Neuroactive peptides are sequences of amino acids, usually longer than amino acid neurotransmitters yet shorter than hormones or proteins. Unlike the classic neurotransmitters which are formed by enzymes near the presynaptic terminals, neuroactive peptides are assembled by ribosomes attached to the endoplasmic reticulum.
The pharmaceutical industry has embraced genomics as a source of drug targets. It also recognises that the field of bioinformatics is crucial for validating these potential drug targets and for determining which ones are the most suitable for entering the drug development pipeline. In the past, new synthetic organic molecules were tested in animals or in whole organ preparations. This has been replaced with a molecular target approach in which in-vitro screening of compounds against purified, recombinant proteins or genetically modified cell lines is carried out with a high throughput. This change has come about as a consequence of better and ever improving knowledge of the molecular basis of disease. All marketed drugs today target only about 500 gene products. The elucidation of the human genome which has an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 genes, presents immense new opportunities for drug discovery and simultaneously creates a potential bottleneck regarding the choice of targets to support the drug discovery pipeline. The major advances in genomics and sequencing means that finding an attractive target is no longer a problem but finding the targets that are most likely to succeed has become the challenge. The focus of bioinformatics in the drug discovery process has therefore shifted from target identification to target validation.