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Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2008 Jul;7(7):608-24. doi: 10.1038/nrd2590.

The exploration of macrocycles for drug discovery--an underexploited structural class.

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  • 1Ensemble Discovery, 99 Erie Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Macrocyclic natural products have evolved to fulfil numerous biochemical functions, and their profound pharmacological properties have led to their development as drugs. A macrocycle provides diverse functionality and stereochemical complexity in a conformationally pre-organized ring structure. This can result in high affinity and selectivity for protein targets, while preserving sufficient bioavailability to reach intracellular locations. Despite these valuable characteristics, and the proven success of more than 100 marketed macrocycle drugs derived from natural products, this structural class has been poorly explored within drug discovery. This is in part due to concerns about synthetic intractability and non-drug-like properties. This Review describes the growing body of data in favour of macrocyclic therapeutics, and demonstrates that this class of compounds can be both fully drug-like in its properties and readily prepared owing to recent advances in synthetic medicinal chemistry.

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