Skip to main content

Drug Development

Experimental Compound Codes

Drug candidates go by many different names during their lifetimes. At first, they’re known to the chemists on the project by tags like “Jane’s analog” or “the one with the methyl group”. As time goes on, though, they tend to be known more by their official compound number. Every drug company has some sort of system for this; in almost all cases it’s a letter-number combination that identifies the company and the compound. But there’s no standard. You’re free to assign different letters to different therapeutic areas or research sites if that sounds good, or dole out different blocks of numbers for different purposes instead of running them in sequence.
Biologists, in my experience, tend to use these numbers earlier in the course of a research project than the chemists do. That’s surely because we have more of a structural handle to remember the compounds by (“that piperazine with the chiral isopropyl coming off it”). This leads to scenes in project meetings where the biologists ask if there’s any more 5650, and the chemists look blank, and then the chemists ask if there’s any data on the homopiperidine, and the biologists look blank. Likely as not, they’re talking about the same compound.
A quick look around Google didn’t turn up any guide to the various compound codes in use, so I thought I’d provide one. (No doubt this post will start a small, steady Google-search tap dripping in my traffic statistics). Some of these represent companies that are no longer with us under those names, but the codes live on in development candidates, literature compounds, and catalog reagents. I’ve tried in include later merger/buyout partners in parentheses. This is a fairly comprehensive list (do you know anyone who can name all the drug companies in Japan? Me neither), but I’d be glad to add others as suggested – I’m sure that there are plenty of smaller companies I’ve left out.
A small “x” represents a variable letter – Novartis, in particular, seems to have appropriated great swaths of the alphabet for its internal use, although I think that some of their compounds get renumbered when they’re ready for the spotlight. So, here goes:
A         Abbott
AA       Auxilium
ABI      Abraxis
ABIO      Abiogen
ABT      Abbott
ABX      Abgenix
ACP      Acadia
ADL      Adolor
ADX      Addex
AG       Agouron (Pfizer)
Axx      Novartis
AGI      AtheroGenics
ALTU      Altus
AMG      Amgen
AN       Anacor
AN       Access
APD      Arena
ARC      Archemix
ARC      ArQule
AS       Antisoma
AT       Altea
ATG      Athenagen
AVE      (Sanofi) Aventis
AZx      Astra-Zeneca
BAL      Basilea
BAY      Bayer
BCX      Biocryst
BIxx      Boehringer Ingleheim
BLX      Biolex
BMS      Bristol-Meyers Squibb
BVT      Biovitrum
C         Merck
C         Carbogen (Ubichem)
CEP      Cephalon
CERE      Ceregene
CGT      Corgentech
CHIR      Chiron
CHR      Chroma
CI       Pfizer
CKD      Chong Kun Dang
CJC     ConjuChem
COL      Collagenex
CM       CarboMed
CP       Pfizer
CS       Sankyo
CX       Cortex
CYC      Cyclacel
DA       Dong-A
DG       deCODE
DIO      Diobex
DOV      DOV
DP       D-Pharm
DRF      Dr. Reddy’s
E         Eisai
ECO      Ecopia
ELB      Elbion
EM       Erimos
EMR      Merck KgaA
EP       Enanta
EV       Evolutech
EVT      Evotech
EZ       Enzon
F         Pierre Fabre
Fxx      Novartis
FK       Fujisawa
G         Genentech
GENZ      Genzyme
GRD      Glenmark
GS       Gilead
GW       GlaxoWellcome
HMR      Hoechst/Marion/Roussel (Aventis)
IC       Icos (Lilly)
ICA      Icagen
IMC      Imclone
INCB      Incyte
INGN      Introgen
INSM      Insmed
IMX      Inex
JNJ      Johnson & Johnson
JTx      Japan Tobacco
K         Kowa
KB       Karo Bio
KI       Kos
KOS      Kosan
KRH      Kureha
KRN      Kirin
KRP      Kyorin
KU       Kudos
Kux      Kissei
L         Merck
LGD      Ligand
KRP      Kyorin
LU       Lundbeck
LY       Lilly
MB       Metabasis
MBX      Metabolix
MDX      Medarex
MEDI      Medimmune
MEM      Memory
MEN      Menarini
MK       Merck (in development)
MLN      Millennium
MP       Mitsubishi
MPC      Myriad
MS       Mitsui
MV       Miravant
N         Nisshin
ND       Neuro3D
NBI      Neurocrine
NCX      NicOX
NGD      Neurogen
NN       Novo Nordisk
NP       Nascent
NS       NeuroSearch
NSC      Nippon Shinyaku
NT       Neurotech
NVP      Novartis
ON       Onconova
ONO      Ono
OPC      Otsuka
OPT      Optimer
ORG      Organon
ORM      Orion
OSI      OSI
OT       Othera
OX       Orexo
PAC      Pacific
PCK      Procyon
PD       Parke-Davis (Pfizer)
PEP      Peplin
PH       Pherin
PHA      Pharmacia (Pfizer)
PHX      Phenomix
PRX      Predix
PV       Provectus
PW       Penwest
PX       Pharmexa
R         Roche
RG       Repligen
RGH      Gedeon Richter
RO       Roche
RWJ      Johnson & Johnson
S         Servier
S         Shionogi
SB       (Glaxo)SmithKline
SCH      Schering-Plough
SEP      Sepracor
SGN      Seattle Genetics
SGS      Saegis
SK       Sanwa
SKF      (Glaxo)SmithKline
SLV      Solvay
SM       Sumitomo
SNS      Sunesis
SNY      Sanofi(Aventis)
SOU      Sosei
SPD      Shire
SRT      Sirtris
SSR      Sanofi(Aventis)
ST       Sigma-Tau
STA      Synta
STZ      Sterix
SU       Sugen (Pfizer)
T         Taisho
T         Tularik (Amgen)
TA       Tanabe
TAS      Taiho
TH       Theratechnologies
TAK      Takeda
TF       Taiho
TJN      Tsumura
TNP      Takeda-Abbott
TNX      Tanox
TOS      Toko
TPI      Tapestry
TS       Taisho
TSU      Taiho
V         Purdue Pharma
V         Vernalis
VB       Viventia
Vxx      Novartis
VX       Vertex
WAY      Wyeth
WY       Wyeth
WYE      Wyeth
Xxx      Novartis
XL       Exelixis
XRP      Sanofi-Aventis
YKP      S-K Biopharmaceuticals
YM       Yamanouchi
ZD       (Astra)Zeneca
ZK       Schering AG

