As a drug discovery project moves along, we synthesize lots of new compounds, test them, and pick the best ones to make in large quantities. Simple, eh? Try your hand, then, at some of these questions, all of which have come up in the course of my career so far:
1. If you're running an experiment in vivo, and your control compound (from a competitor) is a highly active, hard-to-beat standard - how do you interpret your results when you know that this compound has made it to market and is no great shakes in human patients?
2. What do you do when you have to make a large batch of some compound for advanced pre-clinical work, and there's only one person in the whole department who can really get the crucial reaction to work? Do you tell people that you have a good large-scale route, or not?
3. How about a bit earlier in the game - how do you deal with it when you have a high-yielding, clean route to a key intermediate that lots of your people are using, but it uses a reaction that you know, for a fact, that the scale-up group won't touch later on?
4. How do you handle things when your primary biological assay keeps acting up - by factors of five to ten? Do you normalize the numbers to a standard each time and hope for the best, or do you start to doubt the usefulness of the whole assay?
5. For bonus points, how do you tell which numbers you've been getting are closer to the truth - the ones that say your compounds are really active, or the ones that say that they stink?
6. How do you interpret things when the in vivo assay tells you that your compounds have wonderfully long durations of action, but the blood levels tell you that they completely disappeared from circulation long before?
7. What does it mean when your best compound is intolerant of even slight structural changes? Do you just run with it (after all, you only need one compound, right?) Or do you hammer away trying to find something that can be safely modified in order to have a back-up?
Are there right answers? Well, presumably. I know what answers I'd give to some of these, but I make no guarantees that they're the right ones. . .