Fragment-based drug discovery (FBDD) is a technique for identifying low molecular weight chemical starting points for drug discovery. Since its inception 20 years ago, FBDD has grown in popularity to the point where it is now an established technique in industry and academia. The approach involves the biophysical screening of proteins against collections of low molecular weight compounds (fragments). Although fragments bind to proteins with relatively low affinity, they form efficient, high quality binding interactions with the protein architecture as they have to overcome a significant entropy barrier to bind. Of the biophysical methods available for fragment screening, X-ray protein crystallography is one of the most sensitive and least prone to false positives. It also provides detailed structural information of the protein–fragment complex at the atomic level. Fragment-based screening using X-ray crystallography is therefore an efficient method for identifying binding hotspots on proteins, which can then be exploited by chemists and biologists for the discovery of new drugs. The use of FBDD is illustrated here with a recently published case study of a drug discovery programme targeting the challenging protein–protein interaction Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1:nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2.

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