In the Pipeline

Derek Lowe’s commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry. An editorially independent blog from the publishers of Science Translational Medicine.

Latest articles

Molnupiravir: Last of the Small-Molecule Coronavirus Hopes?

A lot of people have been wondering about what’s up with a small-molecular antiviral compound that’s been in the news on and off during the pandemic. That’s molnupiravir, below, also known as EIDD-2801 and MK-4482. It has all those numbers because it has some history behind it. The compound was discovered at Emory in the university’s...

How to Administer RNA – And How to Do It Again

As the world knows, the mRNA vaccines for the coronavirus are proving to be very effective. That’s welcome news for the obvious pandemic reasons, but it’s also welcome validation for a technique that’s been in the works for many years now. I’ll take a moment to re-emphasize how fortunate we are that so much of this groundwork, all these false starts,...

Early March Vaccine Thoughts

Some thoughts about the current vaccine trials and data, some of which are probably obvious, but which might be worth bringing together: First, as many have been mentioning, it’s tempting but quite difficult to compare the vaccines (and vaccine candidates) head-to-head by looking at their phase III data. I would only feel safe doing this when...

A Malaria Vaccine Candidate

This story has been passed around a lot the last few days, and I’ve had several people ask me what I’ve thought of it. It’s on a really interesting possibility for a malaria vaccine, and part of the narrative hook is that it’s using mRNA technology, which is about as attention-getting a topic these days as we get in biopharma. Let’s do a bit...

Vetiver

In my experience, most organic and medicinal chemists are always ready to hear about the latest results in two branches of the science: things that explode and things with weird smells. Maybe we are in our way “singularly in touch with the primitive promptings of humanity”, as Captain Grimes says in Decline and Fall (although let it be noted that he...

The J&J Vaccine at the FDA

The briefing documents are out at the FDA site for Friday’s hearing on the J&J vaccine. Here’s a summary at STAT from Matthew Herper and Helen Branswell, and I agree with their take: overall, the numbers look good. Update: here’s a good Twitter thread from Hilda Bastian, and here’s one from Eric Topol. Like every other vaccine that we’ve...

More on mRNA Vaccine Manufacturing

Here’s a good article from the Washington Post that updates some details that I talked about in this post on the lipids used in the mRNA vaccines and in this one about their overall manufacturing process. It focuses on Acuitas, who make the two proprietary lipids that are used in the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Actually, if you go back a step, you get...

How Antidepressants Work, At Last?

Over the years I’ve very much enjoyed being startled by the scientific literature, and there haven’t been many times when I’ve been more surprised than I was this morning. I’ve been making references on this blog for years about how we don’t even know how antidepressants work, but if this new paper is correct, then perhaps now we do. I’m amazed. ...

Coronavirus Variants

It’s my impression that the pace of headlines and tweets, etc. about the many COVID-19 variants has increased recently (and it wasn’t exactly an unexplored topic before). Some of the coverage is just horse-race stuff (here comes this one, around the curve comes that one), but some of it is downright alarmist. And while I’m not here to tell you that...

Cancer and Gene Therapy

There’s news today that Bluebird has suspended its gene therapy work on sickle cell disease because of two cases of cancer in its treatment population. Another had been reported in 2018, so that takes us to two cases of myelodysplastic syndrome and one case of myeloid leukemia (which can be a sequel of MDS in some cases). This isn’t good. You’ll note...

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