The spring national meeting of the American Chemical Society has just concluded in (uncharacteristically sunny) San Francisco. The main fragment event was a full day session organized by Rachelle Bienstock of the NIH. The theme was “Fragment based drug discovery: success stories due to novel computational methods applications.” Rachelle is planning on getting some of the speakers to write chapters for a book, so I won’t do more than give a very brief overview here.
The session was very multinational, with speakers from France, Germany, Russia, and the UK, in addition to the US, and a good mix of companies and academics. On the computational corporate side John MacCuish from Mesa Analytics described the molecular shape fingerprints approach, Carsten Detering of BioSolveIT provided several examples of applying his company’s methods for fragment linking and scaffold hopping, and Francois Delfaud of MEDIT described mining the pdb for protein-fragment interactions and applying this to Eg5 inhibitors. On the computational academic side, Tobias Lippert of the Center for Bioinformatics in Hamburg discussed the Qsearch program, Vladimer Poroikov of the Institute of Biomedical Chemistry in Moscow discussed PASS, which relies on a large training set to predict actives and inactives, and Dima Kozakov of Boston University presented the FTMap approach for predicting fragment-binding pockets in protein-protein interactions.
Moving away from the purely computational, Yongjin Xu of Novartis described the application of virtual fragment screening to identify p38 and BRaf inhibitors, Vicki Nienaber of Zenobia described iterative fragment screening to identify potent and selective LRRK2 inhibitors, and I presented Carmot’s Chemotype Evolution approach. Finally, GPCRs appear to be increasingly amenable to FBLD; Richard Law of Evotec presented a number of applications of computational methods to various programs including histamine receptors, while Miles Congreve of Heptares presented their StaR Technology for generating stabilized GPCRs suitable for SPR, NMR, and crystallography and discussed applications to the adenosine A2A receptor and the beta-1 adrenoreceptor. In the later case, the researchers were able to obtain 9 co-crystal structures and found that agonists and antagonists bound somewhat differently.
There were also a few other relevant posters and talks throughout the conference. For example, I learned that Locus Pharmaceuticals has transformed itself into Ansaris; Fouzia Machrouhi presented a poster on developing nanomolar inhibitors of the protein kinase AMPK.
Finally, Andrew Woodhead presented an update on Astex’s CDK2 program. One of the earliest posts on Practical Fragments described Astex’s fragment-based discovery of AT7519, which is in clinical trials for cancer. However, with an oral bioavailability of less than 1%, this compound is administered intravenously. Extensive medicinal chemistry ultimately revealed that a relatively minor change – capping the secondary amine with a methyl sulfonamide – led to a molecule with dramatically improved oral bioavailabilty. This molecule, AT9311, also retains good activity in mouse xenograft models. This is a useful reminder that fragment-based methods are not a replacement for solid (and inevitably subsequent) medicinal chemistry.