During the early 1980s, the possibility to rationally design drugs on the basis of structures of thera-peutically relevant biomolecules was an unrealized dream for many structural biologists. The first projects were underway in the mid-1980s, and today, even though there are still many obstacles and unsolved problems, structure-based drug design is an integral part of many academic and most industrial drug discovery programs. In Chapter 2, a number of examples of this impressive drug design approach are described.
As structural genomics, bioinformatics, and computational power continue to almost explode with new advances, further successes in structure-based drug design are likely to follow. Each year, new targets are being identified, structures of those targets are being determined at an amazing rate, and our capability to capture a quantitative picture of the interaction between macromolecules and ligands is accelerating.
The mapping of the genome leads us to the identification of targets for therapeutic interventions, as for example chemotherapy, not previously suspected and even allows us to dream of the possibility of correcting genetic defects, enhancing our prospects for a longer and more healthy life, and for devising drugs for specific individuals. Presuming that individual variations in therapeutic response may have a genetic origin, and thus dividing populations into subgroups with similar genetic characteristics, might allow us to prescribe drugs and even dosages within these groups. This form of individual gene typing is already possible, but would be very resource demanding as per days techniques. It is likely that perplexing species differences in response to, for example, chemotherapy, that complicates drug development, may also be understood, when the genome mapping becomes more elaborate.
The new biological capabilities raise many new prospects and problems for drug companies and, in general, for the society, not only scientifically but also morally. Scientific knowledge by itself is morally neutral, but how it is used, is not.
In conclusion, there has never been a more exciting time to take up the study of medicinal chemistry. The technological developments and the amount of information will grow with increasing speed, and scientists may eventually risk to be drowned in this multitude of possibilities. However, the intelligent, intuitive, and skilled medicinal chemist will be able to maneuver in this ocean of multiplicity and to continue the series of brilliant achievements by the pioneers in drug discovery during the past century.
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