Predicting drugs’ side effects, new uses

Roth, Bryan MD, PhD

Bryan Roth, MD, PhD

It should come as no surprise that lots of target-specific drugs are no so targeted. After all, many of the most successful drugs on the market today are being prescribed for uses that are quite different from the ones they were originally designed to treat.

Sometimes serendipity in the form of unforeseen side effects happens. That’s how today’s Viagra avoided the pharmaceutical dustbin.  Having flunked a Phase 1 clinical trial as a heart drug for angina, researchers noted it was associated with penile erections. The rest is history, or herstory… whatever. 

Now, scientists at the UNC School of Medicine and the University of  California, San Francisco, have developed and tested a computational technique to predict a new drug’s side effects and new target diseases for existing drugs.

Their article published online November 1st in Nature, describes a “chemical similarity” approach using “statistics-based chemoinformatics” that compares drug targets by the similarity of their mutual binding partners, or ligands.

Co-senior study author Bryan Roth, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pharmacology and director of the National Institute of Mental Health Psychoactive Drug Screening Program at UNC, says  “We may now have a way to predict what side effects are likely to occur from treatment before we even put a drug into clinical testing.” 

Read our news release here.

Les Lang

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