From the time of the first visualizations of atomic-level protein structures scientists have worked towards the goal of using a detailed three-dimensional understanding of molecular structure for drug discovery. Now, the intersection of pharmacology with structural biology guides the rational design of therapeutics. This is done in small-molecule drug discovery where, for example, enzyme inhibitors can be optimized using structural biology techniques as a guide. Structural biology can also guide the discovery of new therapeutic mechanisms, for example designing targeted antibodies to alter cytokine signal transduction. The Department of Pharmacology at Yale is at the forefront of using structural biology to discover new mechanisms and targets for drug discovery. There are ongoing collaborative efforts within the department between scientists interested in Drug Discovery, Signal transduction and Neuroscience.
A prominent example that used the structural biology techniques X-ray crystallography, electron microscopy and small-angle X-ray scattering, is the discovery of a membrane-proximal region of receptor tyrosine kinases that can be targeted with antibody-based therapeutics. Our interdisciplinary graduate program provides a unique and compelling environment for graduate students to become exposed to the tools of structural biology and their utilization in the drug discovery process.