May 2010



muscial-chairs

Pharma giant AstraZeneca (AZ) has poached Martin Mackay from rival Pfizer and created a role as president of R&D for him, as part of the company’s attempts to restructure R&D activities. He will have overall accountability for delivering new small molecule products.

Martin Mackay’s move to AZ has also triggered a restructure within Pfizer, as Mikael Dolsten becomes president of worldwide R&D. Dolsten previously held a similar position at Wyeth, acquired by Pfizer last year.

It’s almost like pharma giant musical chairs!! (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

4_gd

In this week’s chemistry in its element podcast, Simon Cotton, from Uppingham School in the UK, tells us how gadolinium could save the environment, and even your life!

F

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Ever since the infamous US anthrax attacks of 2001, where envelopes containing anthrax spores were mailed to a number of media outlets and two US Senators, there has been a push to develop new ways of determining the severity of anthrax infections.

John Barr, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has developed a new, more sensitive way of monitoring the level of infection in a victim. This is keenly important as the symptoms for anthrax infection start off looking much like a cold or the flu, but can then lead to a subject deteriorating rapidly – often leading to death, even after treatment. According to Barr some 40 per cent of the victims of the 2001 anthrax letters died. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

synthia

Big chemistry news this week was the announcement of the first synthetic cell, which could provide a basis for designing organisms from scratch.

Understandably the news has caused some controversy in the media, with sceptics concerned for the future of humanity and even research rivals worried that if the technology is patentable, other research groups will lose out on a piece of the pie.

The research could have enormous commercial value in the future for applications in biofuels and chemical synthesis through chemical biology and should be viewed as another step towards a greater understanding of science. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

cigarette-infofuse

Fancy a smoke? No, it’s my last one and I need to get an urgent message to HQ…

Sadly, this line is yet to appear in a spy film, but thanks to George Whitesides and his group at Harvard University, US, it might one day. The group has had another stab at ‘infochemistry’ – using chemical means to convey a message or information without the need for an electrical power supply.

Avid readers of this blog will remember that in June of last year the group first mooted the idea of using ‘infofuses’ soaked in alkali metal solutions to transmit coloured light messages as they burned, and then the follow-up using a microfluidic device with a series of droplets passing by windows in the device to let light through – using intensity, colour and polarisation to encode more information than standard on-off digital signals.

This time, the team have developed their ‘infofuse’ idea. One of the major drawbacks of the original system was the fact that the fuses tended to go out if they were in contact with a surface, and also burned really fast – to keep a message like an SOS call or suchlike repeating for 24 hours would need 2.5km of fuse. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

hershey-kisses

After sitting through a number of incredibly technical presentations today at ASMS I came across a fantastic poster presented by Shunyan Mo of the University of Illinois College of Pharmacy, US. Using an ultrafiltration LC-MS (liquid chromatography – mass spectrometry) assay, Mo and co-workers have shown that certain flavinoids found in cocoa selectively inhibit the cyclooxygenase-2 (Cox-2) enzyme and therefore could have anti-inflammatory effects.

As discussed in this Chemistry World article, Cox inhibitors such as naproxen play a vital role in the treatment of pain and inflammation, but they do have some side effects. To reduce these side effects, a number of pharmaceutical companies developed selective Cox-2 inhibitors, but unfortunately many of these were linked to an increased risk of blood clotting, heart attack and stroke. In 2004, those risks caused a huge embarrassment for Merck & Co., after it was forced to withdraw its blockbuster Cox-2 inhibitor Vioxx (rofecoxib) costing the company in the region of $4.75 billion (£3.3 billion) in legal settlements on top of the billions of dollars of lost sales. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

sevilla_2010_logo4

Anyone else recognise this saying? My parents used it a lot while I was growing up when I’d taken a course of action that, while not ideal, wasn’t going to cause any lasting damage.

In the case of silver nanoparticles in textiles, however, it seems it probably will come out in the wash – disappear down our domestic waste pipes and into our environment, with no guarantee that lasting damage won’t be done.

It has been predicted that 12-49 per cent of the silver nanoparticles produced globally end up in textiles, as antimicrobials in socks for example. And in a first step towards figuring out whether this practice poses an environmental risk, Bernd Nowack and his team at EMPA in Switzerland have assessed whether or not these particles remain embedded in the textiles when they are washed in a washing machine.

socks

Their key finding was that different textiles behave very differently, some release 20 per cent of their silver particles in the first wash after purchase where as others release hardly anything. The conclusion the team has drawn from this is that how the manufacturers have embedded the particles is very important. ‘Companies have possibilities to design safe nanotextiles that release only small amounts of silver,’ said Nowack.

Other, more predictable, findings include that less particles are released the second time the item of clothing is washed and that the mechanical stress of the washing machine aids their release.

As well as trying to get textile companies to change their ways, the team also plan to consider both the environmental fate and toxicology of the released particles.

Until they do, maybe I should be thinking about more than my nose before buying these sweet-smelling socks next time.

To learn more: the work was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology in September last year, and was well covered by the press at the time (see here, here and here).

Nina Notman

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

dna

The announcement by Craig Venter and his team last week that they had managed to create a man-made microbe (nattily nicknamed ‘Synthia’) was a major scientific achievement, but has caused a bit of a kerfuffle.

Whether it’s Nobel prize winner John Sulston FRS (an organic chemist by training) fearing that an attempt to patent the ‘synthetic life form’ will hamper research, or President Obama calling on the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues to look into the implications of this latest milestone, it’s clear that science is beginning to wade into uncharted waters as synthetic biology progresses.

So to help you make sense of the science and the potential of synthetic biology, we thought we’d pull together a selection of Chemistry World articles that look at this fascinating field. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

asms-header-chargestate

Well day two of ASMS started with a surprise – snow showers. While yesterday had seen glorious sunshine give way to some pretty heavy rain, I hadn’t expected today to start with snow – and neither did anyone else, apparently it hasn’t snowed at the conference in the last 30 years!

But despite the snow storm, today’s press conferences were certainly no damp squib. (more…)

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

sevilla_2010_logo4

Slightly chirpier news came in the form of this evening’s plenary lecture – given by Joseph Suflita from the University of Oklahoma in US. Apparently as bad as the resulting spill is following last month’s explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico (and don’t get me wrong – it is bad), the environment has experienced and survived worse. Globally we managed to ‘spill’ more than 10 million tonnes of oil into the ocean from 1989 to 2007. So with approximations for Deepwater Horizon sitting around 10,000

past_oil_spills

tonnes at the moment, it is literally just a drop in the ocean.

So the big question is why does it all turn out ok in the end? The answer, according to Suflita, is anaerobic microbes that munch away on hydrocarbons deep underwater. While they are used to lower molecular weight hydrocarbons, Suflita’s team have shown the microbes can break down the high molecular weight hydrocarbons that make up oil. So fingers crossed the microbes in the Gulf of Mexico are feeling hungry this year.

Nina Notman

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Next Page »