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December 1, 2011
Nevirapine: Not Chiral. Paper: Not Right. Editorial Staff: Not Doing Their Job
Readers may remember a now-retracted paper that I first blogged about here, the one that claimed to have isolated the reverse transcriptase inhibitor nevirapine as a natural product. Moreover, it claimed that the isolated material was chiral, which would have been very interesting indeed if it were true. (And, as that last post says, would have been worth making a big point of, if the authors really had understood what they were claiming).
Now a group from Manchester has weighed in on that topic. And what they find is what anyone who'd examined the field should have expected: that the nevirapine molecule, although capable of existing in two chiral forms, equilibrates between them on a time scale of seconds at room temperature. Isolating the atropisomers by standard means is not possible.
So everything about that original Tetrahedron paper was wrong; it never should have made it through the review process. And that's why I highlight such things - not to heap scorn on the original authors, which doesn't do that much good, but to heap it on the people who let such papers into print. Reviewers and editors are supposed to notice when a paper has made very unusual claims, and they're supposed to ask the authors to back them up. But the folks at Tetrahedron were asleep at the switch when this one came through. It's important for them (and other editorial staffs) not to let that happen, and it's important for a journal's readers to realize that it can.
Addendum - as an aside, I note that one of this blog's entries (the second link above) is cited in the references of this latest paper. I'm glad to be a cite-able source!
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