Integrated Strategy for Lead Optimization Based on Fragment Growing: The Diversity-Oriented-Target-Focused-Synthesis Approach
Over the past few decades, hit identification has been greatly facilitated by advances in high-throughput and fragment-based screenings. One major hurdle remaining in drug discovery is process automation of hit-to-lead (H2L) optimization. Here, we report a time and cost-efficient integrated strategy for H2L optimization as well as a partially automated design of potent chemical probes consisting of a focused-chemical-library design and virtual screening coupled with robotic diversity-oriented de novo synthesis and automated in vitro evaluation. The virtual library is generated by combining an activated fragment, corresponding to the substructure binding to the target, with a collection of functionalized building blocks using in silico encoded chemical reactions carefully chosen from a list of one-step organic transformations relevant in medicinal chemistry. The proof of concept was demonstrated using the optimization of bromodomain inhibitors as a test case, leading to the validation of several compounds with improved affinity by several orders of magnitude.