Minimizing in vitro and in vivo testing in early drug discovery with the use of physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling and machine learning (ML) approaches has the potential to reduce discovery cycle times and animal experimentation. However, the prediction success of such an approach has not been shown for a larger and diverse set of compounds representative of a lead optimization pipeline. In this study, the prediction success of the oral (PO) and intravenous (IV) pharmacokinetics (PK) parameters in rats was assessed using a “bottom-up” approach, combining in vitro and ML inputs with a PBPK model. More than 240 compounds for which all of the necessary inputs and PK data were available were used for this assessment. Different clearance scaling approaches were assessed, using hepatocyte intrinsic clearance and protein binding as inputs. In addition, a novel high-throughput PBPK (HT-PBPK) approach was evaluated to assess the scalability of PBPK predictions for a larger number of compounds in drug discovery. The results showed that bottom-up PBPK modeling was able to predict the rat IV and PO PK parameters for the majority of compounds within a 2- to 3-fold error range, using both direct scaling and dilution methods for clearance predictions. The use of only ML-predicted inputs from the structure did not perform well when using in vitro inputs, likely due to clearance miss predictions. The HT-PBPK approach produced comparable results to the full PBPK modeling approach but reduced the simulation time from hours to seconds. In conclusion, a bottom-up PBPK and HT-PBPK approach can successfully predict the PK parameters and guide early discovery by informing compound prioritization, provided that good in vitro assays are in place for key parameters such as clearance.
By Doha Naga, Neil Parrott, Gerhard F. Ecker, and Andrés Olivares-Morales