Integrating Compound Management, Analytical and Automation Workflows to Contribute to Drug Discovery Success



Pharma IQ
02/07/2012

New and novel compounds lie at the heart of the drug discovery process. So much so, that drug discovery materials management has emerged as a discipline within itself.

The pharmaceutical industry is undertaking a greater number of partnerships and licensing deals and increasing its global footprint. Companies are keen to beef up their pipelines in the face of blockbuster patent expiries and the dawn of the era of personalised medicines.

Time to market has arguably never been more important, for both patients and investors, and the costs of drug discovery are on the up.

Simply put, many organisations have been required to develop a comprehensive and reliable compound management system, which over the years has become increasingly automated.
Global Industry Analysts' (GIA) report, Laboratory Automation: A Global Outlook, suggested the lab automation industry is primed to reach $4.1 billion by 2015, driven by the need of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to expedite the drug discovery process.

Although automating processes does not come without its challenges. Research commissioned by Pharma IQ found more than four-fifths said the main issue they experience when integrating sample information and discovery data was merging physical data and that gained through automation.
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A third of those involved in sample and compound management said automation and integration of technology were key to the development of their roles and the company's drug discovery process.
Improving both of these will certainly come at a cost, but one which will pay dividends in the form of shorter time to market and a more streamlined drug discovery process.

But for all its benefits, automation is not the silver bullet that can improve drug discovery. The removal of redundant processes and the physical and human elements must also be enhanced.
Speaking to Pharma IQ last year, Rose Gonzales, director compound management and distribution at Pfizer, highlighted that there are a number of key factors to consider when shipping compounds between multiple sites, which technology alone cannot solve.

"We also, in addition to that, consider the impact of having to ship compounds on the overall cycle time of lead optimisation. The focus on shortening that cycle time has led to the co-location of small compound-handling groups with compound synthesis and plate-based screening groups when it makes sense. 

"At least, that’s what we’ve done within Pfizer. And now in a model where that does not happen, we have to think of innovative ways of cutting dead time, but at the same time balance that with compound-sparing consideration," she explained.

Gonzales added: "Over the years, there has been a growing realisation that compound management in support of lead optimisation is quite different from compound management in support of target validation and hit identification."

The growth of high throughput screening is yet another development within the industry primed to place compound management under greater pressure.

High throughput screening is primed for huge growth in the coming years thanks to an increasing number of potential drug targets.

A separate GIA report on the market suggested it will be worth $19.9 billion by 2017, bringing with it a constant need to update technologies, practices and data storage. Managing a diverse library of compounds is considered a necessity.

"Biochemical assays are witnessing increasing usage for compound identification, while high-content screening (HCS), an extended version of HTS is also gaining traction," the reported noted.
An increasing number of companies are also seeking to outsource their high throughput screening functions, to further reduce the cost of drug development and gain access to new and innovative technologies.

With these trends set to amplify in the future, the importance of compound management and automation is unlikely to be disputed any time soon. 

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