An exciting opportunity has been created to work on methods to assess and quantify the tractability (also known as “druggability” or “ligandability”) of potential new targets for drug discovery. The position is funded by the Open Targets initiative which is a public-private initiative between EMBL-EBI, GlaxoSmithKline, Biogen and the Sanger Institute to generate and integrate evidence on the validity of biological targets for drug development. The core Open Targets operations are based at the EMBL-EBI.
The appointee will work with scientists from the Open Targets partners to assess, validate and develop methods for quantifying target tractability with the ultimate goal of incorporating such methodologies into the target validation platform (https://www.targetvalidation.org/). The initial focus will be on “small molecule” tractability but we are also interested in other modalities in due course (e.g. antibody therapies). Many of the current methods to assess small molecule tractability are based on the use of 3D protein structures, but such information is only available for a subset of potential targets; a key component of the project is to determine robust methods and pipelines that can be applied to novel targets where there is much more limited information. It may also be necessary to combine multiple different techniques together; the development of methods to do this and to visualize the results in a robust and meaningful way will be a critical aspect of the project.
Dependent upon the success of this first phase of the project, and subject to funding, we anticipate a second phase of the project which will focus on the implementation of the outputs from phase one as a robust target tractability workflow in the Open Targets platform. This capability will help scientists to make informed decisions about the progression of targets into the next phases of drug discovery and what experimental work to commission.