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Front Pharmacol. 2014 Jul 24;5:164. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2014.00164. eCollection 2014.

Composition and applications of focus libraries to phenotypic assays.

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Center for Proteomic Chemistry, Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research Cambridge, MA, USA.


The wealth of bioactivity information now available on low-molecular weight compounds has enabled a paradigm shift in chemical biology and early phase drug discovery efforts. Traditionally chemical libraries have been most commonly employed in screening approaches where a bioassay is used to characterize a chemical library in a random search for active samples. However, robust curating of bioassay data, establishment of ontologies enabling mining of large chemical biology datasets, and a wealth of public chemical biology information has made possible the establishment of highly annotated compound collections. Such annotated chemical libraries can now be used to build a pathway/target hypothesis and have led to a new view where chemical libraries are used to characterize a bioassay. In this article we discuss the types of compounds in these annotated libraries composed of tools, probes, and drugs. As well, we provide rationale and a few examples for how such libraries can enable phenotypic/forward chemical genomic approaches. As with any approach, there are several pitfalls that need to be considered and we also outline some strategies to avoid these.


chemical libraries; chemical probes; focused library; high-throughput screening; phenotypic assays

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