Swiss scientists say they have determined there are more than 970 million chemicals suitable for study as potential new drugs.
Professor Jean-Louis Reymond and researcher Lorenz Blum, both of the University of Berne, said their study has produced the largest publicly available database of virtual molecules ever reported.
The researchers said the rules of chemical bonding allow simple elements such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and fluorine to potentially form millions of different molecules. They said the so-called "chemical universe" has an enormous potential for drug discovery, particularly for identifying so-called "small molecules" consisting of 10 to 50 atoms. Until now, however, scientists had not attempted a comprehensive analysis of the molecules that populate chemical space.
In their report, Reymond and Blum describe development of a new searchable database that scientists can use in the quest for new drugs. It consists of all molecules containing as many as 13 atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur and chlorine under rules that define chemical stability and synthetic feasibility
The researchers said the majority of the structures they identified have never been produced in the lab and some might lead to new drugs for fighting disease.
They report their study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
BERNE, Switzerland, July 6, 2009 (UPI)