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Division Name Change Is Bad Medicine

August 12, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 32

The ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry has announced a proposed name change: Division of Drug Discovery (

I am a former Medicinal Chemistry Division chair and former editor of Annual Reports in Medicinal Chemistry (ARMC). Though retired, I am still a member of the division and still intellectually involved.

I have carefully read the rationale for changing the name of the division and frankly find it lacking. Chemistry is chemistry whether one is synthesizing peptides, small molecules, oligonucleotides, or whatever. Medicinal chemists have always been versed in biology and interacted with other disciplines. Likewise, ARMC has always included topics in biology and other related disciplines relevant to drug discovery.

One sentence in the “rationale” summed up what this is really all about: “This revised description of the Division can potentially address one of its most pressing threats: stagnant membership associated with contraction of the industrial R&D organizations, limiting the ability of the Division to provide the range of services attractive to members.”

Changing the name of the division is not the way to increase membership and bring in more money. People in other disciplines can read our journals, attend our meetings, and speak there without joining the division. They will not increase attendance at our meetings, unless of course we reduce the number of chemical topics. Does that make sense in a division of the American Chemical Society?

If the division needs money, ARMC is one avenue of many for cost savings. The page count of ARMC has increased significantly in recent years, so the journal must cost more to produce. The founding concept behind ARMC was to provide brief reviews, 10 pages maximum, of important topics. Today, the journal contains about the same number of reviews but of greatly increased length with no discernible increase in value.

Hard times require hard, intelligent decisions. Well-run industrial organizations and academic institutions do not change their names to improve their financial condition. They bite the bullet and deal with the options to improve it.

I encourage my fellow medicinal chemists to contact Eric Walters, the secretary of the division, and ACS with their views. This is a watershed event. We should not remain silent and allow only division members who attend the ACS national meeting in Indianapolis in September to decide our fate.

Richard C. Allen
Flemington, N.J.



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