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Protein engineers are using the building blocks nature provides to design an ever-expanding toolkit of new drug modalities to fight disease.

In the days before biotechnology, the wide range of available medicines obscured the fact that nearly every drug had one thing in common with other drugs. With rare exceptions, medicines were based on chemical compounds that determined their safety and efficacy in patients.

Small molecule compounds remain the most common modality used in medicines, but the fundamental structure of drugs has evolved to include a much wider array of options. The biotech industry opened the door to entirely new modalities that can be made through the marriage of science and the molecular machinery of cells.

The biotech industry got its start by creating genetically engineered versions of human proteins—large molecules far too intricate to assemble through chemical processes. Today, protein engineers can reconfigure nature’s building blocks to design innovative structures that fight disease in a more sophisticated manner.

This ever-growing diversity of modalities has helped Amgen to pioneer a new approach to drug discovery. This approach seeks to gain deep biological insights into disease before selecting the optimal tool to target the key molecular defects.

To increase the likelihood of finding the best tool for the best target, Amgen has built an array of drug modalities that is unsurpassed in the biopharma industry. Our product portfolio and clinical pipeline include nine modalities, and our drug discovery scientists are exploring two additional modalities. This feature provides an overview of these 11 tools and how they can be applied to help patients facing serious illness.