How many drug targets are there?

Nat Rev Drug Discov. 2006 Dec;5(12):993-6. doi: 10.1038/nrd2199.


For the past decade, the number of molecular targets for approved drugs has been debated. Here, we reconcile apparently contradictory previous reports into a comprehensive survey, and propose a consensus number of current drug targets for all classes of approved therapeutic drugs. One striking feature is the relatively constant historical rate of target innovation (the rate at which drugs against new targets are launched); however, the rate of developing drugs against new families is significantly lower. The recent approval of drugs that target protein kinases highlights two additional trends: an emerging realization of the importance of polypharmacology, and also the power of a gene-family-led approach in generating novel and important therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug Approval
  • Drug Delivery Systems / trends*
  • Drug Design*
  • Drugs, Investigational / therapeutic use*
  • Genome, Human*
  • Humans
  • Technology, Pharmaceutical


  • Drugs, Investigational