Preprint Review Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Considerations and Challenges for Sex-Aware Drug Repurposing

Version 1 : Received: 20 December 2021 / Approved: 23 December 2021 / Online: 23 December 2021 (10:31:25 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 7 March 2022 / Approved: 8 March 2022 / Online: 8 March 2022 (10:34:42 CET)

How to cite: Fisher, J.; Jones, E.; Flanary, V.; Williams, A.; Ramsey, E.; Lasseigne, B. Considerations and Challenges for Sex-Aware Drug Repurposing. Preprints 2021, 2021120380. Fisher, J.; Jones, E.; Flanary, V.; Williams, A.; Ramsey, E.; Lasseigne, B. Considerations and Challenges for Sex-Aware Drug Repurposing. Preprints 2021, 2021120380.


Sex differences are essential factors in disease etiology and manifestation in many diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegeneration (1). The biological influence of sex differences (including genomic, epigenetic, hormonal, immunological, and metabolic differences between males and females) and the lack of biomedical studies considering sex differences in their study design has led to several policies. For example, the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) sex as a biological variable (SABV) and Sex and Gender Equity in Research (SAGER)) policies to motivate researchers to consider sex differences (2). However, drug repurposing, a promising alternative to traditional drug discovery by identifying novel uses for FDA-approved drugs, lacks sex-aware methods that can improve the identification of drugs that have sex-specific responses (1,3–5). Sex-aware drug repurposing methods either select drug candidates that are more efficacious in one sex or deprioritize drug candidates based on if they are predicted to cause a sex-bias adverse event (SBAE), unintended therapeutic effects that are more likely to occur in one sex. Computational drug repurposing methods are encouraging approaches to develop for sex-aware drug repurposing because they can prioritize sex-specific drug candidates or SBAEs at lower cost and time than traditional drug discovery. Sex-aware methods currently exist for clinical, genomic, and transcriptomic information (3,6,7). They have not expanded to other data types, such as DNA variation, which has been beneficial in other drug repurposing methods that do not consider sex (8). Additionally, some sex-aware methods suffer from poorer performance because a disproportionate number of male and female samples are available to train computational methods (3). However, there is development potential for several different categories (i.e., data mining, ligand binding predictions, molecular associations, and networks). Low-dimensional representations of molecular association and network approaches are also especially promising candidates for future sex-aware drug repurposing methodologies because they reduce the multiple hypothesis testing burden and capture sex-specific variation better than the other methods (9,10). Here we review how sex influences drug response, the current state of drug repurposing including with respect to sex-bias drug response, and how model organism study design choices influence drug repurposing validation.


sex differences; drug repurposing; sex-bias; sex-aware; review; therapeutics; pharmaceuticals; computational drug repurposing


Medicine and Pharmacology, Pathology and Pathobiology

Comments (0)

We encourage comments and feedback from a broad range of readers. See criteria for comments and our Diversity statement.

Leave a public comment
Send a private comment to the author(s)
* All users must log in before leaving a comment
Views 0
Downloads 0
Comments 0
Metrics 0

Notify me about updates to this article or when a peer-reviewed version is published.
We use cookies on our website to ensure you get the best experience.
Read more about our cookies here.