Diving into Drug Discovery and Development

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A Brief History

Over the past 50 years, new drugs and therapeutic agents have transformed modern medicine. Diseases that are now rare, preventable and/or treatable, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarrhea, were responsible for countless deaths in the 20th century. And while they still affect thousands of people worldwide, more complex conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, can be targeted and, to some extent, treated thanks to medical breakthroughs. With improved sanitation and immunization and the increasing availability of drugs to control and cure disease, our collective health and life expectancy have only improved.

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Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics

Pharmacology is the study of interactions between a living organism and drugs or medications that influence biochemical function. It is concerned with the research, discovery, and characterization of chemicals with biological influences and the understanding of cellular function in relation to these chemicals. Not to be confused with pharmacy, which is the study of health sciences aimed at applying pharmacological principles to the clinic, pharmacology is more science-based. The two main areas of pharmacology are pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics.

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Forward vs. Reverse Pharmacology

Traditionally, compounds are screened in cellular or animal disease models to identify those that cause a desirable change in phenotype. The compounds that demonstrate a desirable therapeutic effect are analyzed and inspected for their biological targets, such as proteins (usually enzymes, ion channels, and receptors) and nucleic acids. This is known as classical pharmacology, forward pharmacology, or phenotypic drug discovery.

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