24 August 2012

ACS Fall Meeting 2012

I recently returned from Philadelphia, where the American Chemical Society held its 244th national fall meeting. As always this was a massive affair, but fragments were well-represented, particularly in a nice session organized by Percy Carter, Debbie Loughney, and Romyr Dominique.

I opened the session by giving an introduction to fragment-screening, as well as an overview of some of the work we’re doing at Carmot. Andrew Good had perhaps the best title (“Fragment fat wobbles too”), and discussed some of the work done at Genzyme on Pim-1 kinase. Eric Manas next described some of the computational tools being used at GlaxoSmithKline, in particular strategies to deal with water. He also discussed the utility of looking for fragment analogs early in a project. In the last talk before the intermission, Chris Abell from the University of Cambridge described a number of projects from his group, starting with antimicrobial targets (such as this one); we’ll cover another in a separate post. Chris is unabashedly going after difficult targets, not just protein-protein interactions, but oligonucleotides – specifically riboswitches. There is only limited precedent for targeting RNA with fragments, so it will be fun to see how this progresses.

Francisco Talamas next described a nice example from Roche using FBLD to discover hepatitis C NS5B Palm I allosteric inhibitors. An HTS campaign of around 900,000 molecules yielded just 3 hits, none of which were advanced. A fragment screen of about 2700 fragments gave a better hit rate (5.9%), but of the 29 co-crystal structures attempted only a single structure was obtained. However, by combining the information from this crystal structure with information from other crystal structures, both proprietary and public, the researchers put together a set of rules to design a de novo fragment library tailored to this protein. This effort ultimately yielded compounds that were optimized to a clinical candidate.

Next, Nick Wurtz from Bristol-Myers Squibb described his company’s approach to discover neutral Factor VIIa inhibitors. The researchers used a combination of computational, functional, and biophysical approaches to find uncharged fragments that would bind in the P1 pocket, leading to a couple dozen crystal structures. Despite the low affinities of these fragments (typically mM), many of them could successfully be merged onto an existing series, replacing a positively charged moiety to yield potent molecules with better permeability. This is the first time I’ve seen a fragment story out of BMS, so I'm glad to see that they’re active in this area. This is also a prime example of what has been described as fragment-assisted drug discovery.

Finally, Prabha Ibrahim of Plexxikon gave a lovely overview of the discovery and development of vemurafenib, including a more detailed description of the SAR than has been presented in their earlier papers.

In addition to this dedicated session, there was a scattering of other talks and posters, including a notable poster from Timothy Rooney at the University of Oxford using fragment-based approaches to discover bromodomain inhibitors, a target class we’ve previously discussed.

A session entitled “A medicinal chemist’s toolbox” ranged over several topics of interest. Ernesto Freire of Johns Hopkins gave a great overview of thermodynamics in drug discovery, a topic we’ve previously covered. Most readers are probably familiar with the concept of enthalpy-entropy compensation, in which (for example) an added hydrogen bond fails to achieve the desired boost in potency due to unfavorable entropy. Recognizing this, he suggested that one should target groups in proteins that are already well-structured, so you don’t have to pay the cost of structuring a disordered part of the protein. He also suggested that if you introduce one hydrogen bond, you might be better off introducing a second one too, as the incremental entropic cost is likely to be low.

György Keserű of Gedeon Richter discussed the importance of avoiding lipophilicity by using tools such as LELP, which we’ve covered here and here. Continuing this theme, Kevin Freeman-Cook of Pfizer described two examples of using LLE in lead discovery programs, in particular calculating LLE values before making compounds. Although this may seem obvious, what was quite striking was the dramatic effect subtle changes in structure could make to ClogP values.

Of course, these are just a few of thousands of presentations. Please feel free to point out any that caught your eye, or expand on some of those mentioned above. And just a reminder, it’s only 4 weeks to FBLD 2012 in San Francisco – the biggest fragment event of the year!

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