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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: derekb.lowe@gmail.com Twitter: Dereklowe

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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

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January 3, 2012

The Research World Staggers Back to Work

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Posted by Derek

Let's see here. . .145 messages in the work e-mail queue, but most of them are automated reminders that reminded me of the same thing every day of the break. Now to the lab bench. . .now, that was a good idea, making sure that everything was labeled before leaving. As I've said here before, too many times you come back to a bunch of stuff that you were just sure that you're remember every detail of, and feel like a moron as you look at the label on the vial or flask: "Second batch". "Mostly clean". "Large run". Fascinating! Large run of what, exactly? I have, in years past, been reduced to running NMR and LC/MS on my own reactions just to try to figure out what they were, and that's not right.

Reagents that I'd ordered back before the break have come in, and I do recall why I ordered them, at least. You don't want to put in a request for anything sensitive in late December, though, not if it's going to sit out on your bench at RT for a week or ten days. I'm glad I'm not a cell-culture person or a rodent-raiser; my stuff doesn't need to be fed, washed, or watered, and I have the luxury of just walking away from it.

Big pile of junk on the desk, though, some of which never should have stopped there on its way to the recycling bin. I saved this for this morning, since I thought clearing things off would be a good way to jump-start my brain into work mode again. It's different now than it used to be, though - paper's more ephemeral. I have the PDFs of these papers stored, so the hard copy's just a convenience, and if I can't figure out what use it is by looking it it, into the bin it goes without a worry. In the days of paper files, I had to spend a bit more time wondering if I'd regret tossing something that was hard to obtain and actually useful. No more: if it looks useless or unrecognizable, into the blue bin it goes.

And then, for those of us in industry, the company starts waking up. Meeting invitations begin to arrive, to fill out the new year's calendar. Looking at your own schedule, you see the first repeating meetings from last year starting to show up, although some of these will get canceled because there's nothing to talk about yet. People who wanted something from you back in December will start to remember what it was, at about the same time that you remember the people that you wanted something from.

Time, shortly, for the first reaction, the first LC/MS trace, the first NMR, the first lab assay result of the new year. And for some of us, the first blog post. Welcome back!

Comments (15) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Life in the Drug Labs


COMMENTS

1. LabPolice on January 3, 2012 9:49 AM writes...

'I have, in years past, been reduced to running NMR and LC/MS on my own reactions just to try to figure out what they were, and that's not right.'

That's because you spend too much time blogging! :)

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2. Academic on January 3, 2012 10:16 AM writes...

Here in the 'ivory tower' things never really shut down. Sure, there are fewer folks around during the holidays, but there were many of us here most every day. Discoveries were made, papers were written and submitted, and grants were revised.

I'm always amazed that the pharma folks completely (or nearly so) shut down over the holidays.

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3. BCP on January 3, 2012 10:31 AM writes...

'I have, in years past, been reduced to running NMR and LC/MS on my own reactions just to try to figure out what they were, and that's not right.'

Oh boy, did that ever ring a bell. The good old days.

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4. CMCguy on January 3, 2012 11:17 AM writes...

Not sure I ever had to run analysis to re-ID my own samples after an extended break however recall a few times having to reconfirm purity of intermediates that assumed would be stable in the hood rather than the frig. Used to often set up crystallization matrix prior to long weekends/holidays as sometimes it seemed unwatched samples would give better results than those monitored more closely.

Permalink to Comment

5. RB Woodweird on January 3, 2012 11:35 AM writes...

"I'm always amazed that the pharma folks completely (or nearly so) shut down over the holidays."

In grad school, I loved to work on Christmas Day, as I was sure that was the only time I was catching up to people who had more money/equipment/support and so were probably allowed to take a couple of hours off.

In industry, you have to be aware of having other people in the lab. No working alone, so in smaller labs that means that there are going to be days in the last two weeks of the year where there might not always be people around to allow you to do that reaction you were planning.

Permalink to Comment

6. You're Pfizered on January 3, 2012 11:47 AM writes...

I'm always amazed that the pharma folks completely (or nearly so) shut down over the holidays.

Easy, it's called Vacation Time, something graduate students and post-docs tend not to have much of.

Not to mention us not having to write grants or necessarily need to publish in our jobs...

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7. OldLabRat on January 3, 2012 11:52 AM writes...

In addition, many large pharma companies do large-scale IT and building maintenance that makes working in labs impossible.

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8. Dickweed Jones on January 3, 2012 12:33 PM writes...

@Academic-
I'm sure the world would stop if you academics took a break from step 17 in the total synthesis of epi-bullshitomycin for a week. Get over yourself.

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9. Academic on January 3, 2012 1:03 PM writes...

Dickweed Jones said: "I'm sure the world would stop if you academics took a break from step 17 in the total synthesis of epi-bullshitomycin for a week. Get over yourself."

I'm not a chemist so cannot comment on that intriguing compound...

Seriously, though, I love what I do and going into the lab hardly qualifies as 'work'.

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10. newnickname on January 3, 2012 2:26 PM writes...

From David Dalton's Aldrichimica Acta bio of Woodward: Upon joining RBW as a postboc, "I turned my attention [to ask of ...] any holidays I could expect. After a brief pause Woodward shrugged his shoulders and said, 'Well, I take Christmas Day off.'"

Others claim that "That statement, however, is open to doubt" since RBW named a synthetic steroid Christmasterol because it was first xtallized in his lab on Xmas day.

One version of the Christmas Factor (Factor IX, blood coagulation pathway) story is that it was finally isolated in the lab on Xmas day. (According to wikipedia, it was named after the sick child who had that defect.)

So who discovered virginiamycin and why did they give it that name? Never mind, I don't need to know.

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11. Nick K on January 3, 2012 3:27 PM writes...

I'm sure this post will bring back bittersweet memories for the thousands of chemists who have lost their jobs in Pharma in recent years.

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12. Lab Space on January 3, 2012 3:43 PM writes...

"I'm sure the world would stop if you academics took a break from step 17 in the total synthesis of epi-bullshitomycin for a week."

It's that thallium-catalyzed C-N bond formation step near the end that's the kicker. It only works at midnight Christmas Eve, and only in the state of Massachusetts....

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13. Martin on January 4, 2012 8:11 AM writes...

Used to often set up crystallization matrix prior to long weekends/holidays

Ditto, but only 1 out of 4 of my crystallisation sets worked these holidays. On the up side all the kit in the fumehood was still there after my break, well except for the clean NMR tubes. All the dirty ones were still there though.

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14. Mad Scientist on January 4, 2012 12:20 PM writes...

Couldn't remember which building I work in this morning.

Never mind the computer login password.

Permalink to Comment

15. Entropically disfavoured on January 4, 2012 2:44 PM writes...

I saved a chiral separation to do my first day back... it is my New Year Resolution!!

Permalink to Comment

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