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New Tricks for Old Drugs

Using High-Throughput Screening to Repurpose Medications


Carlos C. Goller
Department of Biological Sciences
North Carolina State University
Stefanie H. Chen
Department of Biological Sciences
North Carolina State University
Melissa C. Srougi
Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences
North Carolina State University


This case study is designed to raise awareness of the use of high-throughput screening (HTS), the resources available at PubChem, and the potential for discovery of promising therapeutics in collections of existing drugs. Students prepare for the case by viewing several background videos. Once in class, they access a published and highly cited HTS screen for small molecules to stop Zika virus epidemics, and then interact directly with the data in PubChem to dissect the research findings. The case can be extended to consider how similar approaches and PubChem database searches can be used in the search for drugs to combat the novel coronavirus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The case is ideally suited for upper-division undergraduate students or graduate students (e.g., first year or professional students in pharmacy or medicine) in a molecular biology or medicinal chemistry course with enough time for class work in groups and productive discussions.


  • Summarize the objective(s) of a published high-throughput screen (HTS).
  • Explain the experimental approach used for HTS in this study.
  • Identify lead compounds from a HTS published in PubChem and their known activities.
  • Analyze the IC50 data from a published figure.
  • Execute a PubChem search to find active compounds against other diseases.
  • Reflect on the significance of HTS such as this one.


High-throughput screening; HTS; Zika; PubChem; compounds; inhibition; drug discovery; drug development

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate upper division, Graduate



Type / Methods

N/A, Flipped, Journal Article



Subject Headings

Bioinformatics  |   Epidemiology  |   Microbiology  |   Science (General)  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Answer Key

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The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • Zika Virus 101
    This video provides a short description of Zika virus and its effects. The video is professional and engaging. Running time: 4:28 min. Produced by CDC, 2018.
  • Zika in Babies in US Territories, August
    This video provides an overview of the effects of Zika virus infection during pregnancy. Running time: 1 min. Produced by CDC, 2018.
  • Inside the NCATS Laboratories: High-throughput Screening and Automation
    Overview of pre-clinical research conducted at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. Running time: 7:12 min. Produced by NCATS NIH, 2015.
  • PubChem Overview
    Overview of PubChem structure and databases. Search tools are discussed focusing on BioAssays. Running time: 3:24 min. Produced by Carlos C. Goller, 2020.