Replicated, replicable and relevant-target engagement and pharmacological experimentation in the 21st century

Terry Kenakin, David B. Bylund, Myron L. Toews, Kevin Mullane, Raymond J. Winquist, Michael Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A pharmacological experiment is typically conducted to: i) test or expand a hypothesis regarding the potential role of a target in the mechanism(s) underlying a disease state using an existing drug or tool compound in normal and/or diseased tissue or animals; or ii) characterize and optimize a new chemical entity (NCE) targeted to modulate a specific disease-associated target to restore homeostasis as a potential drug candidate. Hypothesis testing necessitates an intellectually rigorous, null hypothesis approach that is distinct from a high throughput fishing expedition in search of a hypothesis. In conducting an experiment, the protocol should be transparently defined along with its powering, design, appropriate statistical analysis and consideration of the anticipated outcome (s) before it is initiated. Compound-target interactions often involve the direct study of phenotype(s) unique to the target at the cell, tissue or animal/human level. However, in vivo studies are often compromised by a lack of sufficient information on the compound pharmacokinetics necessary to ensure target engagement and also by the context-free analysis of ubiquitous cellular signaling pathways downstream from the target. The use of single tool compounds/drugs at one concentration in engineered cell lines frequently results in reductionistic data that have no physiologically relevance. This overview, focused on trends in the peer-reviewed literature, discusses the execution and reporting of experiments and the criteria recommended for the physiologically-relevant assessment of target engagement to identify viable new drug targets and facilitate the advancement of translational studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-77
Number of pages14
JournalBiochemical Pharmacology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Drug discovery
  • Pharmacology
  • Receptors
  • Systems biology
  • Target engagement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Pharmacology


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