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November 11, 2004
Alexander Would Have Understood
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?
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