Drug repositioning or target repositioning: A structural perspective of drug-target-indication relationship for available repurposed drugs

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Drug repositioning aims to find new indications for existing drugs in order to reduce drug development cost and time. Currently,there are numerous stories of successful drug repositioning that have been reported and many repurposed drugs are already available on the market. Although drug repositioning is often a product of serendipity, repositioning opportunities can be uncovered systematically. There are three systematic approaches to drug repositioning: disease-centric approach, target-centric and drug-centric. Disease-centric approaches identify close relationships between an old and a new indication. A target-centric approach links a known target and its established drug to a new indication. Lastly, a drug-centric approach connects a known drug to a new target and its associated indication. These three approaches differ in their potential and their limitations, but above all else, in the required start information and computing power. This raises the question of which approach prevails in current drug discovery and what that implies for future developments. To address this question, we systematically evaluated over 100 drugs, 200 target structures and over 300 indications from the Drug Repositioning Database. Each analyzed case was classified as one of the three repositioning approaches. For the majority of cases (more than 60%) the disease-centric definition was assigned. Almost 30% of the cases were classified as target-centric and less than 10% as drug-centric approaches. We concluded that, despite the use of umbrella term "drug" repositioning, disease- and target-centric approaches have dominated the field until now. We propose the use of drug-centric approaches while discussing reasons, such as structure-based repositioning techniques, to exploit the full potential of drug-target-disease connections.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1043-1055
Number of pages13
JournalComputational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2020

External IDs

PubMedCentral PMC7215100
Scopus 85084919758
ORCID /0000-0003-2848-6949/work/141543364