36 comments on “Experimental Compound Codes”

  1. Cryptic Ned says:

    Of course, the only compound code a layman like me has seen in the news is not here, because the makers of TGN1412 have…gone bankrupt?

  2. BayArea says:

    G = Genentech
    GS = Gilead

  3. KonradK says:

    SC = Searle Compound
    L = MRL (Merck Research Labs) as in MSD (Merck, Sharp, and Dohme)
    As I recall, there is a list of “Code Letters Used by Companies for Experimental Substances” included as an appendix in the Merck Index.

  4. Jose says:

    How sad to see that IC is already listed as ICOS (Lilly).

  5. bcpmoon says:

    C = Carbogen (Switzerland, now Ubichem)

  6. KonradK says:

    OK, now that I have my trusty Merck Index Twelfth Edition in front of me, pages Misc-12 to Misc-15 contain a very comprehensive list of company codes.
    But your right Derek, before your posted your latest blog, there didn’t seem to be a free on-line web list available.

  7. Alastair says:

    Has anyone looked at how successful drugs are based on the number of letters from x,y, and z there are in the name?
    The use of these letters seems far more marked in drug names, presumably to avoid creating a drug name that actually means something (obnoxious or offensive) in a foreign language.

  8. A-non-y-mous says:

    “Has anyone looked at how successful drugs are based on the number of letters from x,y, and z there are in the name?”
    No, but if you hurry you could write a paper entitled “A linguistic model for the rational naming of drug candidates.” It’s probably good for a Nature submission.

  9. Jim says:

    I like this one:
    V = Purdue Pharma. Try and figure that out.

  10. KonradK says:

    “V = Purdue Pharma. Try and figure that out.”
    Especially after Purdue lost to Wisconsin last Saturday 😉

  11. Derek Lowe says:

    I’m incorporating suggestions already, plus several others I’ve come across. Journals like “Drugs of the Future” and the “Expert Opinion” series are good sources of codes, many from rather obscure companies.

  12. Chemist of Sorts says:

    Can you distinguish which numbers are generic compound bank numbers versus which numbers are for development compounds in your list? For example, for Merck, L is generic, MK in development (or was).

  13. Derek Lowe says:

    That’s a good idea, and I’ll note it in the list. I believe that “NVP” is the corresponding Novartis designation. Not every company does that, though – some of them hang with the original number all the way through.

  14. MolecularGeek says:

    To add to the list:
    TBC = Encysive Pharmaceuticals (was Texas Biotechnology Corporation)
    As a side note, some companies truncate their compound numbers when they start talking about their NCEs in public, or they make it a clinical candidate internally. For example, VX-497 or VX-853 ( I have it on good authority that Vertex has more than 1000 compounds in their corporate registry 8-). Does anyone have any war stories about when this happens, how the short numbers are selected, and (most titilating) anecdotes about how this transition made life strange for people in the labs?

