Monobodies as tool biologics for accelerating target validation and druggable site discovery
Despite increased investment and technological advancement, new drug approvals have not proportionally increased. Low drug approval rates, particularly for new targets, are linked to insufficient target validation at early stages. Thus, there remains a strong need for effective target validation techniques. Here, we review the use of synthetic binding proteins as tools for drug target validation, with focus on the monobody platform among several advanced synthetic binding protein platforms. Monobodies with high affinity and high selectivity can be rapidly developed against challenging targets, such as KRAS mutants, using protein engineering technologies. They have strong tendency to bind to functional sites and thus serve as drug-like molecules, and they can serve as targeting ligands for constructing bio-PROTACs. Genetically encoded monobodies are effective “tool biologics” for validating intracellular targets. They promote crystallization and help reveal the atomic structures of the monobody-target interface, which can inform drug design. Using case studies, we illustrate the potential of the monobody technology in accelerating target validation and small-molecule drug discovery.