The speakers for the morning of June 8th were Bob Grubbs and Magid Abou-Gharbia. As usual, Bobby Grubbs’ talk was concerned with the latest wonders of olefin metathesis. We saw ATM’s of molecular Cheerios. Pretty cool, actually. Grubbs got the trip to Stockholm for a reason and the work of his group continues to produce molecular wonders.  He was able to demonstrate the production of rings with degrees of polymerization in excess of 5000.  Using NMR and a carefully chosen ring monomer, they could sort out linear polymers from cyclic polymers. Linear polymers will thread a crown ether while the cyclic form will not. By attaching a crown ether (24-crown-8 ??) to polystyrene beads, they could collect and physically separate the linear from the cyclic forms. They were also producing brush polymers.

Prof. Magid Abou-Gharbia, Temple University, gave a talk with lots of fascinating insights into some current thinking on industrial drug discovery. At least from the point of view of a former Wyeth guy. I have been away from the pharma-related work for a number of years now and haven’t really missed it. But his talk has revived enthusiasms in me that have been in a long slumber. 

Anyway, he described the development of the anti-depressant Effexor and their efforts to keep the molecule simple and free of excessive stereocenters. Studies of the metabolism of Effexor lead to the discovery of the des-methyl analog, now called Pristiq.

Concerning High Throughput Synthesis (HTS)-

“… you’re going to get a lot of decorated molecules, but they are not going to be biopharmaceutically useful.”

Abou-Gharbia lamented the languishing of natural products chemistry. He gave some examples of Rapamycin work, which according to his presentation, was originally isolated from a soil sample from Easter Island.  Much productive work apparently has been derived from the modification of this macrocycle. It’s all in the literature.

One of the main take-away lessons from Abou-Gharbia is that workers shouldn’t get too focused on SAR. His advice was that structure-property relationships need an early examination as well. Dual optimization. If the bioavailability is low, then the in vivo activity will not match the in vitro activity- an expensive and time consuming realization.