Most Sanford-Burnham scientists are basic researchers, meaning they study the most fundamental aspects of cellular and molecular function. In the course of this research, scientists at Sanford-Burnham and other academic research institutions often discover clues to the underlying causes of human disease. Sometimes, they also uncover promising new drug targets that could be manipulated to treat those diseases. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to interest the pharmaceutical industry in advancing these early findings into new drugs. That’s why some academic institutions are beginning to develop their own drug discovery platforms, like that provided by Sanford-Burnham’s Conrad Prebys Center for Chemical Genomics(Prebys Center). There, scientists use robotic technology to screen chemical compounds by the millions to find the few that could potentially be developed into new medicines.This month, the journal Nature Methods highlights the Prebys Center and several other large-scale academic screening centers around the country. In the article, Project Manager Dr. Thomas Chung discusses how academic drug discovery efforts help advance experiments (also called “assays”) that can’t be done in the pharmaceutical industry:
Industry also shies away from assays that take a long time to optimize, says Thomas ‘TC’ Chung of the screening center at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, who, like many academic screeners, spent years in industry. “In pharma, our job was to reject assays that didn’t fit our format,” he says. “Now our job is to reformat assays and make them work.”
For more, see “Academic screening goes high-throughput” in the October 2010 issue of Nature Methods.