Crowdsourced identification of multi-target kinase inhibitors for RET- and TAU- based disease: The Multi-Targeting Drug DREAM Challenge

PLoS Comput Biol. 2021 Sep 14;17(9):e1009302. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009302. eCollection 2021 Sep.


A continuing challenge in modern medicine is the identification of safer and more efficacious drugs. Precision therapeutics, which have one molecular target, have been long promised to be safer and more effective than traditional therapies. This approach has proven to be challenging for multiple reasons including lack of efficacy, rapidly acquired drug resistance, and narrow patient eligibility criteria. An alternative approach is the development of drugs that address the overall disease network by targeting multiple biological targets ('polypharmacology'). Rational development of these molecules will require improved methods for predicting single chemical structures that target multiple drug targets. To address this need, we developed the Multi-Targeting Drug DREAM Challenge, in which we challenged participants to predict single chemical entities that target pro-targets but avoid anti-targets for two unrelated diseases: RET-based tumors and a common form of inherited Tauopathy. Here, we report the results of this DREAM Challenge and the development of two neural network-based machine learning approaches that were applied to the challenge of rational polypharmacology. Together, these platforms provide a potentially useful first step towards developing lead therapeutic compounds that address disease complexity through rational polypharmacology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Development*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neural Networks, Computer
  • Polypharmacology
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret / metabolism
  • Tauopathies / drug therapy*
  • tau Proteins / genetics
  • tau Proteins / metabolism


  • MAPT protein, human
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • tau Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-ret
  • RET protein, human