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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« If It Were Easy. . . | Main | What's a Project Manager to Do? »

March 22, 2002

More Colors and Smells

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Posted by Derek

I've had several letters about chemical colors. One chemist friend points out that for wild colors, the indoles are the way to go. I haven't done too much indole chemistry (which is OK, since they can reek), but he's right about that. You can get all sorts of pinks and purples as side products. The classical indigo pigment is a derivative of this structural class, so it makes sense. Of course, none of the colorful ones are going to be drugs, most likely, since they have lots of weirdly conjugated bonds that make them both colorful and reactive. Not something you'd fork over for at the pharmacy.

Another letter points out that I misstated Carl Sagan's term for the organic goo found in the outer planets (and in my fume hood at work.) It's "tholin", not "thiolin," which removes my objection completely. And it's what I get for doing these things from memory, when I could reach three feet over to the bookshelf and check it out.

The same reader mentions that recent calculations have shown that if someone manages to make 1,3-difluoroazulene, the color should shift from blue to emerald green. That would be worth seeing, but it's still not enough to get me to do serious fluorine chemistry. You can mess things up very thoroughly with some of those fluorination reagents (and I, unfortunately, can tell you what xenon difluoride smells like, so I have no desire to investigate the other possibilities!) For the record, it's not really a bad smell, just not something that should necessarily be smelled. . .

That reminds me of an entry in the Merck Index. I don't have a copy at hand (this time!), but I think it's for something hideous like fluorine oxide. The entry notes "extremely poisonous. . .attacks lungs even in traces. . .peculiar smell." I've always thought that rather evocative. That last observation sounds like someone's last words, frankly.

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