Three Benefits of Using In Silico Technologies for Drug Discovery

In the early stages of drug discovery, in silico models and experimentation can be a vital part of the new drug development process. In silico models pose no potential harm to animals or humans as experiments or research is conducted via computers. You may also hear in silico trials called virtual trials. Computer-aided drug screening with molecular design software and in silico trials can reduce drug discovery costs and improve efficiency in the drug development process.

The concept of "fail early, fail fast" is driving more early, in silico drug discovery processes these days. It's only logical that pharmaceutical companies want to adopt drug discovery approaches that will reduce the amount of time spent on researching proposed drugs that lack the potential for future development. Clinical trials are already costly, and the sooner research teams can discover that a drug may fail to deliver promising results or that it has potential toxicity, the greater the cost savings.

Fortunately, in silico environments can use machine learning strategies and chemical data sets to determine if compounds are promising, or if they will "fail early," enabling research teams to move on to other research targets.

Toxicity and In Silico Drug Development

In silico drug development techniques help to predict toxicity in several ways. They include the ability to predict carcinogenicity or cancer-causing potential, drawing upon carcinogen databases. Similarly, in silico models can also assess the potential for mutagenic capacity.

Compounds with potentially toxic effects on the heart and liver can also be uncovered using in silico methods and technology. And, acute toxicity, whether a compound is applied on the skin, inhaled, or swallowed, can also be determined using widely available data sets for comparison. While not precisely toxic, compounds that can disrupt endocrine function can also be uncovered using in silico technology.

Another aspect of toxicity doesn't involve directly toxic effects on the body or body systems. Some compounds that are considered for drug development may not be biodegradable or have toxic effects on wildlife or plants. In silico drug development enables the rapid identification of potentially eco-toxic compounds, which is another crucial factor in the rapid identification and elimination of drug candidates.

In Silico and Machine Learning Technology

Machine learning models can greatly improve in silico processes. Machine learning technology can manage inherent uncertainty in drug discovery data, enabling you to eliminate less-promising candidates and identify opportunities for further research. Machine learning can also help you assess the potential for success of compounds against your project objectives.

Combined with excellent data visualization capacity, machine learning can also enable you to explore relationships between different compound properties and structures, allowing you to further optimize your processes and uncover which compounds can move forward in the drug development process.

Machine learning and artificial intelligence combine to assist in silico discovery processes that include:

  • Predictive modelling of ADME properties
  • P450 metabolism and toxicity
  • QSAR model building
  • 3D SAR analysis
  • De novo design leading to new optimization strategies

Saving Time and Costs with In Silico Technology

Using in silico technology for early drug development can help to save both time and money. It can also provide valuable insights that can lead to new and promising compounds and research targets.

However, in silico techniques and technology comprise only one step in the drug development process. They cannot fully replace essential in vitro and in vivo processes that are required to move through the regulatory system. Most of all, in silico tech leverages existing knowledge to inform future processes, making early drug discovery more flexible and ethical and less hazardous than it has been in the past.

Overall the benefits of in silico drug discovery have created an $8.3 billion annual market in 2022, according to Grandview Research, a trend that looks set to continue as ever more drug discovery companies adopt in silico techniques

Kimberly Brunner

Kimberly has over a decade of experience producing content for online outlets specializing in covering med-tech news topics for publications spanning topics from pharmaceutical, science, and drug discovery. Her helpful content informs businesses and institutions to make meaningful change.