Drug Discovery
Drug Discovery

H. Martin Seidel, Ph.D.
Institute Director

People around the world who suffer from diseases for which there is inadequate treatment pin their hopes on modern science to find new therapies.  Within the GNF Drug Discovery effort, our mission is to discover innovative medicines that address unmet medical needs including diseases such as cancer, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, inflammation and autoimmune diseases, CNS disorders, and infectious diseases.

We are committed to:

  • Tackling important biological and therapeutic problems
  • Leveraging GNF tools, technologies, and discovery biology in a highly opportunistic fashion to maximize productivity and accelerate the drug discovery process
  • Synergizing with and complementing Novartis’s drug discovery efforts
  • Developing collaborative interactions with the academic research community that enable and enhance our drug discovery programs
  • Serving as an incubator for new drug discovery approaches and management practices within the Novartis family

Small Molecule Drug Discovery and Biotherapeutics
Drug discovery at GNF has three departments focused on small molecule drug discovery, representing the disciplines of biology, chemistry, and pharmacology. These departments bring together capabilities spanning target identification/validation, assay development, high throughput screening, cellular biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, medicinal chemistry, analytical chemistry, predictive in vitro ADMET assays, pharmacokinetics/drug distribution, and in vivo models of human disease.

In addition to these capabilities in the small molecule arena, GNF also has a group focused on discovering new biotherapeutics, since many attractive and well-validated drug discovery targets are best addressed with therapeutic antibody- or recombinant protein-based approaches, especially in situations where high specificity or unique functional or pharmacokinetic properties are required.

Taken together, these capabilities enable GNF to take on almost any target and advance drug discovery projects from concept to advanced preclinical candidates.

Target Selection
Targets are selected in a variety of ways at GNF, but one defining characteristic is our bottom-up approach, where drug discovery scientists at all levels participate in projects and generate ideas for new targets or for new approaches to more well-known targets. The majority of GNF’s drug discovery programs focus on metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity, cardiovascular disease, oncology, and autoimmune disease.

Because of the breadth of GNF’s activities and our access to collaborations with Novartis, our scientists can be highly opportunistic about the targets and pathways they pursue. For example, they are free to follow their own scientific interests, scientific leads from internal or external sources or gene-family-based approaches. To date, we have tackled a number of target types—ranging from G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), nuclear receptors, protein-protein interactions, kinases, proteases, and other enzymes to ‘black box’ pathways.

Gene-Family-Based Platforms
GNF has developed considerable, focused expertise within several gene families that have traditionally been a rich source of targets for marketed drugs, including protein kinases, proteases, nuclear receptors and G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).

GNF’s Role After Clinical Candidate Identification
Because Novartis is the development outlet for the clinical candidates identified by GNF, Novartis assumes increasing responsibility as projects move into the late preclinical and clinical development stages. Nevertheless, GNF scientists remain involved in the projects and participate as team members even as the projects move into full development. Accordingly, GNF scientists participate in the planning of proof-of-concept studies in man and interact with translational medicine and clinical representatives, outside clinical and academic consultants, safety pharmacologists, toxicologists, formulation scientists, biomarker development teams, and other team members who become increasingly involved as a project transitions from preclinical to clinical development.