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CTAN: All About the Drugs

April 14, 2006 | All the nifty tools deployed at RTC must help Pfizer generate more drugs, and perhaps the closest discipline to that goal is RTC’s chemical sciences group, led by Nick Terrett.

“The job we do here is very diverse, but a significant part is standard medicinal chemistry,” says Terrett. “It’s taking new targets, finding new hit compounds using high-throughput screening. It’s optimizing those compounds, designing better compounds, synthesizing those compounds, having those compounds tested, and using the data to design further compounds with a view to improve the potency, [etc.] so eventually you have a compound with the potential to kick off a new discovery program.”

In Pfizer parlance, therapeutic groups “nominate” a compound for further development and testing in the clinic -- not RTC. Nor does RTC assess bioavailability with in vivo studies. But it does have a program -- CTAN (chemical tool alert notice) -- that is designed to identify compounds or even families of compounds that show particular promise and to broadcast that to the rest of Pfizer’s therapeutics groups.

“We hand them to our colleagues in a therapeutic area. They put it into a proof-of-concept study, and if it works they then take that program forward right through, we hope, to a drug discovery candidate nomination,” he says.

This is now a proven paradigm, says Terrett. “Our delivery record has been exceptional. The high numbers of new pharmacological tool molecules we deliver for the number of chemist and biologists we have onsite is a consequence of being very flexible.” If RTC encounters a problematic molecule target, it quickly shifts focus to another area. “That’s something the therapeutics areas find more difficult. They don’t have the same opportunity to drop things and pick up other targets.”

Historically, this activity was the bulk of what chemical services did at RTC, mainly in support of the Drug Finder program, which focused on finding academics with interesting compounds and reagents. The effort to develop new chemical technologies -- such as the IR-probe to monitor and control chemical reactions -- is more recent, and it now has a dedicated staff and a crowded slate of projects.—J.R.

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