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The development of low-affinity fragment hits into higher-affinity leads is a major hurdle in fragment-based drug design. Here, we demonstrate the Rapid Elaboration of Fragments into Leads (REFiL) by applying an integrated workflow that provides a systematic approach to generate higher-affinity binders without the need for structural information. The workflow involves the selection of commercial analogues of fragment hits to generate preliminary structure-activity relationships. This is followed by parallel microscale chemistry using chemoinformatically designed reagent libraries to rapidly explore chemical diversity. After a fragment screen against bromodomain-3 extra-terminal (BRD3-ET) domain, we applied the REFiL workflow, which allowed us to develop a series of ligands that bind to BRD3-ET. With REFiL, we were able to rapidly improve binding affinity > 30-fold. REFiL can be applied readily to a broad range of proteins without the need for a structure, allowing the efficient evolution of low-affinity fragments into higher-affinity leads and chemical probes.
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