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June 21, 2006
Waste O' Time Awards
Here's a question for my readers in the research community: what assay have you dealt that turned out to be the biggest waste of time and effort? I can think of several strong nominees, but I'll lead off with one from quite a while ago.
This one happened in an antiviral group, and I believe that they were targeting a viral protease. Several chemists started cranking away on the lead compound, turning out analogs for the primary assay. But there was no decent SAR trend to latch on to. Things would look (briefly) sensible, then fall apart again, and there was only a scatter when you tried to correlate things with the secondary assay.
After some three or four months, the reason for all this became clear (it doesn't always, I have to note). Turns out, as it was told to me, that a biologist on the project had everything tested against the wrong enzyme. Who knows what it was, but it sure wasn't the protease of interest. What's more, he had apparently realized early on that it wasn't the right stuff, and was frantically working in the background trying to get the right stuff running. It never worked out. He ended up generated week after week of meaningless data, hoping that the project would go away. Instead, as it turned out, he went away (and not by choice).
So that's my entry. No doubt horrors will quickly emerge to beat it.
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