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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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« Cui Bono? | Main | I'll Have the Lot »

November 11, 2004

Alexander Would Have Understood

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Posted by Derek

You'd think that by now most reasonably simple chemical structures would have been explored, but it's funny how many untouched areas still exist. I was looking at one the other day, which I certainly can't specify, but it surprised me that such a small "drug-like" template hadn't been worked on. I expected to see a message like "1097 substances, displaying 1-25" displayed in SciFinder - the chemists in the audience will know the kind of search results I mean.

It's things like this that keep us in business, from a patent perspective. But patentable chemical space isn't a renewable resource. There are already large areas where it's basically impossible to get coverage - try for some reasonable indoles, piperazines, or imidazoles, for example. You'll have to get fairly baroque in the side chains before you'll find any uncleared territory.

We use up big chunks of intellectual-property real estate every year. Even when a patent expires, it's prior art forever, and that goes for publications of all kinds. (A recent court case established that even rather obscure and limited poster presentations are public disclosures sufficient to make their contents unpatentable.) When will we run out of frontier? And what will we do then?

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Patents and IP


1. The Novice Chemist on November 11, 2004 8:53 PM writes...

Hey, Derek -- what do you use for searching for reactions and substances? Do you use SciFinder or Beilstein? SciFinder seems so intuitive compared to the dread, incomprehensible Beilstein. (To this novice mind, anyway.)

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2. Derek Lowe on November 12, 2004 9:29 AM writes...

SciFinder, for the most part, although to be thorough you'd want both. SciFinder's results and Beilstein's diverge at times, and not just because of Beilstein's decision not to cover the patent literature. (Which, in the long run, is dooming them from a competitive standpoint.)

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3. jeet on November 12, 2004 5:50 PM writes...


What case were you referring to? I hadn't realized posters are now public disclosures (wow).


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4. George on November 12, 2004 10:15 PM writes...

He's probably referring to In re Klopfenstein

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5. snarchy on November 12, 2004 10:43 PM writes...

There is an inevitability of almost all the easy drugs being patented, but as technology progresses the hard drugs become easier to find. I don't know how close we are to that point, but after they've all the interesting molecules have been patented or prior arted you'll still need the expertise to know what to do with them and how. Beyond that, there are still a couple of reasons for the existence of a chemist other than drug design.

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