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Dr. Richard A. Houghten, Founder, President & CEO of Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies will utilize a new methodology that may accelerate drug discovery in multiple therapeutic areas like pain management, thanks to a 5-year, $2.34 million grant awarded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Initial studies will target the identification of small molecules useful for the treatment of pain, but without the negative effects of existing opioid-based pain medications, such as addiction, respiratory depression and psychological effects. The overall approach will accelerate drug discovery and the identification of more advanced therapeutics that improve patients’ quality of life.

The highly innovative approaches at Torrey Pines Institute now permit literally millions of compounds to be tested at a very early stage of the drug discovery process. Over the past 23 years, Dr. Houghten and the scientists at Torrey Pines Institute have developed approaches in combinatorial chemistry which enable the rapid identification of individual compounds from millions to billions of others (positional scanning), the use of existing combinatorial libraries to generate entirely new diversities of compounds (libraries from libraries), the cross-referencing of library screening results with gene data bases in order to fine-tune the direction towards which further testing moves for a given disease target (biometrical analysis), and novel volatilizable solid supports. Many of these technologies have resulted in “leads”, which are today undergoing further testing and analysis in pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Houghten’s other scientific contributions include the “tea bag” approach, which was originally utilized to facilitate the synthesis of peptides in 1985. The tea bag method, in which solvent permeable packets are used during the synthesis process, has now resulted in not only the synthesis of millions of peptides, but also the synthesis of millions of low molecular weight compounds.

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