Although the term “designer drugs” has already become trendy, the actual work of modifying chemical compounds to attack certain proteins and enzymes associated with various diseases has only just gotten off the ground. Fueling the progress in research during the past five years have been significant advances in such areas as X-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance technology. And leading the support for this field of scientific investigadon has been the National Institutes of Health, which, driven -by the search for man-made AIDS drugs, is awarding the lion’s share of federal funding in the field.

“Structural Biology”

One of NIH’s components, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), has carved out a promising niche in research on the foundations of drug design: understanding the structure of the proteins and enzymes that are the “targets” for designer drugs. “The idea is to be able to take a protein that has...

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