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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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April 26, 2011

So Much For Natural-Product Nevirapine

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Posted by Derek

Remember that weird Tetrahedron paper from last December? The one that claimed that it isolated the reverse transcriptase inhibitor nevirapine as a natural product from an Indian plant? In chiral form, no less?

Well, the journal would now like to say "Never mind". The lead author has retracted the paper, "due to doubt created in the scientific community on the origin of nevirapine from the seeds of Cleome viscosa". That's an odd way to put it. Isn't it? Doubts that other people might have are irrelevant if you're right, aren't they?

No, this is similar to the classic weasel-word apology, the one that goes on about regretting the way that some people took offense rather than regretting the original action itself. The reason this paper was retracted, surely, was that those doubts in the scientific community were well-founded. This paper made no sense on several levels, and those problems should have been caught immediately. Its publication was an embarrassment for Tetrahedron and for Elsevier.

I think that the reason I get so worked up about these things is the laziness and sloppy thinking involved. Scientific research deserves more than that, and the rest of us deserve more from the people who publish it.

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Scientific Literature


1. Jose on April 26, 2011 9:32 AM writes...

I can only hope the ghosts of RBW and Robinson come back and kick some editorial a**....

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2. Josh on April 26, 2011 10:35 AM writes...

I can't even imagine a sequence of events that would lead to such a result. Unless some idiot actually dropped a pill into the extract.

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3. Felix on April 26, 2011 11:03 AM writes...

This is ridiculous - it should have been retracted "because the results were obviously false and our review process failed to catch it".

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4. TsOH on April 27, 2011 2:08 AM writes...

My favorite was the NaH-oxidant's "this article was retracted for scientific reasons," but this one is pretty good too.

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5. Martin on May 30, 2011 7:21 PM writes...

And another one:

JNP, this week:

"Is 2,3,4,5-Tetramethoxybenzoyl Chloride a Natural Product?"

debunking a paper from
Chen, et al J. Nat. Prod. 2007, 70, 989– 992

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