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Soon after becoming the Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), in May 2002, Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. convened a series of meetings to chart a “roadmap” for medical research in the 21st century. The purpose was to identify major opportunities and gaps in biomedical research that no single institute at NIH could tackle alone but that the agency as a whole must address, to make the biggest impact on the progress of medical research. The Molecular Libraries and Imaging Roadmap Initiative was one of the opportunities identified under the New Pathways to Discovery theme of the NIH Roadmap that sets out to advance our understanding of biological systems and to build a better “toolbox” for medical research in the 21st century.The NIH is committed to a major effort to broaden access to high-throughput screening (HTS) technologies, and the information produced by these approaches, for researchers in academia, government, and non-profit institutions. The public sector has not yet taken advantage of the considerable potential of HTS to advance the understanding of biology and disease mechanisms because access by academic scientists to automated screening facilities and diverse compound libraries is very limited. The NIH Roadmap Molecular Libraries and Imaging Initiative launched the Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network (MLSCN) on June 15, 2005 to enable the rapid transformation of new scientific knowledge into tangible benefits for public health. This effort will empower multi-disciplinary academic teams to discover small molecule tools that can be used in basic biological and biomedical studies. For a general description of the ten network screening centers and their capabilities, and links to each of the ten center descriptions, please follow the following link or notice it on the left side of the page.

The MLSCN is a consortium of high throughput molecular screening (HTS) centers that will screen biological assays submitted by the research community against a large number of compounds contained in a central compound repository and perform optimization chemistry to produce in vitro chemical probes of the targets of phenotypes studied in the assays from the “hits” identified in the initial screening. The MLSCN has established a collection of 200,000 chemically diverse small molecules some of which have known biological activities and others of which have the potential to modulate novel biological functions. Over time, this collection will be expanded and modified to provide a working set of molecules that will target larger domains of “biological space.” All of the results from the MLSCN’s activities will be placed into a public database called PubChem, and information about chemical probes will be made available to all researchers, in both public and private sectors, for their use in studying biology and disease.