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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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March 25, 2013

James Watson Likes Us, Anyway

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Posted by Derek

Around us we see changes in everything, but there are some constants that we can count on. James Watson, for example, is still James Watson:

While noting that genetics is vital, Watson said, "You could sequence 150,000 people with cancer and its not going to cure anyone. It might give you a few leads, but it's not, to me, the solution. The solution is good chemistry. And that's what's lacking. We have a world of cancer biology trained to think genes. They don't think chemistry at all."

Watson, who had his entire genome sequenced, said the current level of cancer research funding is enough to find a cure. But he added that "most of the experiments we do are irrelevant ... We're not going to cure cancer by doubling the money. We're going to do it by being more intelligent. The money thing is just a red herring of people not thinking."

Read the article for more - he has a number of other opinions that (as usual) he's not shy about sharing with the audience (!)

Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Cancer


1. RB Woodweird on March 25, 2013 7:26 AM writes...

"most of the experiments we do are irrelevant"

Sounds a lot like me telling the boss that I tried five reactions until I found the right one and being asked why I didn't try that one first.

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2. Dr Jimbo on March 25, 2013 7:51 AM writes...

Not if 'we' are Irish, he doesn't.
I still like James Watson though, you wouldn't want to be thin-skinned around him.

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3. Curious Wavefunction on March 25, 2013 8:39 AM writes...

Watson has been saying this for a while. Here he is in a 2009 NYT Op-Ed (click on my blog name for the link):

"While targeted combination chemotherapies would be a big step forward, I fear we still do not yet have in hand the “miracle drugs” that acting alone or in combination would stop most metastatic cancer cells in their tracks. To develop them, we may have to turn our main research focus away from decoding the genetic instructions behind cancer and toward understanding the chemical reactions within cancer cells."

He then goes on to talk about targeting enzymes involved in the Warburg effect.

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4. rpg on March 25, 2013 8:52 AM writes...

#1 - that's when you tell him about the other 30 you didn't have to try...

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5. newnickname on March 25, 2013 11:07 AM writes...

@1 RB Woodweird: During his talk at the 1978 Leermakers Woodward Symposium, Jerry Berson commented on the quinine synthesis and his admiration of the EtONO ring cleavage - oximation that, mechanistically, preserves the carefully constructed cis-piperidine stereochemistry. He said he "always wondered if that was a planned reaction." When RBW took the podium at the end of the day, he replied to many Qs and put Berson's wondering to rest: "Yes, Jerry, it was a planned reaction ... just like the 25 others that we tried before it that failed."

(Quotes are approximate but close. Anybody have the video of that Symposium?)

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6. Anonymous on March 25, 2013 11:22 AM writes...

The best part of that symposium was watching the speakers’ slides melting in the heat of the big projector used. A psychedelic light show appropriate to the 70’s.

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7. esims on March 25, 2013 1:35 PM writes...

Dulbecco predicted the usefulness, we will see if the Broad institute data will help.

about the talk: 1h of remarks about his life and constant insults to former colleagues. It was one of the weirdest talks I ever attended.

btw he has no clue about chemistry, that is why Tsien criticized his "views" about antioxidants (literature cherry picking).

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8. chemist on March 25, 2013 8:34 PM writes...

Pharma management doesn't have the stones to let scientists pursue the tough chemistry. They are too impatient and view chemistry departments as something to shut down as soon as they can. They don't understand why a lot of chemists are miserable, it's tough work, dealing with continual failure is emotionally taxing. Things will eventually turn around, the promise of biologics isn't playing out the way it was hoped. Material science has very limited revenue generation capabilities. There is so much chemical space that has yet to be explored. The people with all the money have to invest it somewhere, there is a lot of capital sitting on the sidelines these days. A tiny pill can generate billions in yearly revenues. What else are you going to throw your money at VC's ?? Don't sell all your glassware to the Chinese just yet!

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9. rg0p on March 27, 2013 12:31 PM writes...

@8 chemist: Your optimism is encouraging, but I have a feeling if and when things turn around a lot of us will be too old to do any chemistry (they tell me that already! and I feel it too) and or wanting to return to chemistry!!

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10. Mr gladstone on March 31, 2013 11:44 AM writes...

I always thought he was a genius.

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