DNA Encoded Libraries: Big Pharma Interest Rises as Technology Proves Benefits

DNA Encoded Libraries

When a big pharma agrees to spend millions in acquiring a drug discovery company, the world is bound to take note. The same happened earlier this year – the acquisition of Nuevolution AB for 1.61 billion Swedish crowns ($166.8 million) was a piece of big news in the drug discovery world, validating the potential of DNA encoded libraries in drug discovery.

The acquisition has allowed Amgen to get a team of experts adept at making and screening billions to trillions of compounds to find promising leads. And Amgen is not the only pharma company that has realized the benefits of this technology. As per a recent study by Roots Analysis, close to 100 strategic partnerships related to DNA-encoded libraries have been forged between pharma players and academic institutes and/or technology providers during the period 2010-2019. The rise in partnership activity is a clear indicator of the increasing popularity of this unique technology. Here, we will look at some of the key trends that are shaping up this industry:

What are DNA encoded libraries?

DNA-encoded compound libraries are a highly attractive technology for the discovery of small-molecule protein ligands. These compound collections consist of small molecules covalently connected to individual DNA sequences carrying readable information about the compound structure. DNA-tagging allows for efficient synthesis, handling, and interrogation of vast numbers of chemically synthesized, drug-like compounds. Here is a perfect video describing the principle behind DNA encoded libraries.

When was the concept first introduced?

The concept of DNA encoded libraries was introduced 25 years ago by Richard Lerner, a chemist at Scripps Research Institute California, and his colleague Sydney Brenner, co-winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The pair published a paper that’s often described as a thought experiment. They also made a small DNA-encoded library and patented the idea around the same time.

How many DNA encoded libraries are currently available to the pharma players to choose from?

According to Roots Analysis, presently, nearly 30 DNA-encoded libraries are available to various pharmaceutical companies for the purpose of drug discovery. The majority of the DNA-encoded libraries are designed to identify leads against protein pump inhibitors which are otherwise difficult to screen using traditional libraries. However, with respect to the type of pharmacological leads, over 20 libraries are designed for the discovery of small molecules, followed by macrocycles.

Which companies offer DNA encoded libraries for drug discovery?

The market is highly fragmented, featuring a mix of small-sized companies (less than 50 employees, 48%), mid-sized companies (more than 51 employees, 20%), large companies (more than 500 employees, 8%) and very large companies (more than 5,000 employees, 24%) that offer DNA-encoded libraries. Notable examples of well-established players include (in alphabetical order, no selection criteria), Amgen (through the acquisition of Nuevolution), ETH Zurich and GSK (through the acquisition of Praecis Pharmaceuticals). The recent launch of the DNA Encoded Library (DEL) service package DELight WuXi AppTec is another example of big players entering this space.

To know more about the evolving DNA encoded libraries market, check out the report here.