Drug Discovery & Preclinical Development

“Drug Discovery & Preclinical Development” covers the early stages of drug research and development prior to clinical trials in humans. The aim is to identify promising drug candidates, evaluate their safety and efficacy in the laboratory and in animals, and ultimately lay the groundwork for approval of clinical trials.

What is Drug Discovery?

Drug discovery is the process of identifying new molecules or substances that have the potential to treat or prevent disease. It involves researching disease mechanisms, identifying biological targets, screening chemicals or biologics for activity against these targets and optimising the pharmacological properties of the compounds found.

Specifically, this process includes the following points:

  • Target Identification: Identification of molecular or genetic factors that influence disease.
  • Screening: Use of high-throughput screening technologies to identify molecules that exert a desired biological activity on the target.
  • Lead Identification und Optimisation: Selection and chemical modification of compounds to improve their potency, selectivity, pharmacokinetics and safety profile.

What is Preclinical Development?

Preclinical development follows on from the discovery phase and involves the systematic testing of drug candidates for toxicity, pharmacokinetics (how the body absorbs, distributes, metabolises and eliminates the drug) and pharmacodynamics (the effect of the drug on the body). The aim of this phase is to gather comprehensive data on the safety and, to some extent, the efficacy of the compound to provide the basis for conducting clinical trials in humans.

Data from preclinical development are crucial in determining whether a drug candidate can progress to the clinical phase and be tested in humans. The entire process is extremely costly and time-consuming and requires careful planning and execution to maximise the chances of success and minimise potential risks.

Together, these two phases form a critical foundation for the development of new therapeutic approaches and drugs that will ultimately help improve patient care and provide new treatment options for unmet medical challenges.

Tasks in the Area of Drug Discovery & Preclinical Development

People working in this field perform a variety of tasks that are crucial to the identification and development of new medicines. These roles cover different aspects of biomedical research and require a wide range of expertise. Some typical roles include:

  1. Target Discovery and Identification:
    • Investigation of disease mechanisms and identification of potential molecular or genetic targets for new therapies
    • Application of bioinformatics and systems biology to analyse data from genomics, proteomics and metabolomics
  2. Design and Implementation of Screening Methods:
    • Development and use of high-pressure set screening methods to identify chemical compounds or biological molecules that exert a desired effect on the target
    • Optimisation of assays (test procedures) to assess the activity and selectivity of drug candidates
  3. Chemical Synthesis und Drug Optimisation:
    • Synthesis of new chemical compounds based on lead structures
    • Application of medicinal chemistry and structure-activity relationships (SAR) to optimise the pharmacological properties of drug candidates
  4. Pharmacokinetic und Metabolism Studies:
    • Investigation of the absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) of drug candidates
    • Use of in vitro and in vivo models to predict human pharmacokinetics
  5. Toxicological Evaluation:
    • Conduct preclinical safety studies to identify potential toxic effects of drug candidates
    • Assessment of acute, sub-chronic and chronic toxicity and specific toxicity risks (e.g. cardiotoxicity, genotoxicity)
  6. Formulation Development:
    • Development of appropriate formulations for drug candidates to improve their stability, solubility and bioavailability
    • Conduct stability studies and develop release profiles
  7. Regulatory Strategy and Documentation:
    • Preparation of scientific and regulatory documentation to support Investigational New Drug (IND) applications
    • Liaise with regulatory authorities to meet clinical trial approval requirements
  8. Project Management und Interdisciplinary Collaboration:
    • Coordinating research activities and managing project teams of scientists from different disciplines
    • Liaise with clinical investigators, regulatory authorities and other healthcare stakeholders

These roles require a deep understanding of biological sciences, chemistry and pharmacology, as well as knowledge of project management and regulatory requirements. Individuals in this field often work at the forefront of biomedical research and are instrumental in the development of new therapies.


Are you looking for personnel in the field of Drug Discovery & Preclinical Development or would you like to develop your career in this direction? Feel free to contact us – we will find the perfect match for you in your specific field.

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