Many medicinal chemistry-relevant structures and core scaffolds tend toward geometric planarity, which hampers the optimization of physicochemical properties desirable in drug-like molecules. As challenging drug target classes emerge, the exploitation of molecular three-dimensionality in lead optimization is becoming increasingly important. While recent interest has emphasized the importance of enhanced three-dimensionality in molecular fragment designs, the extent to which this is required in core scaffolds remains unclear.
Three computational methods, Scaffold Tree deconstruction, Synthetic Disconnection Rules retrosynthetic deconstruction and virtual library enumeration, are applied, together with the descriptors plane of best fit and principal moments of inertia, to investigate the origins of three-dimensionality in drug-like molecules. This study informs on the stage at which molecular three-dimensionality should be considered in drug design and highlights key learning that is anticipated to enhance medicinal chemistry design in the future.