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

Chemistry and Drug Data: Drugbank
Chempedia Lab
Synthetic Pages
Organic Chemistry Portal
Not Voodoo

Chemistry and Pharma Blogs:
Org Prep Daily
The Haystack
A New Merck, Reviewed
Liberal Arts Chemistry
Electron Pusher
All Things Metathesis
C&E News Blogs
Chemiotics II
Chemical Space
Noel O'Blog
In Vivo Blog
Terra Sigilatta
BBSRC/Douglas Kell
Realizations in Biostatistics
ChemSpider Blog
Organic Chem - Education & Industry
Pharma Strategy Blog
No Name No Slogan
Practical Fragments
The Curious Wavefunction
Natural Product Man
Fragment Literature
Chemistry World Blog
Synthetic Nature
Chemistry Blog
Synthesizing Ideas
Eye on FDA
Chemical Forums
Symyx Blog
Sceptical Chymist
Lamentations on Chemistry
Computational Organic Chemistry
Mining Drugs
Henry Rzepa

Science Blogs and News:
Bad Science
The Loom
Uncertain Principles
Fierce Biotech
Blogs for Industry
Omics! Omics!
Young Female Scientist
Notional Slurry
Nobel Intent
SciTech Daily
Science Blog
Gene Expression (I)
Gene Expression (II)
Adventures in Ethics and Science
Transterrestrial Musings
Slashdot Science
Cosmic Variance
Biology News Net

Medical Blogs
DB's Medical Rants
Science-Based Medicine
Respectful Insolence
Diabetes Mine

Economics and Business
Marginal Revolution
The Volokh Conspiracy
Knowledge Problem

Politics / Current Events
Virginia Postrel
Belmont Club
Mickey Kaus

Belles Lettres
Uncouth Reflections
Arts and Letters Daily
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

In the Pipeline

« A Day at the Rota-Vap | Main | Leadership Secrets of the Data Fudgers »

May 14, 2006

Cliff Diving

Email This Entry

Posted by Derek

I haven't given any updates on my side project experiments recently. I've been preparing a number of starting materials and getting things ready for another big run. I'm using a number of systems that people use for other (more normal) purposes at work, but I'm bending things around so much that everything has to be re-checked. And I don't have priority over anyone, which is as it should be for something this speculative, so I have to work in between what everyone is supposed to be doing. Finally, I think everything is in order. I'm setting up a new round of experiments tomorrow.

It'll be a few days before I know if anything has worked, though. The experiment itself is rather lengthy, and the analysis isn't trivial, either. I actually have two or three different variations of the idea all about ready to run, so it's going to be a real flurry of activity by the long, slow standards I've been working by. I wanted to take more risks in my research this year, and here they are, reporting for duty.

Are any of these things really going to work? I wish I could evaluate the chances better, because that would help me figure out what to run next. As it is, this is such terra incognita stuff that I just don't know what to expect. I shouldn't complain about that, though, since that's what being a scientist is supposed to be about. It's an odd feeling to be living it, though. There's nothing quite like it.

I've been out on several edges of knowledge over the years. Plenty of chemists experience the no-one's-ever-made-this-molecule edge (in industry, of course, we count on that being the case). You can get out to that territory pretty quickly, even now. Then there's the discovery of a new reaction, the no-one's-ever-made-something-this-way edge of knowledge. I've been in on one or two of those, too, and there are research groups that make it their whole business.

But this one is really out there, to the point where colleagues raise their eyebrows at me when I explain it to them. This, though, is where I've wanted to be ever since I started doing research. Win or lose, I feel privileged just to set experiments like these up. Here we go.

Comments (9) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Birth of an Idea


1. qetzal on May 14, 2006 7:20 PM writes...

Good luck! Hope it works.

The nice thing is, even when these don't work out, they're still a blast. Just trying something that novel, knowing there's a chance it might work, is a huge rush.

Permalink to Comment

2. Mark on May 15, 2006 9:39 AM writes...

I've been wondering what was up with those keep us posted!

These types of experiments are the essence of why many of us have chosen chemistry--the thrill of the chase and not really knowing what we will see down the path.

Permalink to Comment

3. Derek Lowe on May 15, 2006 9:43 AM writes...

Just made up the last stock solution that I need. Now I'm sitting down a label a whole pile of little vials, which is something (like rota-vapping) that you never seem to budget enough time for. . .

Permalink to Comment

4. Milo on May 15, 2006 10:44 AM writes...


1) I am glad that folks like you in the world of Pharma get to mess around and do something cool, risky and exciting (when time allows!).

2) Without giving too much away... can you give us a hint as too what you are trying to do (obviously no specifics... just really broad generalities)? Are you doing synthetic methodology? Making Taxol from cigar ashes and used motor oil?

Regardless, I still enjoy reading about the progress. This is the same idea from 2002?

Permalink to Comment

5. steve on May 15, 2006 12:57 PM writes...

I've just been reading "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!" - I think he lived on this kind of experimentation - it's great to read that you get a chance to do something 'out there.'

Permalink to Comment

6. Derek Lowe on May 15, 2006 3:31 PM writes...

There, the first batch of stuff is all set up. Lots of vials out there, each with its own mixture of stuff. They'll be sitting out on the bench for another two or three days, and it's down to the analytical dept. they go.

Milo: I've been trying to think of a way to talk more about these experiments without giving too much away, and I've failed so far. All I can say is that it's one of those chemistry/biology hybrid things that are so popular these days, so even if the experiments don't work, at least I'm fashionable. (If they do work, though, I'd eventually like to publish - I'll certainly keep everyone informed on that, too).

Permalink to Comment

7. bcpmoon on May 16, 2006 12:49 AM writes...

That was also one of the best moments in my PhD: Realizing that the molecules forming in my reactions were unique on this planet, nobody ever had made them before. (And probably noone will make them again...). And hitting on a new way to make things, to expand a methodology...bliss.

Permalink to Comment

8. Skorch on May 19, 2006 1:53 PM writes...

I was just wondering what this post had to do with cliff jumping or diving?

Permalink to Comment

9. tomas on July 21, 2006 9:01 PM writes...

i know how to dive in. no need for scientologists :) im an experimentator

Permalink to Comment


Remember Me?


Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):

The Last Post
The GSK Layoffs Continue, By Proxy
The Move is Nigh
Another Alzheimer's IPO
Cutbacks at C&E News
Sanofi Pays to Get Back Into Oncology
An Irresponsible Statement About Curing Cancer
Oliver Sacks on Turning Back to Chemistry