compounds that were synthesized had architecturally complex and unique scaffolds, unlike 1 and other scaffolds. These compounds were subjected to phenotypic screens and reporter gene assays, leading to the identification of new compounds that possessed various biological activities, including antiproliferative activities against cancer cells with functional hypoxia-inducible factors, nitric oxide inhibition, and inhibition and activation of the antioxidant response element. This tryptoline ring-distortion strategy can begin to address diversity problems in screening libraries, while occupying biologically relevant chemical space in areas critical to human health.
Project description:Organic synthesis underpins the evolution of weak fragment hits into potent lead compounds. Deficiencies within current screening collections often result in the requirement of significant synthetic investment to enable multidirectional fragment growth, limiting the efficiency of the hit evolution process. Diversity-oriented synthesis (DOS)-derived fragment libraries are constructed in an efficient and modular fashion and thus are well-suited to address this challenge. To demonstrate the effective nature of such libraries within fragment-based drug discovery, we herein describe the screening of a 40-member DOS library against three functionally distinct biological targets using X-Ray crystallography. Firstly, we demonstrate the importance for diversity in aiding hit identification with four fragment binders resulting from these efforts. Moreover, we also exemplify the ability to readily access a library of analogues from cheap commercially available materials, which ultimately enabled the exploration of a minimum of four synthetic vectors from each molecule. In total, 10-14 analogues of each hit were rapidly accessed in three to six synthetic steps. Thus, we showcase how DOS-derived fragment libraries enable efficient hit derivatisation and can be utilised to remove the synthetic limitations encountered in early stage fragment-based drug discovery.
Project description:Two years after its emergence, SARS-CoV-2 still represents a serious and global threat to human health. Antiviral drug development usually takes a long time and, to increase the chances of success, chemical variability of hit compounds represents a valuable source for the discovery of new antivirals. In this work, we applied a platform of variably oriented virtual screening campaigns to seek for novel chemical scaffolds for SARS-CoV-2 main protease (M<sup>pro</sup>) inhibitors. The study on the resulting 30 best hits led to the identification of a series of structurally unrelated M<sup>pro</sup> inhibitors. Some of them exhibited antiviral activity in the low micromolar range against SARS-CoV-2 and other human coronaviruses (HCoVs) in different cell lines. Time-of-addition experiments demonstrated an antiviral effect during the viral replication cycle at a time frame consistent with the inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 M<sup>pro</sup> activity. As a proof-of-concept, to validate the pharmaceutical potential of the selected hits against SARS-CoV-2, we rationally optimized one of the hit compounds and obtained two potent SARS-CoV-2 inhibitors with increased activity against M<sup>pro</sup> both in vitro and in a cellular context, as well as against SARS-CoV-2 replication in infected cells. This study significantly contributes to the expansion of the chemical variability of SARS-CoV-2 M<sup>pro</sup> inhibitors and provides new scaffolds to be exploited for pan-coronavirus antiviral drug development.
Project description:Schistosomiasis is a debilitating neglected tropical disease, caused by flatworms of Schistosoma genus. The treatment relies on a single drug, praziquantel (PZQ), making the discovery of new compounds extremely urgent. In this work, we integrated QSAR-based virtual screening (VS) of Schistosoma mansoni thioredoxin glutathione reductase (SmTGR) inhibitors and high content screening (HCS) aiming to discover new antischistosomal agents. Initially, binary QSAR models for inhibition of SmTGR were developed and validated using the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) guidance. Using these models, we prioritized 29 compounds for further testing in two HCS platforms based on image analysis of assay plates. Among them, 2-[2-(3-methyl-4-nitro-5-isoxazolyl)vinyl]pyridine and 2-(benzylsulfonyl)-1,3-benzothiazole, two compounds representing new chemical scaffolds have activity against schistosomula and adult worms at low micromolar concentrations and therefore represent promising antischistosomal hits for further hit-to-lead optimization.
Project description:A cellular activity-based screen on Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) H37Rv using a focused library from the AstraZeneca corporate collection led to the identification of 2-phenylindoles and arylsulphonamides, novel antimycobacterial scaffolds. Both the series were bactericidal in vitro and in an intracellular macrophage infection model, active against drug sensitive and drug resistant Mtb clinical isolates, and specific to mycobacteria. The scaffolds showed promising structure-activity relationships; compounds with submicromolar cellular potency were identified during the hit to lead exploration. Furthermore, compounds from both scaffolds were tested for inhibition of known target enzymes or pathways of antimycobacterial drugs including InhA, RNA polymerase, DprE1, topoisomerases, protein synthesis, and oxidative-phosphorylation. Compounds did not inhibit any of the targets suggesting the potential of a possible novel mode of action(s). Hence, both scaffolds provide the opportunity to be developed further as leads and tool compounds to uncover novel mechanisms for tuberculosis drug discovery.
Project description:UNLABELLED:Influenza A virus (IAV) infections cause major morbidity and mortality, generating an urgent need for novel antiviral therapeutics. We recently established a dual myxovirus high-throughput screening protocol that combines a fully replication-competent IAV-WSN strain and a respiratory syncytial virus reporter strain for the simultaneous identification of IAV-specific, paramyxovirus-specific, and broad-spectrum inhibitors. In the present study, this protocol was applied to a screening campaign to assess a diverse chemical library with over 142,000 entries. Focusing on IAV-specific hits, we obtained a hit rate of 0.03% after cytotoxicity testing and counterscreening. Three chemically distinct hit classes with nanomolar potency and favorable cytotoxicity profiles were selected. Time-of-addition, minigenome, and viral entry studies demonstrated that these classes block hemagglutinin (HA)-mediated membrane fusion. Antiviral activity extends to an isolate from the 2009 pandemic and, in one case, another group 1 subtype. Target identification through biolayer interferometry confirmed binding of all hit compounds to HA. Resistance profiling revealed two distinct escape mechanisms: primary resistance, associated with reduced compound binding, and secondary resistance, associated with unaltered binding. Secondary resistance was mediated, unusually, through two different pairs of cooperative mutations, each combining a mutation eliminating the membrane-proximal stalk N-glycan with a membrane-distal change in HA1 or HA2. Chemical synthesis of an analog library combined with in silico docking extracted a docking pose for the hit classes. Chemical interrogation spotlights IAV HA as a major druggable target for small-molecule inhibition. Our study identifies novel chemical scaffolds with high developmental potential, outlines diverse routes of IAV escape from entry inhibition, and establishes a path toward structure-aided lead development. IMPORTANCE:This study is one of the first to apply a fully replication-competent third-generation IAV reporter strain to a large-scale high-throughput screen (HTS) drug discovery campaign, allowing multicycle infection and screening in physiologically relevant human respiratory cells. A large number of potential druggable targets was thus chemically interrogated, but mechanistic characterization, positive target identification, and resistance profiling demonstrated that three chemically promising and structurally distinct hit classes selected for further analysis all block HA-mediated membrane fusion. Viral escape from inhibition could be achieved through primary and secondary resistance mechanisms. In silico docking predicted compound binding to a microdomain located at the membrane-distal site of the prefusion HA stalk that was also previously suggested as a target site for chemically unrelated HA inhibitors. This study identifies an unexpected chemodominance of the HA stalk microdomain for small-molecule inhibitors in IAV inhibitor screening campaigns and highlights a novel mechanism of cooperative resistance to IAV entry blockers.
Project description:Target deconvolution of phenotypic assays is a hot topic in chemical biology and drug discovery. The ultimate goal is the identification of targets for compounds that produce interesting phenotypic readouts. A variety of experimental and computational strategies have been devised to aid this process. A widely applied computational approach infers putative targets of new active molecules on the basis of their chemical similarity to compounds with activity against known targets. Herein, we introduce a molecular scaffold-based variant for similarity-based target deconvolution from chemical cancer cell line screens that were used as a model system for phenotypic assays. A new scaffold type was used for substructure-based similarity assessment, termed analog series-based (ASB) scaffold. Compared with conventional scaffolds and compound-based similarity calculations, target assignment centered on ASB scaffolds resulting from screening hits and bioactive reference compounds restricted the number of target hypotheses in a meaningful way and lead to a significant enrichment of known cancer targets among candidates.
Project description:Establishing structure-activity relationships (SARs) in hit identification during early stage drug discovery is important in accelerating hit confirmation and expansion. We describe the development of EnCore, a systematic molecular scaffold enumeration protocol using single atom mutations, to enhance the application of objective scaffold definitions and to enrich SAR information from analysis of high-throughput screening output. A list of 43 literature medicinal chemistry compound series, each containing a minimum of 100 compounds, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry was collated to validate the protocol. Analysis using the top representative Level 1 scaffolds this list of literature compound series demonstrated that EnCore could mimic the scaffold exploration conducted when establishing SAR. When EnCore was applied to analyze an HTS library containing over 200?000 compounds, we observed that over 70% of the molecular scaffolds matched extant scaffolds within the library after enumeration. In particular, over 60% of the singleton scaffolds with only one representative compound were found to have structurally related compounds after enumeration. These results illustrate the potential of EnCore to enrich SAR information. A case study using literature cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors further demonstrates the advantage of EnCore application in establishing SAR from structurally related scaffolds. EnCore complements literature enumeration methods in enabling changes to the physicochemical properties of molecular scaffolds and structural modifications to aliphatic rings and linkers. The enumerated scaffold clusters generated would constitute a comprehensive collection of scaffolds for scaffold morphing and hopping.