Systems biology and systems chemistry: new directions for drug discovery

Chem Biol. 2012 Jan 27;19(1):23-8. doi: 10.1016/j.chembiol.2011.12.012.


Improvements in drug design have historically been centered around structure-based optimization of molecule specificity for a targeted protein, in an effort to reduce unintentional binding to other proteins and off-target effects. Although the "one-to-one" drug design strategy has been successful in impairing function of targets associated with a number of diseases, recent reports of drug promiscuity, which are a potential source of adverse reactions in patients, make a case to refine the drug design strategy such that it includes an awareness of multiple interactions from both ligand and protein perspectives. Polypharmacology and chemical biology studies are amassing interaction data at rapid rates, and the integration of such data into an interpretable model requires zooming our perspective out from the single ligand-target level to the larger network-wide level. We review some of the recent developments in systems-level research for drug design and discovery, and discuss the directions that some drug design efforts are heading toward.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual
  • Drug Design*
  • Ligands
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Proteins / chemistry
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • Systems Biology*


  • Ligands
  • Proteins