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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: Twitter: Dereklowe

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« Close To the Vest | Main | Better Them Than Me »

August 4, 2002

Close to the Vest

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Posted by Derek

Another line in one of the aforementioned Paul Orwin posts rang true for me. He was discussing some new ideas in antibacterial research, then brought himself up short as he got close to his own work: "In the highly competitive world of academic science, even a weblog is no place to divulge current research tidbits"

The same thing goes, with pistachio nuts and a cherry on top, for industrial research. I've hardly said a word about the actual work I do during the day, and I don't plan to, either. It's a pity, since it's been an interesting project with a lot of twists and turns, and it would have been a good illustration of what med-chem research is like day-by-day. But I'd have been fired long ago if I tried to do that, and rightly so. Like all other pharma companies, no one hears a word about what we're up to until we're darn good and ready to tell 'em.

That's what makes information such a strange commodity in the business. The Journal of Medicinal Chemistry("Jay-Med-Chem" to its friends) can be an interesting read, but only in a historical sense. Projects you read about there are either well along in the clinic, or well buried out back with grass growing over them. The same goes for presentations at conferences. When I see a poster from a drug company with a good crowd around it at a meeting, I always think of someone attracting birds by throwing stale bread on the ground.

I've been guilty of crowding around 'em, too, though. I've come back from meetings bursting with the latest news from other companies, as given in their presentations. But we all have to remind ourselves that these breaking headlines are like light from distant stars. Who knows what's happening there now?

This all applies to the research project that I've alluded to over the past few months, of course. It's not directly aimed at a single therapeutic target, but it's an idea of potential usefulness, and my employer has every right to expect me to keep quiet about it. After all, I'm using their facilities to try to make it work. So all I can do is speak in generalities for now, with the hope that if it pans out, that anyone who's interested can read about it in a patent or publication. (Of course, I do have some readers at the company itself, and they've called me up at times to ask me what the heck I'm talking about. I can ease the suspense for them, not that this stuff seems to be keeping anyone up at night besides me.)

This work is on my mind because I'm nearing another crucial set of experiments, as I alluded to on July 24th. All that remains is working out some analytical methods so I can be sure that I know what I'm looking at - and I can tell you, it's a real strain for me not to just go ahead and run the things without doing that first. I could always just put the stuff in the freezer, I mutter to myself, and when I get the analysis worked out, they'd just be there waiting for me.

But that's no way to work. It shouldn't take that much longer to have a well-controlled experiment that I can actually follow. There's another new one coming up right behind that one, and I can hardly wait to get it ready to go, too. Then it'll be time for the "nonspecific elated noises" I promised when I first had this idea (see April 28, also May 2 and May 3 if you're interested.) Or, perhaps it'll be time for some Botox-worthy furrows in my brow, as I try to figure out what went wrong and why. . .

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