Drug-like property concepts in pharmaceutical design

Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(19):2184-94. doi: 10.2174/138161209788682479.


The pharmaceutical industry is facing an ever increasing challenge to deliver safer and more effective medicines. Traditionally, drug discovery programs were driven solely by potency, regardless of the properties. As a result, the development of non-drug-like molecules was costly, had high risk and low success rate. To meet the challenges, the bar has been rising higher for drug candidates. They not only need to be active, but also drug-like to be advanced to clinical development. Drug-like properties, such as solubility, permeability, metabolic stability and transporter effects are of critical importance for the success of drug candidates. They affect oral bioavailability, metabolism, clearance, toxicity, as well as in vitro pharmacology. Insoluble and impermeable compounds can result in erroneous biological data and unreliable SAR in enzyme and cell-based assays. Rapid metabolism by enzymes and high efflux by transporters can lead to high clearance, short half-life, low systemic exposure and inadequate efficacy. Early property information helps teams make informed decisions and avoids wasting precious resources. Structure-property relationships are essential to guide structural modification to improve properties. High throughput ADME/TOX assays have been implemented and are being widely used to drive drug discovery projects in parallel with activity screening. Property design has become an integrated and inseparable part of the modern drug discovery paradigm. The approach has been proven to be a winning strategy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical / methods
  • Drug Design*
  • Drug Industry / methods*
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Humans
  • Permeability
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Solubility
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Toxicity Tests / methods


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations