Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

Blogroll: Better by design

The differences between planes and drugs, engineers and medicinal chemists … and Jimmy Stewart.

Have you ever wondered about the similarities and differences between drug design and aeroplane design? If not, don’t worry because Ashutosh Jogalekar at the Curious Wavefunction has blogged about a paper that does just that. Both of these design processes use modelling, but “compared with the aeronautical industry where modelling has been applied to airplane design for decades, why has it taken so long for modelling to catch on in the pharmaceutical industry?” Jogalekar takes us through the three reasons he sees: the complexity of biological systems compared with aeronautical ones; the natural inclination of engineers to learn programming and modelling is generally not shared by the mix of people who work in pharma; and the lack of a “comprehensive knowledge base for validating modelling techniques”. As a molecular modeller himself, Jogalekar finds the paper upbeat and hopes that “the pharmaceutical industry makes a concerted effort to test, refine, retain and discard modelling approaches to drug design at all levels”.

Derek Lowe blogged his own thoughts on the paper, noting that, in biological systems, “there are so many nonlinear effects, so many crazy little things that can add up to so much more than you’d ever think”. The “Andy Grove fallacy” — which is what Lowe calls the propensity of engineers and other outsiders to underestimate the complexity of drug discovery — is a favourite topic on In The Pipeline, so a lot of comments came from both sides of the fence — from engineers and biologists.

And finally … after pursuing exciting research on artificial photosynthesis, he left college and became a banker. A modern-day tale of the priorities of under-funded young scientists? No! It’s a scene from the Jimmy Stewart movie You Can’t Take it with You, released in 1938, which Nick Uhlig shared the clip on the Chemistry Blog.

[As mentioned in this post, we’re posting the monthly blogroll column here on the Sceptical Chymist. This is February’s article]


  1. Report this comment

    pradeep jadhavar said:

    its very true that drug design is still in its nascent stage. the classical laws of physics can be applied to the macro environment like in the case of aeroplane design but the same is not true for the drug design where the micro environment (the receptors) plays crucial role and it is very difficult to apply the laws of physics to this aspect, quantum chemistry may pave the way for it. But we can not use this to its full strength because of larger size of the proteins.