From Molecules to Medicines : Integrating Crystallography in Drug Discovery

Global disease is perhaps the greatest threat to mankind. There are three primary tools at our disposal to counter this threat, vaccines, drugs and diagnostic tests. Protein crystallography plays a major role in all of these, from its contribution to the explanation of fundamental biological processes to the application of structure-based drug design.Scientifically, there is no better aid to the understanding of biological processes than to be able to visualize the exact position of every atom in a biologically active molecule. It is therefore not surprising that protein crystallography is such a fundamental part of the modern drug discovery process; both in increasing our understanding of disease processes and in the direct, structure-based design of drugs. Parallel to the developments in structural biology, great strides have been made towards targeted medicines. The discipline of bioinformatics is maturing towards ‘systems biology”, i.e. a complete elucidation of the biology of an organism; this has been massively aided by the completion of the sequencing of the human genome. Highly targeted medicines, specifically tailored to small groups of patients, are a reality that is already with us, one that has a fundamental dependence on understanding biology at a molecular level. Protein crystallography not only impacts on society via health, but also via economics. This is particularly so in Europe, which has a rich history in medicines research, from the pioneering studies at the turn of the last century through to the establishment of the pharmaceutical giants and biotechnology industry of today, a key part of Europe”s economic strength. Competition in this industrial field requires young European scientists to be trained to be able to exploit the techniques in this multidisciplinary area.For more information: