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

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« How Long Can This Go On? | Main | Down in the Salt Mine »

July 28, 2004

A Question For the Audience

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Posted by Derek

You know, it does feel odd not to be writing anything about the political season, what with all the conventioneering going on. But world events, for the most part, sort of wash over and around this blog, which is a decision I made back in my early days. Political opinions are piling up unsold in every market stall, but who offers commentary on chemistry?

Of course, there's always the question of market size. A single-subject site is never going to pull in the traffic of the big generalist ones, unless the subject is something rather more stimulating than organic chemistry (if you know what I mean and I think you do, as Joe Bob Briggs used to say.) But I've been encouraged by the responses I've had from people completely outside the sciences who've enjoyed visiting them by reading here.

Still, knowing that I have a widely mixed audience makes it tricky sometimes. There are some subjects that are harder to cover, and there are jokes that are hard to make. For example, I guarantee that every organic chemist will at least smile at a phrase like, oh, "plutonium enolate." But that's not going to make 'em spill their beer down at the comedy club, unless they're spilling it on the person trying to tell the joke.

So I'd like to take advantage of this slow news period to ask people if there are topics they'd like to see more (or less) of: current pharma news, stock market stuff, lab stories, med-chem background, purple-faced rants about price controls? Comment below, or feel free to e-mail me.

I hesitate to mention topics that I'm planning to post on, because it seems that I never get around to them, but the future should hold pieces on combination drugs (boon or gimmick?), salts and why I'm making a bunch of them right now, and (if I can summon the energy) a whack at Martha Angell and her recent NY Review of Books broadside against my industry. She has a book coming out this fall, and naturally I can hardly keep my enthusiasm from just foaming up all over the place. Sheesh.

Comments (17) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blog Housekeeping


1. Peter North on July 29, 2004 12:25 AM writes...

I really enjoy your column. Anything you do is good for me. But please do not drop the lab stories - my late father was an organic chemist in the 1930s - whatever you may say are the differences, your stories remind me of his stories and of him.

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2. Jim Harris on July 29, 2004 7:31 AM writes...

How about more on the difficulties caused by the fact that simple structures are already in the prior art, forcing a transition to overly large or complex molecules. I guess this leads to greater risk of poor oral access or poor PK, and certainly increases cost of goods.

Commentary of the large GSK and AZ datasets - showing human PK cannot be predicted from test tube or animal - should be an eye opener.

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3. otey on July 29, 2004 9:13 AM writes...

I enjoy your column daily. The best part for me is hearing you think out loud about your lab problems. I know zilch about organic chemistry. Doesn't matter a bit. It's your voyages I'm enjoying. Keep on truckin'.

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4. Kevin on July 29, 2004 9:51 AM writes...

It's all good, but I especially enjoy the lab stories and the patent tales. Just keep up the great work!

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5. Doug Sundseth on July 29, 2004 12:58 PM writes...

"...every organic chemist will at least smile at a phrase like, oh, "plutonium enolate."

Nope, I don't get it. Now, if you were to refer to PuO2 as Bocksite, that might be funny.*

Doug Sundseth

*Sorry, probably too history-geeky for actual, you know, humor.

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6. Sigivald on July 29, 2004 2:43 PM writes...

I like the lab stories and the "jesus christ, this stuff'll kill you!" bits the most, personally.

And why, for us non-chemists, is plutonium enolate funny?

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7. joe on July 29, 2004 2:52 PM writes...

More purple faced rants about price controls!

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8. Bob on July 29, 2004 2:55 PM writes...

Oooh, oooh, more lab stories please, especially the "I learned about chemistry (or glass-blowing, or firefighting) from that" variety. The patent/business angle is cool, too.

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9. fin2ut on July 29, 2004 4:26 PM writes...

Alot of it depends on why you're doing this. You show enough talent & a wide enough interest base to position yourself as a full-time writer, with a little luck, maybe a divorce, etc. Moving more into the mainstream could expedite that, since the market for cool dry humor is greater than the market for cool dry humor about, say, salts & why you're making them.

Which reminds me of a time working for Rhone-Poulenc where a bunch of Scienticians were reviewing screen hits on an overhead projector. Various carbon rings with a chlorine atom were shown in order, only to be interrupted by a spontaneous, generalized guffaw when a flourine suddenly appeared in its place. There was a surreal quality to that moment which graciously might be described as Far Sideian.

My personal opinion is to wander from your roots only so far as you need to maintain a warmfuzzy feeling about your little site, & not pander too much to the whims of bitches like me in your audience, who would prefer to watch you expend your vital essences fighting for Ideals & other nonsense.

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10. Douglas on July 29, 2004 4:53 PM writes...

I'd say current pharma news (more in the sense of 'the way the industry works'), lab stories, and med-chem background are all my favorite bits. But your commentary on anything else doesn't offend me, either.

"I guarantee that every organic chemist will at least smile at a phrase like, oh, 'plutonium enolate.'" No, but I'd like to be able to. Not that I'd mind if you chose to blog your readers through a bio-chem degree here, either. *grin*

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11. Scott S. on July 29, 2004 5:25 PM writes...

Ya, explain the plutonium enolate. I need a good laugh today.

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12. Doug Sundseth on July 29, 2004 6:30 PM writes...

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I presume the joke was in the fact that the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb was the "Enola Gay". (Enola - enolate) The problem with that analysis is that the bomb the Enola Gay dropped was a uranium bomb. The first (only) plutonium bomb dropped in anger was dropped by the "Bockscar" (alternately Bock's Car), after the pilot, whose name was Bock. Hence the Bocksite "joke".

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13. Doug Sundseth on July 29, 2004 6:33 PM writes...

Oh, and it probably helps to know that aluminum ore is called bauxite.

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14. Derek Lowe on July 29, 2004 9:36 PM writes...

You know, I hadn't thought about that enolate/Enola Gay connection at all - yikes.

The joke is funny to an organic chemist because enolates are widely used reactive intermediates - they show up in all kinds of classic condensation reactions. They always have some sort of counterion with them, and the particular ion can change their reactivity drastically.

Synthetic chemists often specify what sort of enolate they're working with: "So I tried the lithium enolate and didn't get anything, and Jim said the boron enolate worked for him, but there's this paper that says that tin is the best. . ."

So the joke is just casually tossing out that you're using plutonium as an enolate counterion (presumably because you've gone through the rest of the periodic table with no success!)

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15. William Knight on July 30, 2004 2:40 AM writes...

I'd be interested to hear more about molecular modeling. You had a couple posts a while back about how it hasn't lived up to its promise of the past. Any additional opinions or new developments in that area would be welcome.

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16. Rob on July 30, 2004 5:05 PM writes...

Enjoy your blog, i'm a molecular biologist myself. I have lots of lab horror stories, and enjoy hearing about yours. But I am not sure why drugs from canada are so bad, i just don't know the issues. I enjoy the political side of pharma too, soon i'll be looking for a job in pharma.

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17. satis on August 2, 2004 9:19 AM writes...

as a master's organic chemistry student looking for an entry into the job market, i'm interested in your lab stories and insider insights on the hiring process.

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