Actelion: Compounds Inspired by Nature

Urs Lüthi, Senior Lab Head HTS Compound Management Actelion Pharmaceuticals Ltd., presents his company’s stance on innovative processes and maintenance of  library compounds. Read the whole interview here to learn about their innovative approaches before the 8th International Conference Compound Libraries 2012 conference, where Mr. Lüthi will be speaking.

Pharma IQ: What measures do you take in order to extend the file and add new chemistry to your collections?

Urs Lüthi:
In the past Actelion ordered new chemical compounds on an annual basis from just few, carefully selected vendors. Since 2010 we order them
from a global selection of available compounds including >30 providers. Only compounds with <90% fingerprint similarity (software developed in-house) are ordered. This is followed by a  computationally intensive quasi-hierarchical clustering process in which file extending compounds are identified that are both representative for each cluster and have a defined minimum structural difference from each other (by the same fingerprint similarity as above, in-house developed).

Pharma IQ: Has there been any recent innovation in the developments of new screening methods? Can one talk about a sustainable MedChem toolbox?

Urs Lüthi: Actelion features a sizeable internal medicinal chemistry department that, by automated HTS chemistry including parallel chemistry, synthesizes a substantial number of chemical  compounds both for internal projects as well as for the screening collection. Also, - budget  allowing, - small i.e. natural-product like collections are analysed and compounds added in the same manner as described above.

Pharma IQ: As the pharmaceutical industry is heavily invested in partnership and outsourcing arrangements – how do you go about outsourcing activities both locally and globally? What role does external innovation play in big pharmaceutical companies today?
U Lüthi: At Actelion, sourcing compounds from numerous vendors in order to maintain and increase chemical diversity in the screening collection plays an important role.
Generally, depending on the type and size of therapeutic area, the profiling of lead and tool compounds (target selectivity) is outsourced. Since innovation is particularly high in academic institutions, Actelion established a series of collaborations with universities.
Pharma IQ:  What trends do you see in library design and how can companies today achieve and integrate new chemistry to its collections?
 U Lüthi: In order to integrate new chemistry in our screening collection Actelion aims at including
compounds with an increasing number of stereocenters as well as out-of- planarity structures. In addition, we constantly apply new synthesis methods, and have even started to tackle naturalc product inspired compounds.

Pharma IQ:  What are your expectations for the future of chemical libraries and what does the industry need to promote to avoid non-exclusivity?
U Lüthi: Chemistry vendors should increase the number of proprietary building blocks in order to offer an increasing number of novel compounds. Due to increasing cost pressure, particularly in a high cost country like Switzerland, internal chemistry efforts
might be increasingly transferred abroad.
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