Shifting from the single to the multitarget paradigm in drug discovery

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It is currently evident that the concept that one drug acts on a single receptor is not as effective as expected from the reductionism view of the lock and key model. The growing evidence for polypharmacology (i.e. that clinical effects are often because of the interaction of single or multiple drugs with multiple targets) is encouraging the shift to experimental and computational multitarget approaches

Increasing evidence that several drug compounds exert their effects through interactions with multiple targets is boosting the development of research fields that challenge the data reductionism approach. This article, reviews and discusses the concepts of drug repurposing, polypharmacology, chemogenomics, phenotypic screening and high-throughput in vivo testing of mixture-based libraries in an integrated manner. These research fields offer alternatives to the current paradigm of drug discovery, from a one target–one drug model to a multiple-target approach. Furthermore, the goals of lead identification are being expanded accordingly to identify not only ‘key’ compounds that fit with a single-target ‘lock’, but also ‘master key’ compounds that favorably interact with multiple targets (i.e. operate a set of desired locks to gain access to the expected clinical effects).

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