This year’s Discovery Week: Online brought together over 800 discovery leaders to enable innovation in discovery on target, chemistry biology and medicinal chemistry. Building on the success of our 2020 online event, the event engaged with peers and selected leading providers in an exciting and interactive networking environment. Driven by the current focus on delivering interactivity, the programme included over 20 hours of valuable networking sessions, roundtable discussions, panel discussions and workshops.
Discovery Week: Online took place over four days, with each having a thematic focus.
Day One: On Target Discovery, Phenotyping Discovery, and Animal Modelling
The event began with a series of presentations and case studies about identifying and validating novel targets, phenotypic based discovery and Screening Approaches, animal and disease modelling, and organoid based discovery. Additionally, discussion groups gathered to talk about the latest developments in functional genomics in target discovery and available methods to characterise compound target interaction on a molecular level via SPR, MST, ITC, and TSA. Some of our most popular presentations included Thierry Dorval’s (HCS – Group Leader, Biotechnology Chemical-Biology, Servier) “Phenotypic Compound Profiling Through High Content Approaches”, Laura Rosenberg’s (Associate Director Target Validation, AstraZeneca) “Delivering Novel Target Biology At Scale” and Steve Rees’s, (Vice-President of Discovery Biology, AstraZeneca) “Identification And Validation of Novel Drug Targets”.
Day Two: Targeted Protein Degradation and PROTAC
The second day focused on new modalities and targeting challenging areas and possibilities for targeting currently undruggable proteomes. In the afternoon, several interactive sessions were held. Workshops on molecular glue for new drug development as well as ubiquitin ligases and targeted protein degradation proved particularly popular. Highlights included the following presentations; Ian Churcher’s (Chief Scientific Officer, Amphista Therapeutics Limited) “Next Generation Protein Degradation Beyond The Usual E3 Ligases”, Ryan Pott’s (Executive Director & Head of Induced Proximity Platform, Amgen) “Induced Proximity Medicines For Targeted Degradation Of Proteins And RNAs” and Eric Fischer’s (Associate Professor of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, Co-Director DFCI Center for Protein Degradation, “Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School) “Structural Insight Of Molecular Glues, E3 Ligands And PROTACs”.
Day Three: Medicinal Chemistry and Optimisation of HITs
Day three centred around integrating technologies in the optimisation of HITs, featuring presentations on covalent inhibitors and protein degradation. In addition, several interactive roundtable sessions explored molecular drug design and medicinal chemistry, new chemical modalities, and challenging targets, how to choose the suitable modalities and covalent inhibitor design and discovery. Werngard Czechtizky’s (Chair of Global Chemistry & Head of Medicinal Chemistry, AstraZeneca) presentation on Covalent Inhibitors Design And Discovery was particularly insightful, so much so that we have created a condensed version here.
Day Four: Computational Drug Design
Our final day wrapped up the event with several presentations on computation drug design. This year, advances in AI were a key topic, with industry leaders highlighting exciting new use cases and approaches for novel drug design. Furthermore, day four’s Digitising Drug Discovery Labs discussion group received a great deal of interest due to the increasing competitive advantage smart lab technology provides for pharma companies. Presentations including Rolf Jautelat’s (Vice President Medicinal Chemistry, Bayer AG) “Digital Transformation: Delivering Value to Drug Discovery” and Alexander Hillisch’s (Vice President, Head Of Computational Molecular Design, Bayer Ag) Compound Library Expansion And The Computational Design Of Macrocyclic Compounds To Address Difficult Drug Targets proved to be especially insightful.
Opportunities for knowledge Sharing & Networking
Attendees of this year’s discovery week: online were given a glimpse of the future of drug discovery. This event brought together industry leaders who shared cutting edge information on new modalities such as protein degradation, RNA based therapeutics and case studies on the identification and Validation of Novel Targets, as well as the latest updates on the integration of screening approaches in phenotypic and genomics-based discovery, organoid discovery, organ-on-a-chip, and 3D modelling, and novel RNA drug targets.
Discovery week provided a unique opportunity to learn about DNA encoded libraries, protein-protein interactions, AI/ML in drug design and new modalities such as Protein Degradation and Covalent Inhibitors. Additionally, this year there was an increased focus on innovative tools, including AI in ADME, big data management, model management, artificial intelligence, machine learning in drug design and AI in chemical synthesis, AI-enabled target ID capabilities and lead identification/optimisation.
Networking is also an essential aspect of discovery week, allowing attendees to engage in interactive discussions, including the Integration Of DEL, Covalent Inhibitors and Protein Degradation Technologies in optimising HITs.
Market Trends and Challenges
The global drug discovery market is expected to grow considerably in the coming decades, with a predicted revenue of $83.2 billion by 2027. The critical drivers influencing the growth in the global drug discovery market is an ageing population and technological advancement. As a result, biopharmaceutical companies are rapidly progressing in various disciplines, including genomics, machine learning and AI in data analytics, drug design, and targeting.
Drug Discovery and AI
In attempts to address the concerns associated with rising capital requirements in drug discovery and prevent late-stage failure of drug development programs, stakeholders in the pharmaceutical industry are exploring several options. One example is the implementation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) based tools to aid drug development operations with available chemical and biological data. Currently, a new drug takes an average of 12-15 years and $1.6 billion to make it to market. AI can speed up this process by predicting how likely a compound is to work against certain illnesses. Researchers can use those predictions to focus on only a few dozen compounds rather than thousands, increasing the pace of testing and increasing the likelihood of yielding a positive result.
Targeted Protein Degradation
Most disease-causing proteins are not amenable to modulation by conventional pharmacological methods. However, in recent years an alternative therapeutic strategy known as targeted protein degradation has emerged with the potential to inhibit these “undruggable” proteins. Targeted protein degradation is revolutionising drug development and has the true potential to produce next-generation therapeutics for various diseases. This area will help accelerate innovation and attract further investment and major collaboration partners in the pharmaceutical industry.
Increasing Adoption of Personalised Drugs to Drive Organoids Market
Traditional drug discovery methods are inadequate and less relevant to the pace of the growing life science research and development. Organoids are, therefore, expected to generate a significant revenue share in the market for drug discovery applications. The increasing failure rate in human preclinical trials is luring academics and researchers to explore organoid models for toxicology and regenerative mediation research. Organoids are proving to be an appropriate alternative to animal testing models and are increasingly likely to be used as a substitute.
Drug discovery remains an extraordinarily complex, lengthy, and costly process with high attrition rates. There is no assurance of success by the time a drug goes through clinical trials after over a decade in development. With the costs of bringing a drug to market now over $1 billion, Pharma continues to face increased pressures to develop new therapies, reduce costs and avoid late-stage failure. Leading experts are currently debating how to meet these challenges. As a result, the obstacles are decreasing as advancements, and technological innovations enable new methods and speeding up processes and the future looks bright for drug discovery.