Haystack 2011 Year-in-Review
Jan03

Haystack 2011 Year-in-Review

Well, 2011 is in the books, and we here at The Haystack felt nostalgic for all the great chemistry coverage over this past year, both here and farther afield. Let’s hit the high points: 1. HCV Takes Off – New treatments for Hepatitis C have really gained momentum. An amazing race has broken out to bring orally available, non-interferon therapies to market. In October, we saw Roche acquire Anadys for setrobuvir, and then watched Pharmasset’s success with PSI-7977 prompt Gilead’s $11 billion November buyout.  And both these deals came hot on the heels of Merck and Vertex each garnering FDA approval for Victrelis and Incivek, respectively, late last spring. 2. Employment Outlook: Mixed – The Haystack brought bad employment tidings a few times in 2011, as Lisa reported. The “patent cliff” faced by blockbuster drugs, combined with relatively sparse pharma pipelines, had companies tightening their belts more than normal. Traffic also increased for Chemjobber Daily Pump Trap updates, which cover current job openings for chemists of all stripes. The highlight, though, might be his Layoff Project.  He collects oral histories from those who’ve lost their jobs over the past few years due to the pervasive recession and (slowly) recovering US economy.. The result is a touching, direct, and sometimes painful collection of stories from scientists trying to reconstruct their careers, enduring salary cuts, moves, and emotional battles just to get back to work. 3. For Cancer, Targeted Therapies – It’s also been quite a year for targeted cancer drugs. A small subset of myeloma patients (those with a rare mutation) gained hope from vemurafenib approval. This molecule, developed initially by Plexxikon and later by Roche / Daiichi Sankyo, represents the first success of fragment-based lead discovery, where a chunk of the core structure is built up into a drug with help from computer screening.From Ariad’s promising  ponatinib P2 data for chronic myeloid leukemia, to Novartis’s Afinitor working in combination with aromasin to combat resistant breast cancer. Lisa became ‘xcited for Xalkori, a protein-driven lung cancer therapeutic from Pfizer. Researchers at Stanford Medical School used GLUT1 inhibitors to starve renal carcinomas of precious glucose, Genentech pushed ahead MEK-P31K inhibitor combinations for resistant tumors, and Incyte’s new drug Jakifi (ruxolitinib), a Janus kinase inhibitor, gave hope to those suffering from the rare blood cancer myelofibrosis. 4. Sirtuins, and “Stuff I Won’t Work With  – Over at In the Pipeline, Derek continued to chase high-profile pharma stories. We wanted to especially mention his Sirtris / GSK coverage (we had touched on this issue in Dec 2010). He kept up with the “sirtuin saga” throughout 2011, from trouble with duplicating life extension in model organisms to the...

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Changes at CENtral Science
Mar07

Changes at CENtral Science

CENtral Science is evolving. CENtral Science, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention, is C&EN’s blog network. At the end of 2010, one of the two CENtral Science bloggers who were not members of C&EN’s staff—Leigh Krietsch Boerner, aka Just Another Electron Pusher—left us for a science writing internship at Reuters Health. We were sad to see Leigh depart—we’ll miss her wry and sometimes quirky voice—but happy that she’s getting a shot at that career in science writing she so very much deserves. As of March 1, two new electron pushers have joined CENtral Science, Glen Ernst and Christine Herman. Both are chemists, at very different stages in their careers, and they will bring two distinctive voices to Just Another Electron Pusher’s exploration of the trials, tribulations, joys, and general ups and downs of figuring out what kinds of nontraditional careers a person can pursue with an advanced degree in chemistry, which one of them has and the other will soon have. You can meet Glen and Christine at CENtral Science for yourself. Glen writes, “I was recently ‘exited’ from a large pharmaceutical company due to the closure of drug discovery at the site where I enjoyed a truly wonderful run of twenty-three years as a medicinal/organic chemist.” Glen would love to find another job “in or near the lab as a medicinal chemist in drug discovery,” but he also recognizes that the pharmaceutical industry in the U.S. is changing in fundamental ways and that that course may not be open to him. As such, he’s exploring alternative careers “out of personal curiosity, yes, but also perceived necessity.” Christine is a fourth-year grad student at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and an aspiring science writer. “I came to grad school and like many others thought I wanted to be a professor,” she writes. “When I finished my undergrad degree I realized I had more questions than answers when it came to science, and I wanted to learn more. I find the intricacies of science to be incredibly mind-boggling and fascinating, and I love seeing the connection between science and everyday life.” Like many of us here at C&EN, however, Christine discovered that she liked communicating science better than she liked doing it. “Last semester I took my first journalism class and started building my portfolio by writing for The Daily Illini, the independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois. My goal is to keep getting writing experience as I finish up my Ph.D. in the next year or so (cross your fingers!) and then become a full-fledged science writer.” We’ve also added an entirely new blog...

