Advances over the past decade in drug discovery technologies have not yet led to an increase in productivity. We analyzed the reasons that have led to this juncture and identify the selection of the right target and the right lead as crucial. New approaches are required to take full advantage of the genomics revolution. For targets, methods are becoming available for high-throughput proteome analysis and pathway characterization that synergize with studies of disease association and differential expression. For leads, methods are being developed that 'reverse' the high-throughput screening paradigm by mapping drugs and drug-like compounds back onto the proteome. The synergy between pathway mapping and compound mapping could allow the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to rediscover the sweet spot of research productivity.