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

More on T Cells, Antibody Levels, and Our Ignorance

I wrote here about the reports of rather short antibody persistence in recovering coronavirus patients, and what’s been coming out in the two weeks since then has only made this issue more important. In that post, I was emphasizing that although we can measure antibody levels, we don’t know how well that correlates with exposure to the virus nor to...

Weekend Recipe: Marinated Pork Roast

I realize that I’ve picked up a lot of new traffic to the blog over the last few months, so today’s post perhaps needs some introduction. Over the years here I’ve often posted recipes during breaks and holidays – the old saying is that you should never trust an organic chemist who can’t cook, and there’s something to it. I’ll be adding a “Recipes” category...

Challenge Testing

OK, it’s time to address the topic of challenge testing against the coronavirus epidemic. Let’s define our terms: by this, I mean “deliberately exposing volunteers to infection by the virus in order to evaluate prophylactic treatments by comparison to controls”. I will say at the outset that I am not in favor of this idea, so that might save some people...

Pfizer and BioNTech’s First Vaccine Candidate

We now have a preprint with a great deal of data on the first mRNA coronavirus vaccine candidate from the Pfizer/BioNTech effort. This is actually the first real data set on any of the genetic vaccines, since Moderna’s paper on their Phase I trial has not yet appeared (all we had was a brief press release) and a brief press release is all we got from...

Coronavirus Vaccine Update, June 29

More vaccine news to catch up on – previous updates and specific topic posts on this subject were on June 15, on June 11, on May 26, on May 18 (with two other posts), on May 14, on May 1, on April 23, and on April 15 (author’s note: yikes). Keep in mind that some of those posts were updated after their original publication data as well. Here’s the...

Africa, African-Americans, and the Coronavirus Vaccines

I mentioned yesterday in my post about anti-vaccine arguments that there seemed to be suspicions on social media platforms about vaccine testing in Africa. I’ve been looking around for more of that, and finding plenty of it. I’ve also heard from a colleague with some pertinent thoughts about how these things get going, and I think it’s worth addressing...

Vaccine Derangement

I’m working on a new vaccine roundup post for tomorrow – it’s been a couple of weeks, and there’s a lot of news to catch up on. But first off, a comment on vaccines in general. As the prospect of these become more real in the public mind, I’m noticing more and more anti-vaccine takes, from a variety of directions. First, there are the more traditional...

Ammonia, Electrons, and Metals

Let’s do some pure chemistry today, because an interesting paper has come out about a reaction that every student learns about in their sophomore organic chemistry course: the Birch reduction. It’s a powerful technique that will do some things that very few other reactions will do for you (such as break up the aromaticity of benzene derivatives). That...

Thoughts on Antibody Persistence and the Pandemic

The fundamental challenge of dealing with this pandemic is uncertainty. There are just too many important things that we don’t know – and what’s more, they aren’t easy to find out, either. We’ve seen that with the waves of optimism and pessimism about various therapies, just to pick one. As everyone has been learning (if they didn’t know it before!),...

A Wide Look at Coronavirus Mutants

Here’s a new preprint that goes a long way to telling us what we need to know about coronavirus antibodies and Spike protein mutations. It’s from Jesse Bloom’s group at the Fred Hutchinson center in Seattle, and it’s another one of those experiments that you could only do with modern molecular biology (and modern bioinformatics). This is what I mean...

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