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Pharma and Chemistry Blog Panel Discussion 8/24 #acsboston
Jul09

Pharma and Chemistry Blog Panel Discussion 8/24 #acsboston

We now interrupt the steady stream of pharma news for a small announcement. If you'll be in in Boston late this August, I think you might enjoy going to a mini-symposium and panel discussion about the chemistry and pharma blogosphere, happening at the Fall ACS meeting. The panelists are a great cross-section of academia, industry, and media: Derek Lowe, In the Pipeline, @Dereklowe David Kroll, Terra Sigillata, @abelpharmboy Ed Silverman, Pharmalot, @pharmalot Michael Tarselli, Scripps Florida These folks will each give a short talk, but the real highlight here is the panel. I'd love for people to show up with great questions. Want to talk about how blogs are playing a role in discussing layoffs and employment? How about the trickiness to promoting new drugs on the web? Or what role new media should have in critiquing papers? The panel's as good a time as any to bring those issues up. I'll be moderating the event, which is slated for Tuesday, August 24, from 12 noon till 2PM in the Boston Convention Center, Ballroom West. It costs $16 to sign up for the session, which includes lunch. You can register for the event at the main ACS meeting registration site here. It is listed as the MEDI Lunch and Learn/Ticket No. SE 19. Get more information about the event from this promo flyer. FYI - today's the last day to register early (read: at the discounted price) for the Fall ACS...

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C&EN In The Blogosphere
May03

C&EN In The Blogosphere

C&EN and the Editor's Page have been the subject of some interesting blogging of late. Instead of responding on the blogs themselves, I want to use a couple of Editor's Pages to comment on the substance of blogs and the comments they elicited. C&EN recently held a meeting of its editorial advisory board. Advisory board members are listed on the masthead on this page. The proceedings of the meetings are off the record so that board members can speak freely on topics relating to the chemistry enterprise and the performance of the magazine in meeting its mission. That said, advisory board members know that we use the ideas expressed at the meeting to inform our reporting and commentary. This was the first advisory board meeting for Derek Lowe, a pharmaceutical chemist who created the influential blog "In the Pipeline" in 2002. Before coming to the meeting, Lowe posted an entry in which he stated that he was attending the advisory board meeting and asked, "What do you think [C&EN] does well, and what do you think it does poorly?" At the meeting, Lowe told C&EN's staff that he thought he would get eight to 10 responses. As of April 27, there are 114. The comments range from "C&EN is servile to industry management frauds. Its cheerful tone makes me puke" to "I love the mix [C&EN] has now of academic, government, and industry reporting. They also do a great job of balancing boosterism appropriate for a trade journal with the recognition that the spin of the chemical industry is often neither scientifically valid nor honest." More of the comments tended in their tenor toward the former comment rather than the latter comment I have quoted. Many of the critical comments focused on the career prospects for chemists. "Why such an enthusiastic tone about a profession that is basically going down the tubes as a lifelong career?" wrote one commenter. "It could be due to edicts from upon high at ACS, it could simply be enthusiastic young reporters who have no idea about chemistry and probably no perspective of trends over decades with respect to chemistry as a career." I can assure you that the tone of C&EN's reporting is not a result of edicts from anyone; C&EN's editorial independence is codified in the society's governing documents. It is due to genuine enthusiasm for chemistry among C&EN's staff, young and old. We interact with and report on many chemists in academe and industry who retain a similar deep enthusiasm for our science and believe in its continuing potential to benefit humanity. I understand that consolidation and changing dynamics in the...

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