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Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2012;52:57-78. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010611-134639. Epub 2011 Aug 2.

Chemical genetics-based target identification in drug discovery.

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Developmental and Molecular Pathways, Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.


Identification of novel, validated targets remains a top priority in modern drug discovery. Chemical genetics represents a powerful approach to the discovery of new targets. Unlike the traditional target-based screen that relies on a predefined, sometimes poorly validated target, a chemical genetics-based phenotypic screen probes the entire molecular signaling pathway in an efficient and unbiased manner for the most drug-sensitive node. The most significant obstacle associated with this approach is identification of the efficacy targets of small-molecule probes. The huge potential of chemical genetics cannot be realized without the establishment of reliable mechanisms for target identification. In this article, we describe each essential element of the chemical genetics process, discuss common challenges that the field is facing, and critically review various biochemical and genetics approaches recently developed for target deconvolution. We also attempt to summarize lessons that we have collectively learned and provide a practical perspective to facilitate the advancement of chemical genetics.

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