Why is combinatorial chemistry important

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Concept of the lead structure60 min.

pharmacyPharmaceutical chemistryDrug design

The search for new active ingredients is based on what are known as lead structures. This term describes the two- and three-dimensional structure of substances that already have some of the desired properties but lack others. Most of the lead structures resulted from plant, animal, microbial and endogenous natural substances such as neurotransmitters and hormones, with only a few of the templates being used as drugs. However, a steadily growing group of lead structures has also been developed from synthetic substances that have traditionally been tested for biological effectiveness in animal experiments. Today, fully automated screening in cell cultures and molecular test systems are available for this purpose (high-throughput screening, HTS).

Combinatorics - an excursus40 min.


Combinatorics is a branch of mathematics that deals with the investigation of the various arrangements of finitely many elements. Other disciplines such as statistics and probability calculus use the methods of combinatorics.

Combinatorial drug design60 min.

pharmacyPharmaceutical chemistryDrug design

The aim of combinatorial design is to generate the largest possible number of potential active ingredients from the combination or permutation of simple basic substances. In contrast to the conventional synthesis of active ingredients, which proceeds specifically from a few starting materials to one or a few desired end products, the combinatorial synthesis tries to achieve the greatest possible variety of synthesis products. The combinatorial drug design thrives on the principle that a large number of testable substances also increases the number of possible new lead structures. A second advantage of the combinatorial method comes in after new lead structures have been found through trial and error. Since it is relatively easy to systematically modify structures in combinatorial synthesis, the chance and the time required to optimize the lead structures that have been found increases.