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The identification of novel therapeutic targets is a crucial step in the drug discovery and development process. The success of any drug depends on the identification of a specific molecular target that can be modulated by a small molecule drug or biological agent. Traditional methods of target identification have relied on phenotypic screening, which can be time-consuming and often leads to the identification of targets with unknown biological functions. To address this challenge, combinatorial approaches have emerged as a powerful tool for the identification of novel therapeutic targets.

Combinatorial approaches involve the simultaneous screening of multiple targets or compounds, using various methods, to identify potential therapeutic targets. Combinatorial techniques can be broadly classified into two categories: chemical and biological.

Chemical Combinatorial Approaches:

Chemical combinatorial approaches involve the use of libraries of small molecules to identify potential targets. One example of chemical combinatorial approaches is high-throughput screening (HTS), which involves screening large compound libraries for activity against a specific target. HTS can identify potential therapeutic targets quickly and efficiently, but it has limitations such as the need for a highly sensitive and specific assay and the inability to identify targets with unknown biological functions.

Another example of a chemical combinatorial approach is fragment-based screening, which involves screening libraries of small, low molecular weight compounds for binding to a specific target. Fragment-based screening can identify weak binding fragments that can be developed into high-affinity binders, and it has the potential to identify novel targets.

Biological Combinatorial Approaches:

Biological combinatorial approaches involve the screening of multiple targets or compounds using biological assays or techniques. One example of a biological combinatorial approach is RNA interference (RNAi), which can be used to identify genes that are essential for cell survival or proliferation. RNAi can target multiple genes simultaneously and can be used to identify novel therapeutic targets.

Another example of a biological combinatorial approach is proteomics, which involves the identification and quantification of proteins within cells or tissues. Proteomics can identify proteins that are upregulated or downregulated in disease states, which can lead to the identification of novel therapeutic targets.


Combinatorial approaches are becoming increasingly important in the identification of novel therapeutic targets. These approaches offer a rapid and efficient way to identify potential targets and can be used to identify targets with unknown biological functions. The use of combinatorial approaches in drug discovery and development has the potential to revolutionize the field and lead to the development of new and effective treatments for a range of diseases.
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