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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 15, 2006

Vial Thirty-Three: Warp Drive

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Posted by Derek

As I mentioned the other day, I'm sprinting to finish some last experiments on my side project. These are all on the "vial thirty-three" system that I first described here and finally got to work reproducibly here. Looking back, I remember how surprised I was earlier in the year when I first saw this experiment work. Figuring it out has been like building an invisible ladder and then climbing up it, watching the rungs become solid under my feet.

Now, of course, I'm pulling out all the stops there are to pull. There are so many other experiments that I've been planning for and trying to do, but they won't get done, at least not here. I have to do everything I can with what I have on hand, because there's no time to make anything new. The publication that comes from this won't be as sweeping a story as I'd like for it to be, but it'll do.

But I'm accomplishing more in a few days than I have in months, because, sadly, there's no one competing for any of resources I need. Compounds from the repository? They're ready inside of an hour. More biological materials from the labs in the next building? They're giving me whatever I want, because all the projects that had first call have been stopped. The mass spectrometer downstairs, an essential piece of equipment for me and the largest single bottleneck I've faced? It's wide open as of tomorrow. I don't have to get in line any more; there is no line.

I went downstairs and loaded up one of the NMR machines with a day-long queue of proton and carbon spectra - in fact, they're still going and they'll be running all night. If I'd pulled that a month ago, someone probably would have gone out to the parking lot and slashed my tires. Now I'm the only person using the machine at all. No one cares. This brief, strange interval has been like having my own research institute, and I doubt if I'll ever see anything quite like it again. Everything's going perfectly, because everything's going away.

Comments (11) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Birth of an Idea | Closing Time


1. MoTD on November 15, 2006 10:19 PM writes...

If I'd pulled that a month ago, someone probably would have gone out to the parking lot and slashed my tires.

You owe me a soda+keyboard.

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2. Novice Chemist on November 15, 2006 10:56 PM writes...

I have just faced a similar situation five minutes ago. The perpetrator is lucky their laboratory is locked and I'm somewhat civilized; I'd like to climb in their hood and urinate in their samples profusely.

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3. GC on November 15, 2006 11:01 PM writes...

One (possibly apocryphal) story in a department in which I worked had students (in a group whose PI's pedigree included prestigous, high-pressure-type institutions, which seemed to influence the culture of the group pretty profoundly, judging from the outside) doing just that to their fellow group members' solvents like THF. Rather than adulterating it with water, apparently, this added the personal touch.

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4. kiwi on November 16, 2006 12:31 AM writes...

a drop of imagination (and a few more drops triflic acid) will solve that lock problem...

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5. Zak on November 16, 2006 3:16 AM writes...

So if you get this thing half finished, then go on to find gainful employment elsewhere, continuing this little project of yours, who is going to own the IP on it when it becomes the blockbuster of the decade?

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6. A-non-y-mous on November 16, 2006 6:00 AM writes...

Doesn't the IP of vial #33 (the general idea and any specific or general compounds) belong to WDC? How could you transport this research to another company, without, of course, licensing agreements and the like? Of course, if I was WDC I'd indirectly say to work on it all you want elsewhere, then when (if) phase III comes along I'd pull out the IP card and your old lab notebooks.

I'm sure this has happened many, many times throughout the years. Do you know of any noteable examples, and how they turned out?

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7. Don B. on November 16, 2006 9:57 AM writes...


I wish you luck on getting permission to publish the work! I assume they downsized the Legal people as well as the scientists?

Don B.

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8. Mark M on November 16, 2006 10:36 AM writes...

you sound like a kid in a candy shop
(reminds me of grad school during Christmas break)

Have Fun!

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9. milkshake on November 16, 2006 1:05 PM writes...

it's like a candy shop alright - just watch out for the zombies

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10. Santosh on November 16, 2006 5:21 PM writes...

Hi Derek,

Am a avid reader of your blog and I love your musings. Good luck with the new job hunting.

On that note, I am sure you got wind of this rather interesting news:

Its good and bad news for outsourcing and alarming for US-based pharma industry. I wonder if thats the first indication of a major trend to follow suit.

What are your thoughts? I hope the reason for your company's decision has nothing to do with this.

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11. Sebastian Holsclaw on November 16, 2006 6:05 PM writes...

I know you don't have a lot of time, but the "NIH does all the important research" meme is circulating the leftysphere again (see here , here . With Democrats in Congress this is going to be a very dangerous meme indeed.

Maybe you could link to a greatest hits from your posts on the subject?

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