The Biology group within Drug Discovery works closely with a number of academic and drug discovery groups both within and external to the Beatson Institute with the aim of progressing promising anti-cancer drug targets from research-driven hypothesis to having potent and selective compounds ready to enter into clinical development.
Within the group there is expertise in pharmacology, biochemical assay development across a number of platforms, cell biology, molecular biology and in vivo pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Promising new targets are rigorously evaluated in target validation experiments with a particular emphasis on identifying suitable cell assay systems for clinical translation. Cell assay development is central to generating a robust screening cascade to yield the most potent and selective compounds that will translate into patient benefit. This process involves identifying appropriate phenotypic readouts that reflect how a potential new drug is expected to impact the course of disease, and in addition, cell biomarker assays which are essential in order to monitor target engagement of a new drug at the intended site of action.
Biologists in Drug Discovery work closely with research groups to identify the most robust and translational systems in which to develop new drugs. Target identification and selection is underpinned by the vast knowledge and expertise of researchers at the very forefront of cancer biology and by working in close collaboration with these researchers, Drug Discovery scientists are able to select and progress the most promising and translational targets.
A series of experiments/assays, are put together in a screening cascade and data from these assays are used by chemists to design the most potent, selective and drug like compounds. Each assay must be robust and reproducible and of sufficient high throughput to test a range of compound concentrations and enable quantitative dose response analysis. The drug discovery process passes through a number of stages from Hit Identification, through lead identification and lead optimisation before compounds are ready to go into clinical testing. At each stage assays become increasingly more clinically relevant moving from simple cell systems into complex models of human disease. Through this process, medicinal chemists design compounds to be more drug-like, with properties that enable good exposure in vivo and ultimately in patients.
Heather McKinnon (Joint Head of Drug Discovery - Head of Biology)