Small molecules (SMs) have been the staple of medical treatment for over a century. In recent decades, many molecular targets of individual drugs have been revealed and the focus of drug development has shifted from empirical observations of an SM’s pharmacological effects towards rational design of SMs binding to biological targets important in the development of disease. Concomitant with the advances of molecular life sciences in the last decades, SMs have also become indispensable research tools.
In parallel, progress in synthetic organic chemistry led to a vast increase in the number and diversity of SMs. Currently, over 750 million purchasable compounds are listed in the ZINC database and the number of all possible compounds is estimated to be many orders of magnitude higher than that. Only a small fraction of known SMs have documented biological activity. For example, the database BindingDB, which focuses mainly on protein drug targets and gathers data from both industrial as well as academic sources, lists binding affinities for about 780,000 small molecules. Hence, 99.9% of SMs have no known biological activity. We believe that these molecules represent a massive untapped resource of potential drug leads and research tools.
The UL FCCT in-house library of SMs contains about two thousand entries. Our goal is to screen this library for biologically active SMs, determine their effects on cellular health and function and identify their molecular targets.
Particular emphasis is placed on identifying SMs with antimicrobial and anti-cancer activities.