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Fifty Years of Achievement

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  • Fifty Years of Achievement . . . but medicinal chemistry faces a future c rammed with question marks a n d chal lenge

    1 3 6 ACS NATIONAL MEETING Medicinal Chemistry '

    Fifty years of achievementa boast worthy of celebration for any group. And celebrat ing a half century crowded with memorab le milestones is the Division of Medicinal Chemistry of the American Chemical Society. Top event in the festivities: an all-day symposium at the 136th National Meeting of the ACS, held at Atlantic City. A battery of speakers that reads like a "Who's W h o " in medicinal chemistry recounted top events of the past 50 years. A sampling: a spectrum of drugs effective against bacter ial diseases which evoked dread only two decades ago; and a fast growing list of chemicals useful in treating mental illness.

    But a long with the kudos came reminders that successes were often the result of accidental findingsthat organized research looks like an especially fruitful p a t h for discovery of new drugs in the future.

    C o o p e r a t i v e Research Is Key. "Cooperat ion of disciplines" is one big reason for the drug industry's progress. Dr. Max Tishler of Merck Sharp & Dohme told medicinal chemists. Research at a typical modern drug company, says Dr. Tishler, depends on a meshing of men of many scientific disciplines. This sort of team effort gives the industry a versatility and flexibility seldom found in other industries.

    Dr. Tishler credits much of the progress in medicinal chemistry to investigations of life processes and application of the findings. More such research is needed, says Dr. Tishler, pointing out that empir ical screening of materials for biological activity is in vogue today. Given enough perceptive minds, "we will see major medical breakthroughs via rational approaches in our lifetime," predicts Dr. Tishler.

    Successes . . . and Chal lenges . There 's no question that chemotherapy of bacterial diseases is one of the high lights of the past 50 years in medicinal chemistry. The advent of the sulfa drugs in the 1930'sthe first drugs effective against bacteria and some large virusestouched off a vast search

    for even more effective chemical agents that led to today's antibiotics, says Dr. J. P. English, American Cyanamid.

    But some thorny problems remain to be solved, including virus infections and resistance to drugs by many bacteria.

    Control of Mental i i iness. The last great frontier for medical research is the brain, says Dr. C. Jelliff Carr of the National Institute of Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health. Progress in psychopharmacology is a "tr iumphant example of the medicinal chemist's art ," but mental illness remains a "compelling challenge" today, says Dr. Carr.

    Today's armamentar ium against mental disease is impressive: 12 tranquilizers in clinical use; five nonhyp-notic skeletal muscle relaxants; 13 anti-depressive agents; and eight nonbar-hiturate sedatives.

    But we don't understand the mental effects of these agents, and they aren't cures. Dr. Carr feels that medical science is on the threshold of a chemotherapy for such ailments. Needed: answers to how the brain exerts its influence; how chemicals affect the brain.

    Role of Biochemist. Lack of knowledge of the chemistry of bodily processes is a big hurd le in the path of more new therapeutic agents, says Dr. Sidney Udenfriend, National Heart Institute. T h e research team todayorganic chemist, biologist, and c l in ic ian-works well. But biochemists could play a big part in upping the efficiency of this team. Some examples:

    Biochemists could help explain the action of older drugsa great need today; this could lead to new drugs. Biochemists could he lp explain toxicity; and biochemists could help develop new drugs by studying structure-effect relationshipsnobody can now predict the effect of a modification in structure on physiological effect.

    Industry- isn't using its biochemists effectively, says Dr . Udenfriend. Instead of using biochemists in service capacitiesanalytical, and the l i k e -make them a bigger part of the research team, he suggests. Industry should great!y expand its biochemical departments, says Dr. Udenfriend. This would result in a bigger flow of new ideasand more new products .

    ACS Meeting Scores Big

    Employment Clearing House cracks records; writers hear Dr. Kistiakowsky

    JNIo DOUBT about it ACS national meetings are big league. And t h e 136th ACS National Meeting just completed in Atlantic City is no exception. Some signposts: Registration totaled over 10,700; representatives of industry, universities, and Government de scended on the Employment Clearing House in record numbers to interview' job applicants; and President Eisenhower's Special Assistant for Science and Technology, Dr. George B. Kistiakowsky, chose Atlantic City to make his first speech since assuming his post.

    Records Fall. No registration record was set at this meeting, but nearly 11,000 registrants qualify any meeting as big.

    Several new records were bung up by the Employment Clearing House, though: nearly 1100 employers registeredan all t ime high. Applicants numbered 372; a record 5700 interviews were arranged, with applicants scoring a record shattering 15 interviews apiecethe average at past ACS meetings has been around nine. The interview pace was torrid, hitting a record 160 per hour.

    Improve Intel lectual Tone. Science writers must do more than report science news, advises Dr. Kistiakowsky, speaking at the National Association of Science Writers ' 25th anniversary meeting in Atlantic City. They must "act as missionaries and revival leaders in stimulating respect for intellectual ism and creating the desire for intellectual excellence." While the national objective shouldn't be to create an elite of intellectuals, cautions Dr. Kistiakowsky, there must be a conscious desire to cultivate intellectual excellence. Otherwise, there can't b e a desirable level of scientific activity.

    Science a n d Technology Differ. Setting u p moon stations, curing diseases, and the like aren't examples of science, points out Dr. Kistiakowsky. They're t r iumphs of engineering and technology. But the difference isn't clearly understood, he says. ". . . we may fail to cultivate science adequately . . .," warns Dr. Kistiakowsky, "if we fail to understand the nature of scientific research and what it requires to flourish."

    2 6 C & E N SEPT. 2 8, 1959

    Fifty Years of Achievement . . .