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A Valentine's Day Gift

by Rudy M. Baum
February 16, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 7


This week's issue of C&EN, our Valentine's Day gift to you, our

readers, is the intellectual equivalent of a box of chocolates for anyone with an abiding interest in the chemical enterprise. There's something here for everyone.

Where do I start? In our lead News of the Week story (page 9), Assistant Editor Louisa Dalton reports on the startling discovery of connections among rat renal cells that are capable of transferring cellular material such as organelles between cells. The results are preliminary, but if confirmed and found to be widespread, they suggest a surprising new mechanism for intercellular communication.

C&EN's News of the Week department is the magazine's "front page," providing you with a snapshot of significant developments in the chemical enterprise over the past week. In addition to the story on tubular structures between cells, you'll find eight other succinct reports on business, government, and chemical topics.

Is business more to your taste? Assistant Managing Editor Michael McCoy, Senior Editor Rick Mullin, and Senior Correspondent Maureen Rouhi report on last month's Informex trade show (page 19), where custom chemical manufacturers showcased their ability to supply small quantities of drug compounds for early-stage development. Such small-scale manufacturing is helping alleviate continuing overcapacity woes in the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients for commercial drugs.

The two cover stories in this week's issue also focus on the pharmaceutical industry (pages 23 and 38). Mullin examines efforts by major pharmaceutical companies to inject new life into their drug development pipelines. A serious slump in the introduction of new drugs--only 17 new drugs were introduced across the industry in 2002, down from 56 in 1996--has led to a major restructuring of R&D activities.

"R&D departments," Mullin writes, "traditionally treated as untouchable empires, were subjected to the kinds of business process reorganization that the automobile, finance, chemical, and other major industries tackled when their businesses went into tailspins in the early 1990s."

In the second cover story, Contributing Editor Susan Ainsworth probes a variety of other issues drug companies face. Legislation related to reimportation of drugs from Canada and elsewhere, the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, and pressure from generic drugs are just a few of the matters that face the industry.

President George W. Bush's fiscal 2005 R&D budget is dissected by C&EN's entire Government & Policy staff, led by Assistant Managing Editor David Hanson (page 45). The bottom line? R&D spending on weapons systems and homeland<br > security is slated to increase significantly; increases in nondefense R&D spending are nonexistent.

In the Science & Technology department, Dalton tackles the perplexing problem of indoor mold and the possible chemical basis for health problems associated with such growth (pages 57 and 60). Researchers are trying to trace whether mycotoxins or mold proteins can give rise to respiratory effects such as asthma attacks. Also in Science & Technology, Rouhi continues reporting from Informex as she examines the latest chemical passion of Nobel Laureate K. Barry Sharpless, so-called click chemistry, in which reagents fuse easily and irreversibly (page 63).

No other magazine tracks trends in the demographics of the chemical profession as closely as C&EN, and no other editor is better equipped to report on those trends than Editor-at-Large Michael Heylin, who has been following these developments for more than 30 years. This week, Heylin analyzes annual National Science Foundation data on Ph.D. graduates in chemistry, chemically related fields, and the sciences in general (page 68). You'll be surprised by some of the trends the data reveal.

The issue also contains a Comment by former ACS president Helen Free, a review of a book that looks at the culture of the U.S. national labs, and the divisional call for papers for the fall ACS national meeting in Philadelphia in August.

And that, dear readers, is this week's box of chocolates. We hope you find something to your taste.

Thanks for reading.




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