About this Author
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

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
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

« The Patent Expiration Fun Continues | Main | Merck and Its Competition »

September 5, 2002

You Don't Hear "Eureka" That Often

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

I actually wasn't at work today - took the day off so that we could take the kids to the zoo. That probably means that something important happened; these things always seem to take place when I'm out of town.

And the rest of the time something important happens in the lab, I generally don't even realize it. It's not because I'm especially dense (no superfluous comments, those of you who read this site from my company!) It's that we usually only recognize important scientific moments in hindsight.

For instance, I've never been on a project when we've made a compound, tested it, and said "That's it. That's our clinical candidate right there." For one thing, the tests that a clinical compound has to pass can be spread out over several months. You need several weeks just for your minimal toxicity testing (and holding your breath that whole time, which is what you feel like doing if you have any sense, is a real strain.)

Another reason is that we always figure that we can do better. Every good compound seems to open up a whole new area to work in, and everyone jumps in and adds their two cents to the structure. It's only after you've run through those variations and tested them that you realize that the compound from a couple of months back was as good as things were going to get.

That's why most compounds sort of seem to back into the clinic. They're sometimes just the best of a bad lot, but they're always a retrospective pick, made by balancing the various factors and taking the least obnoxious candidate. A is going to be the easiest to formulate for clinical trials, but B is a lot faster to make. But C is almost as good, and comes from a cheaper starting material. Meanwhile, D had a better tox profile than the others, but was the difference real, or just noise? And so on. . .

It's the same principle as in engineering: you can't make it perfect, just as good as you can in the time and with the tools you've got. And if you don't get the thing out the door, it doesn't matter how good the data might have been. This isn't a license to do sloppy work - that's an even worse mistake. What it is is the lack of a license to go on refining things forever, long after they've reached the point of "good enough."

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Drug Development



Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry