CENAPT - University of Illinois at Chicago
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✍ Check your Chemistry

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Monya Baker, Editor and writer for the Nature Publishing group, wrote an essay on chemical probes and screening libraries, and on how easy it is to be misled by either accidents or errors.

Her essay covers many aspects of the underlying problems: the purity aspect (including enantiomeric purity), the identity, the variablity, and specific problems with probes of all kinds. One point that did fully resonate in this article is what we are focusing on in our Center, i.e., the difficulty of assessing the quality of the chemicals that are used widely to conduct experiments (note: we are not even talking about biological samples, as this increases the complexity of the issue even more).

There are also some «interesting» stories related to bosutinib, an approved cancer drug (not covered here).

Another point that rings a bell on our side, is the confusion induced by the terminology in scientific articles and/or when placing an order with just the name of a compound rather than using a unique identifier. Beyond just terminology, analytical data can be puzzling: we have seen many «nice and clear» Certificates of Analysis for commerical reference materials, often based on LC/UV, but the assessmen quickly changes when an NMR is ran on the same product.

From the beginning of chemistry, purity and identity have always played an important role. At the same time, there is a clear trend towards going faster and quicker, in both the chemical/biolgical screening and production of new compounds. If we do not check the quality of our materials and our work, is it really worth it? Especially when we are going so fast that we cannot afford performing any of the basic checks that used to be the basics of any chemistry work…???

Access the Paper here