Highlights from Discovery on Target 2019
Sudhir Deosarkar, PhD, Pharma/Biotech Consultant; formerly Senior Scientist, Innovative New Medicines, Drug Safety and Metabolism, AstraZeneca
About 1,100 scientists and business representatives from global pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies and academic institutions gathered in Boston from September 16th through 19th for the annual Discovery on Target conference. The conference attendees
shared posters and podium presentations on various emerging topics in small and large molecule drug discovery and the underlying biology and covered specialized topics ranging from target identification/validation to lead generation to GPCR-based
drug discovery to antibody discovery and much more. This conference also covered cutting-edge science on a few new topic areas this year that included emerging targets and therapeutics in immuno-oncology, RNA as a drug target, PROTACs, and fibrosis
This conference provided opportunities for attendees to network and exchange ideas with peers through speed networking events and breakout discussions on emerging new topics in the fields of drug discovery and translational research. Additionally, the
conference had two prominent scientists (Drs. David Liu and Craig Crews) in the fields of gene editing and PROTACs present the most recent and emerging work in their fields of research. This was a great opportunity for peers to learn about the advances
in both fields and their future direction.
Discovery on Target offers students, scientists, and business representatives the opportunity to present their emerging work, share ideas, and learn from peers. It continues to be the go-to conference for drug discovery and translational research. The
topics presented at this conference were broadly covered under the following major topic categories.
Target identification, validation, and lead generation: There were several poster and podium presentations that focused on target identification, validation, and lead generation for various disease indications including a separate track
for NASH targeting. These posters and talks offered novel approaches for the development of small and large molecule therapeutics for challenging diseases with novel targets and novel ways to develop a drug pipeline for a given target or a disease
Antibody discovery: Antibody as a therapeutic molecule, in addition to being a biological reagent, has been gaining substantial momentum in the last decade or so. Antibodies are an excellent choice as a therapeutic target due to their
high target affinity but they also pose challenges in their development as a therapeutic drug. Several academic and industry leaders have emerged with unique platforms for developing antibody therapeutics for challenging targets and challenging diseases.
Several poster and podium presentations at the 2019 annual conference discussed the challenges but also novelty and opportunity offered by various existing and emerging new antibody platforms. Notable topics presented and discussed in this category
included antibody discovery against membrane protein targets, use of different host species, humanization of antibodies, and new challenging molecular targets for antibodies.
Advanced disease models and translational research: Traditional drug discovery and drug development have relied on the use of classical in vitro and in vivo methods in assessing the efficacy and the safety of drug candidates
to gain an insight into their potential clinical success. But clinical success of a candidate drug still remains very low. High rate of clinical attrition of drugs has been attributed to the lack of clinically relevant models of disease, organs, and
tissues. More advanced physiologically relevant disease models and models of human organs and tissues have been in development in recent years by a consortium of academic and industry members. These models offer immense potential in bridging the gaps
that exist within the drug development pipeline. Several talks, posters, and breakout discussions at this conference focused on these advanced disease models and their role in translational research and regulatory decision making.
Novel targets and novel technologies for drug discovery: A set of novel targets and novel technologies for identifying unique targets were also discussed at this conference through various posters and podium presentations. Among the
novel target discovery, presenters focused on advances in GPCR-based drug discovery, emerging ubiquitin and autophagy targets, PROTACS and targeted protein degradation, and RNA as a drug target. New technologies such as the use of CRISPR to screen
for target and off-target effects, genetics-based drug discovery for better clinical success, integrated lead finding platforms, use of artificial intelligence (AI) in drug discovery, and many more were also presented.
Fragment-based Drug Design Practitioners Event re-cap