Drug discovery

Drug discovery research seeks to understand how disease develops at a molecular level, identifying ‘targets’ for analysis.

Drug discovery uses the identified molecular target to test drug-like chemicals, and realise disease impacts. The testing and realisation are the initial steps in the drug discovery process.

Rational design and scientific validation improve the properties of these drug-like ‘hits’ to create therapeutic drugs ready to treat disease in patients. The path of drug discovery, from initial understanding, through testing and development of a drug is referred to as the drug discovery process.

The journey from scientific discovery to drug treatment is gradual. Often it takes decades for a laboratory-based discovery to be turned into a treatment that can be used in patients.

What is high throughput screening?

High throughput screening is a gold standard for discovering ‘hits’ during the early stages of drug discovery. The technology uses automation to test hundreds of thousands of drug-like chemicals against a biological target. The ‘hits’ discovered using high throughput screening provide a starting point for the development of new drugs.

National Drug Discovery Centre

In 2020, WEHI expanded its early stage drug discovery capabilities, previously leveraged in various projects including venetoclax, to establish the National Drug Discovery Centre (NDDC).

The NDDC benefits from the latest in advanced robotic ultra-high throughput screening, addressing a critical early challenge in the drug discovery pipeline. Its quality, capabilities and scale are comparable to global pharmaceutical industry standards, with the flexibility and innovation of academia.

The NDDC is embedded within world-class biology research at WEHI, positioning it to deliver first-in-class, innovative drug discovery projects. The NDDC is active from target discovery to preclinical candidate stage.

The NDDC has a large portfolio of projects, both completed and ongoing, that includes:

  • proprietary WEHI projects
  • academic collaborations with other research institutions and universities
  • collaborative projects with industry partners (biotech and pharma) in the context of strategic alliances or simple fee-for-service models; and
  • projects subsidised by the Australian Government, specifically supporting Australian scientists from academic institutions and small and medium enterprises (SMEs)

Business models are flexible and adapted to the needs of each project and partner. Interested parties should contact Leigh Coultas, Business Development Manager, for an evaluation of how the NDDC could help.

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