What Are Biomarkers And How Are They Used In Drug Discovery

by Health Care Services Published on: 08 December 2023 Last Updated on: 08 January 2024


In recent years, the search for targeted therapies and personalized medicine has continued to develop. Biomarkers are often said to be the keys that unlock parts of this revolution in modern medicine. In this article, we look at what the experts at Alderley Analytical term the essence of biomarkers and discuss the impact they can have on drug discovery.

What are biomarkers?

A biomarker is an indicator of a biological condition or state. The key facet of a biomarker is its ability to give insight into normal biological processes and responses to pathogens or therapeutic interventions.

Types Of Biomarkers

There are various types of biomarkers, which are split into the categories below.

Cellular Biomarkers 

These biomarkers cover cell migration, proliferation, and apoptosis. They can help us understand the cellular level of disease.

Genetic Biomarkers 

These are derived from a person’s genetic material. This can be DNA, RNA or proteins. Genetic biomarkers help us gain an understanding of the genetic basis of disease. Variations of specific genes can predict disease, susceptibility, and the response to targeted treatment.

Protein Biomarkers 

The proteins present in the body’s cells can indicate various physiological states. They are often measured in correlation with the presence or progression of disease. Therefore, protein biomarkers can help in diagnostics, prognostics, and treatment responses.

Imaging Biomarkers 

These are observable features and provide insight into the function or structure of tissues, such as tumors, blood flow, and metabolic activities. Such biomarkers can be used in diagnosis, staging, and treatment stages.

Metabolic Biomarkers 

Metabolites are small molecules that are produced during metabolism. They can act as biomarkers that reflect the metabolic state of an organism. Changes in metabolite levels can indicate disease presence and treatment responses. 

It is one approach; however, there is another approach through which one can classify the biomarkers. They include the Type 0, the Type 1, and the Type 2 biomarkers. 

The Type 0 biomarkers are also termed as the history biomarkers. They help measure the natural history of the disease. An example of the type of biomarkers includes the measurement of the serum creatine that helps in proper kidney function. 

Now you have the Type 1 biomarker, and these are the drug activity biomarkers that pinpoint the effect of the drug interventions.  Finally, the Type 2 Biomarkers, known as the surrogate markers, serve as one of the substitutes for a clinical outcome of the disease. They assist in predicting the effectiveness of a therapeutic intervention. 

How Biomarkers Aid Drug Discovery

biomarkers aid drug discovery

There are various ways in which biomarkers can help with drug discovery.

Here are just some of them:

Early detection of disease.

Biomarkers give us the potential for detecting disease early, allowing for early interventions, and preventing progression to more advanced stages. For example, early diagnosis can provide a much better prognosis in cancer detection in many cases.

Targeted treatments

It is possible to use biomarkers to identify and validate appropriate targets. Targeted treatment can be more effective by providing insights into the biological processes associated with diseases.

Personalized medicine

Not every person responds in the same way to the same treatment, so where differences are identified in biomarkers, the treatment can be personalized to the response.

Treatment, success, and safety.

During clinical trials, biomarkers can serve as invaluable assets that help us assess how successful therapeutic interventions are. They can also give guidance on safe dosage levels, as they provide a real-time view of the impact of a drug.

Drug repurposing.

By measuring biomarkers, we are able to see specific impacts that may not initially have been predicted. In some cases, this could lead to a drug being repurposed for a treatment it was not identified for.

Reduction of time and costs in drug development

Medicine must move forward, as diseases can progress at significant rates. Therefore, using biomarkers to evaluate the effectiveness of a drug in development can help save time and costs in bringing new medicines to market.

Significant Characteristics Of The Biomarker

The important question that is bound to tickle into the brain of an average individual is, what is the significant character of the idle biomarker? According to the US Food and Drug Administration’s definition, the ideal biomarker needs to be safe and easy to measure. It is indeed rapid, and so it enables swift diagnosis. The idle biomarker gives the most accurate results. It is consistent between the diverse genders and ethnic groups. Also, the biomarkers are specific for a particular disease and can clearly differentiate between the diverse psychological states. 

Diverse diseases have diverse biomarkers linked with them that relate to a specific disease. 

Application Of Biomarkers 

The Discovery and evolution of biomarkers is the result of continuous efforts. The researchers are trying to make use of the biomarkers. 

Again it is not only one reason behind its use; the researchers are aiming to explore its capabilities of. Well, drug discovery and its development is something steeped in complexities. It is in fact, easier said than done. The Failure rates of its application are as high as upto 90% and even higher. 

Pinpointing the most reliable biomarkers can help in the discovery of a drug. And it potentially increases the rates of success. However, let us try to seep deep into the study and understand why using the biomarkers becomes crucial in the discovery of drugs. 

The biomarkers play quite a significant role in the initial phase of the discovery of development of drugs. This is because they assist in pinpointing the most potential therapeutic targets with pinpointing therapeutic targets. In addition to it, they help comprehend the mechanisms of the therapeutics of the candidate. They can further assist in assessing the logicality, validity, and acceptance of the therapeutics. 

The biomarkers are also important and quite significant in the later stages of the development of drugs. Moreover, they are used in the clinical trials to understand the response of the care user to the treatment. So, the entire procedure requires bulk study, observations, recording, and research. 


In conclusion, the benefits of using biomarkers in drug discovery and development cannot be overstated. Not only can they help give us insight into the impact of current treatments, but they can help develop new, more effective treatments for existing diseases or those that might develop in the future.

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With an adept skill of curating content on multiple genres, Mony has harnessed success as a Content Writer. Find her sharing profound thoughts and opinions on business and startups. She also loves talking about lifestyle, beauty and fashion.

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