  15. BMagneton says:

    VX = Vertex
    A “V” that makes a bit more sense than Purdue.
    Also, I think there’s market research out there that the general public thinks that names with Q, V, X, Y, and Z are more “modern” or “scientific”, so the plethora of drug names with those letters is a, *cough* business decision.

  16. LNT says:

    Add this to your list:
    WAY and WYE — Wyeth
    WY (that you list) was used quite a few years ago.

  17. Alastair says:

    Medarex use MDX,
    Chroma Therapeutics CHR
    British Biotech used to use BB
    Vernalis use V

  18. Mike says:

    Menarini (Italy) use MEN

  19. Bootsy says:

    Novartis appears to have multiple codes because of the way they number. All compounds are NVP-xxx###-[salt code]-[batch number]. So, NVP is the standard prefix. However, in practice, people just use the xxx### to refer to compounds, including in publications and talks. Thus you see Lxx### and Axx### and others as well. To confuse the issue, compounds from before the merger use their old Ciba and Sandoz numbers.

  20. BCP says:

    UK = Pfizer UK
    GR = Glaxo pre-merger frenzy
    AH = Glaxo way back when (allen + hanburys)
    ICI = AZ of old (that used to be obvious)

  21. Derek says:

    NPS NPS Pharmaceuticals
    BL Bristol Laboratories (before Bristol-Myers)
    BMY Bristol Myers (Befor Bristol-Myers Squibb)
    MJ Mead Johnson (Before Bristol Myers)
    SQ Squibb (before BMS)
    R 3M Pharmaceuticals (Riker Labs)

  22. Spike says:

    TL = Taxolog

  23. NJBiologist says:

    Isn’t “SR” the former Sanofi Recherche (for example, SR 141,716A = rimonabant = the MIA Accomplia)?

  24. Chris says:

    Several companies change the designation dependent on the stage of development.
    Merck “L” before entering safety studies, MK after completing safety.
    I did hear that some companies have site specific codes

  25. Michael says:

    NOA = Novartis Agro (now Syngenta)
    CGA = Ciba-Geigy

  26. Tuck says:

    There’s MLN for Millenium. This is one of several compound codes that have an unfortunate homology to certain widely used abbreviations in medical literature. MLN also means Mesenteric Lymph Node. Thus if one puts the compound code into a search engine such as PubCrawler, one often gets hits that have nothing to do with the corresponding company. ArQule (ARQ) gets me lots of hits involving sheep scrapie and prion proteins. Acadia (ACP) gets me all sorts of things; the abbreviation means at least three different things. When the company doesn’t have a wide variety of compounds in the pipe, this can be overcome. Acadia’s compound of interest is the major metabolite of clozapine, desmethylclozapine. Putting those into PubCrawler helps. I haven’t figuerd out a good work around for Millenium, though.
    Cheers, Tuck

  27. david lilienfeld says:

    RB=Receptor BioLogix

  28. Al says:

    A new Pfizer compound code (PF )has emerged. The two letter prefix is followed by a absurdly long string of numbers. Any idea what the prefix stands for?

  29. SY = SYGNIS
    AX = Axaron

  30. ppp says:

    NW = Newron

  31. of says:

    some more for the list;
    looks like the 676 tow-letter combinations are not enough, though (-:
    AB: Ambit Biosciences (several), Abeille Pharma (AB-1001), Asahi Kasei (AB-47), Antibioticos SA (AB-400)
    AS: Antisoma (several), Astralis (AS-210), Dainippon (AS-8112, AS-9705), Serono (several).
    EMD: Merck KGaA
    EML: Merck KGaA
    FR: Fujisawa
    RU: Roussel-Uclaf (Aventis; e.g. RU-486 !)
    SC: 4SC AG (several), BMS (? SC-241)
    TG: TaiGen, TargeGen, TissueGene, TransGene
    WS: Fujisawa, Willmar Schwabe GmbH (WS-1442)

  32. AA says:

    ZA: Zambon (Italy)

  33. JT says:

    Does anyone know what the codes EX or EXBY stand for?

  34. Kerry F says:

    GF is Glaxo France. The original code for tadalafil is GF196960X.

  35. Paul Iyyanar says:

    Hi I am a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan. Can I know how can we can get NVP-LEB748 (HtrA1 inhibitor) for research purposes.

  36. mawei says:

    Hi I am a graduate student at the Capital Medical university of China. Can I know how can we can get NVP-LEB748 (HtrA1 inhibitor) for research purposes?Thank you very much!

Comments are closed.