In silico drug discovery outside the traditional big pharma model


A major recent trend within the pharmaceutical industry, particularly noticeable in ‘Big Pharma’ companies, has been the downsizing of internal R&D capacity. This has been both a macro effect – i.e. a strategic decision to reduce the internal R&D costs through doing less internal R&D, and a local effect, i.e. a tactical decision to reduce the internal headcount through outsourcing.

The overall R&D effort has not markedly diminished, but an effect of these strategies has been to move a lot of [particularly early-phase] R&D activity into smaller organizations, with a consequent shift in business model to a dependence on in-licensing of candidates to feed the development pipeline.

An important aspect of making this transition successful has been the increased adoption of in silico methods to amplify the success of small teams of scientists. The ‘heavy iron’ approaches of the 1990’s and 2000’s (vast combichem libraries, giant compound stores, expensive high-throughput screening robots) have given way to smaller, cheaper and more nimble approaches utilising combinations of physical techniques backed up by powerful computational methods.

Cresset delivers cutting edge computational modeling for drug discovery. The key driver for us is excellent science. Our proprietary technology allows very accurate description of the electrostatics of any molecule of interest, be that a potential drug, a piece of protein, DNA, a flavor molecule or an agrochemical. This is delivered within very simple yet powerful drug discovery workflows which combine this unique technology with speed – in other words timescales for computation that are in step with the rate of modern medicinal chemistry. These workflows include high throughput ligand-based virtual screening and scaffold hopping suites.

Our customers include many ‘Big Pharma’ companies, but also include a wide range of small drug discovery organisations, biotech companies and agrochemical companies across Europe, US and Asia. We collaborate with academics and research institutions to deliver alternative, more cost effective, drug discovery paradigms for such organisations. Through our contract research organization (CRO) we utilise both our commercial and also our internal research-stage software. These have proven extremely successful across nearly 180 drug discovery projects over a 12 year period.

In responding to the changes in business model as described above, supply-side companies like Cresset have also had to adapt – in our case we increasingly deliver a combination of software technology and consulting services expertise. In this presentation we will give an overview, with examples, of the diverse ways in which Cresset has acted as an effective drug discovery partner for its clients – either by delivering software or via outsourced discovery research.


See presentation ‘In silico drug discovery outside the traditional big pharma model‘ given at Drug Discovery Re-Invented.

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