High Throughput Screening for New Drugs?

It would be fascinating to hear your expert’s opinion on high throughput screening of small molecules, such as the Jupiter program at Scripps Research:


That’s solidly my area. What questions do you have about it?

How successful are these types of programs in finding novel drugs, and what are some of the success stories? What are the major hurdles and bottlenecks associated with this approach? What are the recent technical advancements that have improved the ability to produce and screen all of these compounds? What is the general view within the scientific community as it relates to the potential benefits of these types of research programs?

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HTS is one important way of finding new small-molecule leads, which can then be optimized into drugs, but (1) it is not the only way of finding new drugs, (2) optimization is the hard part and often neglected by academics, (3) it takes a long time to get from hit to lead to patients, many years, and (4) not all HTS is equal, and some types of HTS are far more effective.

This is an important review of the importance of phenotypic screens in drug development, though it is from 2014.


Academic centers such as Scripps are usually service cores, but they are not usually doing outright drug development. More work is done in discovering probes, which are not medicines, and in repurposing existing drugs.

The MLPCN network, which was funded by the NIH for a while, is a good place to see a high overview of work typical of academic groups. Take a look at these “probe reports.”

I also want to add, in regards to developing a new medicine, the cost and risk is so high and timeline so elongated that economic factors may dominate decisions much more than actual scientific or health concerns. This is one reason why development of anti-virals and anti-bacterials is essentially stalled, if not for COVID-19.