A Step-by-step introduction to Drug Discovery

Almost half the massive effort and cost of bringing a new drug to market is incurred during the first phase - ‘Discovery‘ - moving from the blank sheet of paper to the point of the newly identified potential drug entering Preclinical and Clinical Development. 

How is Discovery carried out?  

Each Pharma - Biotech company has evolved their own unique Discovery pathway moulded by its choice of disease area, targets, expertise and capabilities. However, the ‘Classical’ route (with many variants) operates in many companies. Discovery timescales vary wildly depending on many factors including the scientific challenge and the level of financial support resourcing the project; but 5+ years is typical.

The process involves sequential:

Selection of a disease > Identification of a target protein whose inhibition/activation will bring about a therapeutic effect (as predicted by a disease hypothesis of the disease mechanism at a molecular level) > Selection of a small molecule or biologic that modulates the target and an animal model of the disease in the required way.

The chosen molecule must then be deemed worthy of entering Development and the massive investment entailed. 

The scientific content, phasing and execution of Discovery, focussing on small molecules, forms the basis of the course. 

Impact of the New

Evolution of many elements of the science base underpinning drug discovery is occurring at breakneck speed. These include human genome science, automation, miniaturisation of bioassays, Informatics-AI and stem cell biology.  All are enhancing the depth and capability of current process as well as promoting new approaches to the drug discovery.

Learning from the Past

Drug discovery dates back to the 19th Century. For recent times the detailed data and knowledge gained from a number of drug discovery projects has been captured and analysed. This provides predictive guidelines on the biological, chemical and physical attributes of a successful drug- an invaluable resource for any new drug discovery project.

Creativity and Motivation

Finally, Drug Discovery is not just about process, science, technology and resources. It is also about the creativity of a large number of people from many disciplines who work together and are profoundly motivated by discovering life-enhancing and possibly life-saving medicines for patients.

Dr. Peter A. Lowe together with Management Forum and the IPI Academy have developed a comprehensive course that provides an excellent step-by-step introduction to the world of Drug Discovery. The course will take you on a science-based discovery journey from the inception of a new project to the point of hand-over of the newly discovered molecule to the Development team for Pre-Clinical and Clinical studies. Click here for more information regarding the programme. 


Published on Oct 21, 2022 by Dr. Peter A. Lowe