In a world that is striving for better, cheaper, and faster means of discovering the next medical magic bullet, many researchers are going back to the drawing board. “Column technology for bioseparations stood still while biological sciences advanced,” said Dorothy Phillips, Ph.D., director of strategic marketing in chemistry commercial operations at Waters. “Scientists discovered that the chromatographic peaks were too wide or broad to give the required resolution, resulting in a focus on developing or updating the column chemistries.”
Furthermore, the push for translational medicine has come at a cost to basic science, noted Rich Vaillancourt, associate professor, department of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. “What we need is a balance between basic science and translational research.”
On the other hand, proteins were a largely untouched frontier in the past because the technology wasn’t available to tap into that potential. “Reversible phosphorylation is the most common regulator of cellular events, which is why kinases are so prominent in drug discovery research,” said Rick Wiese, Ph.D., manager of bioscience R&D at Millipore. “Approximately 30 percent of cellular proteins are regulated by reversible phosphorylation, which gives researchers a pretty big target.”
As the push to move more compounds to the clinic picks up speed, conferences reflect the tension between developing technology and basic science, as well as the priority issues between developing drugs for higher incidence diseases versus niche indications. At the recent BIT “Life Sciences Conference” in Beijing and CHI’s “World Biomarker Conference” in Philadelphia, scientists shared some of their latest discoveries—and challenges—in coaxing answers from proteins to bolster the drug discovery pipeline.