The Sceptical Chymist | Blogroll: Harder than flight

Published in Chemistry

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Editor’s note: As we continue to invite bloggers out there in the wild to compose our monthly Blogroll column, fourth up is BRSM.


Why is discovering new drugs not as easy as designing passenger aircraft?

Do you remember how slow your computer was back in 1995 — that is, if you even had one? Remarkably, that was the year that the Boeing 777 entered the history books as the first aircraft designed solely using computers. Ash at The Curious Wavefunction has been pondering the reasons why, despite all the technical advances made recently and the huge impact they’ve had on other fields, computers have yet to make the design of even small-molecule drugs significantly easier. He muses, “we can routinely design airplanes, bridges and skyscrapers on a computer but are still light years behind when it comes to designing even ‘simple’ drugs”. If that seems a little disheartening, let’s not forget that it was only a little more than a century ago that the celebrated physicist Lord Kelvin declared heavier-than-air flying machines entirely impossible.

Meanwhile, lively debate between veteran medicinal chemist and blogger Derek Lowe and the authors of a recent paper in the British Medical Journal has dominated recent posts over at In The Pipeline. The topic: the ‘innovation crisis’ plaguing the pharmaceutical industry. Interestingly, it turns out that one of the authors in question is Professor Donald Light, a man who previously drew flak from Lowe over his co-authorship of a controversial 2011 paper that estimated the average R&D cost of a new drug at the rather low value of just over $40 million.

Finally, in somewhat contrasting posts, See Arr Oh, who blogs at Just Like Cooking, reflects on the tendency of studious chemists to work weekends, while Jess over at The Organic Solution discusses the chemistry behind a problem frequently faced by students: hangovers.

Written by BRSM, who blogs at


[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is October’s article]

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