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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

« Measure Twice, Cut Once | Main | So What's A Worthwhile Problem, Anyway? »

May 3, 2002

The Nuts and Bolts of a New Idea

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Posted by Derek

Well, Monday will mark the first test of the research ideas that I've been talking about (see the 4/28 and 5/2 posts below.) It's not the perfect experiment that I'd like, partly because it'll be testing one of the less-likely forms of the idea. On the flip side, if this one works, plenty of other stuff probably will, too. I have the starting materials I need ready to go, as well, which comes under the "bird in the hand" principle.

The main uncertainty is still in the control experiments. There's a way that I could get a false positive in this experiment, and there's no way to keep that from happening. It's intrinsic. But there is a way to control for it, leaving out one key factor in a separate experiment. If that run gives me the same result as the "real" one, then I'm in trouble. It'll mean that what looks like a positive result could just be what would happen anyway. I've got several "Plan B"s to go to at that point, other experiments with different starting materials that still might show that the underlying idea could work (just not on the first thing I tried.)

If the results are different in the control versus the real experiment, though, it'll be time to break out the party hats. But I won't know that for a while yet, unfortunately. The complicated part is that I can use a fairly straightforward method to measure how things are going, but it'll only work for the real experiment, not the control. There's a more complex method that'll work for both, so that's what I'll need to do the key head-to-head comparison. It won't be ready for prime time for another week or two; I have some colleagues who are going to work on that for me.

So, Monday's experiment is just a first hurdle. Using the straightforward readout, if the real experiment shows something, that's a necessary (but not sufficient!) piece of evidence. I'll be relieved, but I won't be high-fiving anyone. If it doesn't show anything, though, I'll know to move immediately on to one of those Plan Bs I mentioned.

One of those doesn't deserve that label, actually - it's the system that I think has the best chance of all of them of showing the effect I want. But it requires some chemical synthesis, which is in progress. With any luck, I'll have the necessary compounds made at about the same time my friends in the other hallway get the robust method for comparing the experimental results. When we get that all working at the same time, we'll be ready for some serious moments of truth. Monday's, by comparison, will be a small one. But I'm excited, just the same.

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