Program Snapshot

Image of two proteins bound to drugs. A third panel shows an overlay of both protein structures. This is to show how the IDG program can use information from previous studies to better our understanding of understudied protein function CDK6 is a protein known to be involved in cancer and has a drug to help treat this disease. CDK16 is a protein that is understudied and has been linked to cancer. The IDG program is generating resources to learn more about understudied proteins.

It has been estimated that as many as 4,000 proteins are susceptible to targeting by pharmaceuticals; however, only 5-10 percent of what is considered “druggable” is currently targeted by FDA approved drugs, reflecting opportunities for further research. Three protein families, the ion channels, G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), and protein kinases, contain adequate numbers of understudied members and are well-established druggable families with high potential to impact human health once disease associations are made. Further investigation is warranted to discover crucial knowledge about the function of understudied members of these protein families and to uncover their roles in health and disease.

To improve our scientific understanding of understudied members of these three protein families, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Common Fund launched the Illuminating the Druggable Genome (IDG) Program in 2014. The overall goal of the IDG Program is to catalyze research in areas of biology that are currently understudied but that have high potential to impact human health.

A key resource from this program, Pharos, aggregates protein information from several sources, so that researchers everywhere can easily access it, catalyzing their own research and helping them find new proteins that may be of interest. In addition, IDG supported researchers to develop technologies and resources to enable the study of understudied druggable proteins in a high throughput manner. The IDG program has developed molecular probes (small molecules), molecular tools and assays, transgenic mice (specialized genetic lines of laboratory mice), recombinant cell lines, data, and digital resources for 100+ understudied GPCRs, ion channels and kinases. These resources are now available for use by the scientific community, with the IDG Program continuing to build on and generate knowledge and tools to illuminate understudied proteins.

This page last reviewed on May 5, 2021