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Drug Discovery: A Historical Perspective

Jürgen Drews

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Driven by chemistry but increasingly guided by pharmacology and the clinical sciences, drug research has contributed more to the progress of medicine during the past century than any other scientific factor. The advent of molecular biology and, in particular, of genomic sciences is having a deep impact on drug discovery. Recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies have greatly enriched our therapeutic armamentarium. Genome sciences, combined with bioinformatic tools, allow us to dissect the genetic basis of multifactorial diseases and to determine the most suitable points of attack for future medicines, thereby increasing the number of treatment options. The dramatic increase in the complexity of drug research is enforcing changes in the institutional basis of this interdisciplinary endeavor. The biotech industry is establishing itself as the discovery arm of the pharmaceutical industry. In bridging the gap between academia and large pharmaceutical companies, the biotech firms have been effective instruments of technology transfer.