10 December 2018

Poll results: library vendors

Our latest poll has just closed, and the results are quite interesting. We asked three questions:

1) Have you bought fragments in the past few years?
2) Which of the following vendors would you RECOMMEND?
3) Which of the following vendors would you AVOID?

First, a paragraph on methodology. The poll ran from November 3 through December 7. Due to the limitations of the free version of Crowdsignal (formerly Polldaddy), I have no way of knowing how many individuals responded to questions 2 or 3 (respondents could choose multiple answers). This was the purpose of question 1; 37 people answered yes, and 12 people answered no. Assuming that only people who answered yes answered questions 2 and 3, I divided the responses to questions 2 and 3 by 37 to give percentages. So for example, 33 people would recommend Enamine, which is 89%. If some people who answered no to question 1 answered 2 and/or 3, or answered questions 2 and/or 3 but not 1, the percentages may be overestimates. This seems possible, as the total number of people who would recommend or avoid Enamine adds up to 36. So either nearly everyone who said they bought fragments did so from Enamine, or more people responded than were accounted for by answering “yes” to whether they purchased fragments.

The results are shown here.


The first thing that jumps out is the popularity of Enamine – which is recommended by nearly 90% of respondents. Life Chemicals, Maybridge, ChemBridge, and Key Organics are each recommended by more than 30%, while Vitas-M, ChemDiv, and Asinex are each recommended by 16-24% of respondents. Seven other vendors were recommended by 2 or fewer respondents.

The second observation is that, for the most part, people seem fairly happy with their vendors: each named vendor would be avoided by fewer than 10% of respondents. That said, the relative numbers vary considerably: only one respondent would avoid Life Chemicals, while 18 would recommend them. In contrast, for some of the less popular suppliers, the number of people who would avoid them was comparable to the number who would recommend them.

Finally, I was pleased to see that although a few respondents selected “other” for vendors they would recommend, these were outnumbered by the number selecting “others” they would avoid. That suggests the list provided in the poll captured most trusted vendors. That said, there is no way of knowing whether, for example, the 7 respondents who chose to recommend “other” vendors all had the same vendor in mind, or up to 7 different ones.

Of course there are caveats (and more in the methodology section above). First, the response rate is lower than most of our other polls, reflecting the fact that library generation is not something done lightly or frequently. Second, the first question was deliberately vague; people may have different definitions of “past few years,” and some vendors may have improved or deteriorated. Third, we have no way of knowing how many organizations are represented; if many people responded from a single company this could bias the results. Fourth, we are dependent on the honesty of respondents – we don’t know whether vendors recommended themselves.

Finally, please leave comments, positive or negative, especially if you would recommend vendors not included in the poll. Remember, you can comment anonymously.

03 December 2018

Fragments vs lectins - allosterically

Carbohydrates are ubiquitous in nature but largely ignored in drug discovery. This is because interactions between carbohydrates and proteins, while important, tend to be quite weak; sugar binding sites in proteins rarely have deep, ligandable binding pockets. The few case studies we’ve highlighted (here, here, and here) have resulted in weak and/or large ligands.

However, you don’t need to target the active site to inhibit a protein: one of the most advanced fragment-derived drugs in the clinic is an allosteric inhibitor. Recognizing that many proteins contain secondary (and potentially allosteric) binding sites, Marc Nazaré (Leibniz Forschungsinstitut für Molekulare Pharmakologie), Christoph Rademacher (Max Planck Institute) and collaborators at Freie Universität Berlin and Berlin Institute of Health set out to find some, as they report in a recent paper in J. Am. Chem. Soc.

The researchers were interested in the protein langerin, a C-type lectin receptor involved in pathogen recognition. They screened the extracellular domain against a total of 871 fragments using a combination of NMR methods: STD, T2-filtered, and 19F NMR. A total of 78 fragments confirmed in at least two of these assays, of which 53 also confirmed by SPR. Three of these fragments inhibited the binding interaction between langerin and the polysaccharide mannan.

Next, the researchers acquired or synthesized more than a hundred derivatives of the active fragments and tested them in their battery of assays. Throughout the process they were careful to look for and exclude compounds that showed bad behavior such as aggregation or instability.

Ultimately, the best compounds showed triple-digit micromolar affinity by SPR and double-digit micromolar inhibition in the mannan-binding assay. Interestingly, these compounds do appear to be allosteric: they reduce the affinity of langerin towards mannan but don’t appear to directly block binding. Moreover, two-dimensional (HSQC) NMR studies suggest that the compounds bind to a different binding site on the protein than the carbohydrate does.

Of course there is still a long way to go: the compounds are far too weak to be useful chemical probes at this point. Still, this is a nice tour-de-force of biophysics. And perhaps – as we’ve seen before – someone else will be able to improve the potency of these molecules.