Magnet for the Needle in Haystack: "Crystal Structure First" Fragment Hits Unlock Active Chemical Matter Using Targeted Exploration of Vast Chemical Spaces
J. Med. Chem. 2022, 65 (23), 15663-15678
Fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD) has successfully led to approved therapeutics for challenging and “undruggable” targets. In the context of FBDD, we introduce a novel, multidisciplinary method to identify active molecules from purchasable chemical space. Starting from four small-molecule fragment complexes of protein kinase A (PKA), a template-based docking screen using Enamine’s multibillion REAL Space was performed. A total of 93 molecules out of 106 selected compounds were successfully synthesized. Forty compounds were active in at least one validation assay with the most active follow-up having a 13,500-fold gain in affinity. Crystal structures for six of the most promising binders were rapidly obtained, verifying the binding mode. The overall success rate for this novel fragment-to-hit approach was 40%, accomplished in only 9 weeks. The results challenge the established fragment prescreening paradigm since the standard industrial filters for fragment hit identification in a thermal shift assay would have missed the initial fragments.