Drug discovery

Search for new and better treatments.

From Molecules to Medicine: A Journey of Drug Discovery

Drug discovery is a complex and expensive process, with 1% of new candidates making it to market at a cost of billions for each new drug. Drug attrition can result from safety issues, poor efficacy or translation from preclinical models to human patients, clinical trial costs, and market competition. Drug discovery is typically done by pharmaceutical companies and biotechs, but now disease and patient foundations and charities are supporting drug discovery for rare and common diseases, and academics are identifying new drugs or carrying out clinical trials. Cancer remains the main area of drug discovery, followed by neuroscience, metabolic disease, and cardiac ailments.

Drug discovery screening

cascade and workflow

The drug discovery process

Drug discovery is a long process which can be divided into different phases. These range from early drug discovery which includes target identification and validation, compound screening, and lead optimization, through pre-clinical research to establish safety and efficacy, and finally clinical testing and regulatory approval. The process can take 12-15 years per new drug molecule and is costly. New small molecules are typically identified by high throughput screening (HTS) of large libraries containing millions of compounds, with hit compounds optimized by medicinal chemistry methods. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning algorithms are key developments in drug discovery, to help design and optimize new molecules, predict protein shapes, interpret complex responses in phenotypic assays, and deconvolve genetic pathways. The availability of high-resolution cryo-EM protein structures and drug-binding sites facilitates structure-based drug design. Finally, a better translation of preclinical drug candidates to the clinic is possible using human patients and disease iPSC 2D cultures and 3D organoids, and the availability of human donor tissue. This also raises the possibility of personalized medicine, to identify patient-specific drug regimes.

Nanion instruments used in drug discovery

Ion channels and transporters

in drug development

The drug discovery process

Ion channels have enormous potential as drug targets, whereby nearly 18% of drugs on the market today target ion channels to exert their therapeutic effects. Also, there are >80 drug candidates that are currently in preclinical development and clinical trials. These include P2X3 inhibitors to treat chronic cough, and NMDA receptor antagonists to treat depression. Membrane transporters are also potential therapeutic targets to treat neurological disorders and diseases such as cystic fibrosis, but should also be taken into account during the drug development process as they can play a major role in drug safety and efficacy.

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Drug discovery

Instrumentation for all phases of drug development

We accompany you on your drug discovery journey by providing a range of platforms for studying ion channels and membrane transporters in native and heterologous cells and membranes:

  • Single channel recordings on Orbit mini and Orbit 16 TC platforms for basic research, target discovery, and target validation.
  • Whole-cell recordings on Port-a-PatchPatchliner and SyncroPatch 384 for basic research and target discovery right through to drug screening, lead optimization, and safety testing.
  • Transporter measurements on the SURFE2R N1 and SURFE2R 96SE for basic research and target discovery right through to drug screening, lead optimization, and safety testing in organellar membranes.
  • Contractility and field potential electrophysiology on the CardioExcyte 96 and FLEXcyte 96 for basic research and safety/toxicology testing.

How can we help you?

Contact our specialist Dr. Alison Obergrussberger (Scientific Communications Manager). Alison is delighted to help you:


or call: +49 89 2190 95-078
or connect via LinkedIn