Courtesy of UC Davis Medical Center
 COMBI-KING: Kit Lam brings his expertise in combinatorial chemistry, an innovative technique for creating millions of new chemical compounds in just days, to the UC Davis Cancer Center.

It's the new mix and match. In the computer industry, programmers refer to modularity--the ability to shuffle different sections of computer code to create new software. In the life sciences, the modules are peptides or molecular fragments that can be combined to yield thousands of possible reactants from a given set of compounds. The result is combinatorial chemistry, aka combi-chem. "Combinatorial chemistry was only adopted broadly in industry about 10 years ago," says John Schwab, program director of the NIH's National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), and it caused an "almost overnight change" in the way companies discover leads and develop drugs, becoming today's "predominant paradigm."

The process starts with coupling "a mixture of 20...

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