A Mechanistic Pharmacodynamic Modeling Framework for the Assessment and Optimization of Proteolysis Targeting Chimeras (PROTACs)
The field of targeted protein degradation is growing exponentially. Yet, there is an unmet need for pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic models that provide mechanistic insights, while also being practically useful in a drug discovery setting. Therefore, we have developed a comprehensive modeling framework which can be applied to experimental data from routine projects to: (1) assess PROTACs based on accurate degradation metrics, (2) guide compound optimization of the most critical parameters, and (3) link degradation to downstream pharmacodynamic effects. The presented framework contains a number of first-time features: (1) a mechanistic model to fit the hook effect in the PROTAC concentration-degradation profile, (2) quantification of the role of target occupancy in the PROTAC mechanism of action and (3) deconvolution of the effects of target degradation and target inhibition by PROTACs on the overall pharmacodynamic response. To illustrate applicability and to build confidence, we have employed these three models to analyze exemplary data on various compounds from different projects and targets. The presented framework allows researchers to tailor their experimental work and to arrive at a better understanding of their results, ultimately leading to more successful PROTAC discovery. While the focus here lies on in vitro pharmacology experiments, key implications for in vivo studies are also discussed.