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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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November 18, 2004

Nine Things I'm Having Trouble Imagining

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Posted by Derek

1. An issue of Chemical and Engineering News with an article about how we have about the right number of chemists. Not a critical shortage, not a worrying surplus - just what we seem to need, if only by accident.

2. The lowest-priced supplier for a reagent turning out to be Aldrich.

3. A total synthesis paper that doesn't spend the first two paragraphs trying to convince me - and probably themselves - that the molecule was worth making.

4. A chemistry department graduate student lounge that doesn't make you want to throw yourself under the wheels of a bus.

5. An issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society without some report of nanorods of something, anything, you name it. Complete with photo.

6. An HPLC column salesman who tells me that yes, there is a problem or two that his company's products have not been known to solve.

7. Hanging a solubilizing group off of a lead compound structure and having the new molecule actually work better than the old one. You'd think random chance would have provided me with this experience by now, but you'd be wrong.

8. A protein tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor that actually works. You know, well enough where someone might pay money someday to put it in their mouth.

9. A vital competitor patent, five hundred pages long with nine Japanese inventors. . .written in English. Or German, or French, or Mayan heiroglyphics or anything other than Japanese.

Comments (7) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


1. qetzal on November 18, 2004 11:06 PM writes...

Re #3 - What are you hoping for? A paper where the molecule is so stunningly brilliant that no one needs convincing of its synthetic worth?

Or a paper where the author comes right out and admits, "Synthesizing this molecule was a colossal waste of time, but hey - I had to do something for my dissertation."


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2. Greg Hlatky on November 19, 2004 6:17 AM writes...

1. C&EN and the ACS think of industrial chemists only as some grey anonymous mass. Their raison d'etre is the celebration of academics. They'll still be scratching their heads when no one wants to major in chemistry any longer and our profession slides inexorably into the commode.

2. Aldrich exists because of sheer habit, not service or price.

3. The tragedy of total synthesis is that after all the ingenuity in nursing the preparation along, at the end there's a big neon sign blinking "... And For What?"

9. The counterpoint for us inorganic chemists is the vitally needed reactant which, when you look at the reference for its preparation, says, "M. Heffelrich, dissertation, University of Freiburg."

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3. The Novice Chemist on November 19, 2004 9:18 AM writes...

Whew! Number one makes me breathe a sigh of relief; I've been reading C&E News for about five years now and it makes me feel much better to know that they're looking for stories as much as reporting the news. It always seems like the employment market sucks big time; the latest 'employment issue' with the sad-looking guy on front doesn't help.

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4. Zak Braverman on November 21, 2004 3:29 AM writes...

I love No. 9!

Why? Because I'm a Japanese to English translator, and I've translated those chemical patents.

Keep on writing in Japanese, please. I gotta put my kid through college.

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5. qetzal on November 21, 2004 12:52 PM writes...

Zak - interesting! How much does that cost, if you don't mind sharing with the idly curious?

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6. SP on November 24, 2004 11:11 AM writes...

#4- Since several people at Harvard did throw themselves under the wheels of a bus in the last 15 years (not literally, but the chemical equivalent involving KCN) they spent a couple million on a nice lounge about 5 years ago.

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7. Zak on November 25, 2004 9:46 AM writes...


Sorry for the delayed response. For patents, which tend to be demanding compared to even other scientific material, the price is about 25-30 cents per word. Some will do it for cheaper, but then again you gets what you pays for. Of course, it can be less if the patent is merely for information rather than for filing.

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