, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 159-163,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

If we designed airplanes like we design drugs…

Abstract

In the early days, airplanes were put together with parts designed for other purposes (bicycles, farm equipment, textiles, automotive equipment, etc.). They were then flown by their brave designers to see if the design would work—often with disastrous results. Today, airplanes, helicopters, missiles, and rockets are designed in computers in a process that involves iterating through enormous numbers of designs before anything is made. Until very recently, novel drug-like molecules were nearly always made first like early airplanes, then tested to see if they were any good (although usually not on the brave scientists who created them!). The resulting extremely high failure rate is legendary. This article describes some of the evolution of computer-based design in the aerospace industry and compares it with the progress made to date in computer-aided drug design. Software development for pharmaceutical research has been largely entrepreneurial, with only relatively limited support from government and industry end-user organizations. The pharmaceutical industry is still about 30 years behind aerospace and other industries in fully recognizing the value of simulation and modeling and funding the development of the tools needed to catch up.