Drug Design

Drug design and discovery are of critical importance in human health care. Successes in drug design have been dependent on insights and advances from the combined use of chemical and biological research. Computational approaches have become a centerpiece of rational drug design and are generally combined with structural information derived from macromolecular crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance. More recently, methods of synthesizing very large libraries of potentially bioactive small molecules have brought high-throughput screening strategies into increasingly important roles in drug discovery. Complementary biological innovations have been required to test the large arrays of molecules. Biological-based therapeutics have altered the traditional landscape for therapeutics, so some outside speakers will present state-of-the-art approaches toward development of biologics.

Past speakers:

  • Woody Sherman, formerly Schrödinger: Computer-aided drug discovery
  • Pat Walters, Vertex
  • Chris Lipinski, Melior Discovery
  • Ravi Kurumbalil, Pfizer
  • Joanna Swain, Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Thomas Keating, Immunogen

This course surveys the current picture in pharmaceutical research, including how targets are selected, how the rational and combinatorial methods are harnessed, as well as how the industry is evolving in this post-genomic era. The instructors provide background and introduce current topics and approaches in pharma and biotech, which is elaborated by a series of invited lecturers who are active in drug design and discovery.

The course starts with introductory lectures to help prepare the students for nomenclature and approaches used by the outside presenters. After an in-class exam, presentations from outside speakers in the world of pharma make up the bulk of the course. The outside speakers present contemporary approaches and case studies used in the pharma and biotech industries. After each outside presenter, students participate in and are graded on their participation in discussion forum which can be accessed through the course Moodle site. We expect each student to post a minimum of three substantive, insightful, questions or comments each week. The forum is open immediately after the speaker’s presentation and closes at the start of the in-class discussion section. In class, we have a student-led discussion on the highlights and significance of the presentation, concluding with a one-page commentary. Five commentaries are required during the course. The course concludes with a comprehensive final exam covering the topics covered throughout the semester. 

Presentations by outside speakers are followed up by questions and interaction with the speaker.