Structure-Based Design Technology Contour and Its Application to the Design of Renin Inhibitors

It is well-known that the structure-based design approach has had a measurable impact on the drug discovery process in identifying novel and efficacious therapeutic agents for a variety of disease targets. The de novo design approach has inherent potential to generate novel molecules that best fit into a protein binding site when compared to all of the computational methods applied to structure-based design. In its initial attempts, this approach did not achieve much success due to technical hurdles. More recently, the algorithmic advancements in the methodologies and clever strategies developed to design drug-like molecules have improved the success rate. We describe a state-of-the-art structure-based design technology called Contour and provide details of the algorithmic enhancements we have implemented. Contour was designed to create novel drug-like molecules by assembling synthetically viable fragments in the protein binding site using a high-resolution crystal structure of the protein. The technology consists of a sophisticated growth algorithm and a novel scoring function based on a directional model. The growth algorithm generates molecules by dynamically selecting only those fragments from the fragment library that are complementary to the binding site, and assembling them by sampling the conformational space for each attached fragment. The scoring function embodying the essential elements of the binding interactions aids in the rank ordering of grown molecules and helps identify those that have high probability of exhibiting activity against the protein target of interest. The application of Contour to identify inhibitors against human renin enzyme eventually leading to the clinical candidate VTP-27,999 will be discussed here.