Sunday, November 25, 2007

The light at the end of the tunnel...

-- someone please tell me that it's not a train. Or so goes the song by Cracker.

Our little operation is now taking the steps necessary to go public. Sometime in the future, the management will be doing the road show and all of that good stuff. Hopefully, we will have the science to back it up by then. Here's the important disclaimer: even though I haven't disclosed the name of my company some people might consider this an insider tip. Well don't! I don't know anything about the company that isn't already disclosed to the public. I'm not that important. The timeline, pipeline, future projects and company status are out there for public evaluation. Beyond that I have no comment as to when we go public or what our future projects are: etc. etc.

I worry somewhat that this is the beginning of an exit strategy for the CEO. I hope he isn't leaving us to be devoured by general Franco and his cronies. I also worry what happens after we go public. Do we become a target for a Pfizer slash and burn? Then again I have to wonder if milkshake is right. Is a layoff sometimes the best thing that could happen to you? In terms of employability, I'm much better off than most of my coworkers. It is deeply frustrating how crappy scientists get hired simply because they know the right people. Time to practice my sucking up, but only on the right-people-types.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Quotes of the day

The chemist we call R2D2 was presenting. He earned the nickname for being intelligent and totally incomprehensible at the same time. Insightful comments are interspersed with grunts, quacks, ums, ers, and other noises. He's a Chinese guy who did grad school and a post doc in the US, so you can't really fault him too much for speaking totally foreign language. Infinitely better than my mandarin anyway.
Anyway he had a couple of gems today.

"Er, uh, yes. It turns out to be electronics-- or sterics effect-- or maybe both." (Yeah, that pretty much covers the bases.)

"We had to uh, er, duh, make sure it was a good template for our project scaffold, and uh not just some uh piece of crap." (laughter ensues)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Two more gone

Two more people quit last week. One chemist, one biologist. The chemist is going to a south bay biotech. The move won't garner him any more money or job responsibilities, but as he rightly said "it won't be here."

So the CEO finally did the please don't quit speech. He's announced a salary survey to see where we are in relation to other companies. Apparently it takes a committee to plug numbers into the ACS salary calculator. Whatever. At least he finally seems to be taking complaints about evil SVP seriously.

We're also looking to hire some RA's so the scientist-2s get to boss some people around besides us lowly scientist-1s. Of course most of the candidates have been from evil SVP's old company. Bring in the cronies.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Quote of the day

One of the project managers tries to get one of the vivarium staff to sit in on a meeting.

Ratgirl: "You chemists have too many meetings"
Junior PM: "Of course, without meetings what else would we do all day? Work?"

Upon hearing this, several of us in the room had difficulty keeping our beverages from escaping through our noses. Lesson #1 for junior PM: you cannot be facetious when what you're saying is actually the truth.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sticking it out, for now

Only one more over the side last week. One of our clinical staff managers didn’t appreciate evil VP’s decision that the new clinical staff will report directly to him and not to the clinical VP. We’re down one additional chemist after one of my colleagues severed a tendon in his hand with a broken flask. It sounds like he’ll be okay; but, he’s probably looking at a couple months of recovery and physical therapy.

As for me: I’m not going anyplace, at least for the time being. We have two IND applications into the FDA and our phase II clinical trial is moving along. Chances are, we will probably go public soon enough that it will be worthwhile for me to stay. If not, I’ll be fully vested in 687 days. I can get out then with enough shares to pay for the therapy I’ll need.

The ‘good’ news is that we are hiring RAs in chemistry. Not surprisingly, most of the candidates seem to be coming from evil VP’s former company. Things seem to be falling into place for his world-domination plans.

Just when the bay area job market was starting to look a little better, Sunesis and Amgen decided to flood the market with fresh meat. Layoffs in R&D always seem to make investors happy for some reason. The situation must be bad: Amgen’s stock hardly moved. I understand the drive for lower costs, but those employees are no longer around to stuff the pipeline. So did management screw up in the first place by hiring too many scientists? Or are they selling-out the future in hopes of shorter term gains? For Sunesis, I guess all it takes is one good drug to become an attractive buyout target for big pharma. Then all the execs get to sail off in their new yachts.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Lifeboats away!

Well, the exodus has begun. Three people have quit in the last two weeks. At least two more are getting ready to hand in their resignation. We're all looking around wondering who's next. Pretty soon people will be getting stuck in the doorways as they all try to get out at the same time: Larry Moe and Curly style.

Management has finally begun scratching their heads. Gee, I wonder why people are leaving? Evil Medchem director actually asked people to come see him about problems with the department. That would be an interesting conversation. Evil one: "So what's the matter? Why is everyone quitting?" Me: "You're the problem. Everyone is leaving because you are a dishonest a-hole and you treat people like crap." Somehow I think he won't be too eager to fix the problem when he finds out he is the problem. Go fire yourself.

Of course we could go talk to the evil Vice President of drug discovery. He hired evil medchem director, and three other senior managers without input from anyone else. Yeah boss, the problem is your hand-picked minions from your last company are all turds.

I'm trying to decide if I should try to ride this limping company until the IPO sometime in the future, or if I should find a new gig now. I am keeping a close eye on the rats in the DMPK lab. Once they start abandoning ship, I'm outta here.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

New Evil Master

Never ask how things could be worse. When I did, we hired a new director of med chem. We suspected it would be bad when the first thing he said to the department was “I’m the boss so everyone will do exactly what I tell them to.” Turns out he really was not joking.

He came from another company that had a reputation for hiring lots of H1B chemists and using the threat of deportation to squeeze as much life force from them as possible. Basically he’s the guy who loves being in charge and thinks himself always right. I might even be okay with that if he knew what he was doing. Clearly he doesn't. Why did I bother to get a PhD just to be told what targets I must make and what reactions I must use to make them?

Now he’s trying to antagonize people at our company. I don’t know if he actually wants to fire people so he can bring in more ‘motivated’ labor, or if he just likes flaunting his authority.
Everyone is trying to cover their own asses while he runs our most important project straight into the ground. I'm just trying to keep my mouth shut. Right now I’m torn between looking for another job, or sticking it out until the company goes public.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


I truly think that Junior PM has been reading some sort of management for dummies book. Either that, or George W. is his hero. He has this attitude like he is some sort of executive. Yeah, three years out of grad school with no post-doc and you're ready to run a division of Pfizer. These are his most annoying phrases this month.
  1. Let's take this offline = I can't explain it to the other morons right now
  2. We can move on = I just asked a stupid question and I don't want everyone else to keep discussing that fact.
  3. It is what it is = the compound is crap, but I cannot come up with a better one
  4. The antiperiplanarity of the two aryl rings result in atrope isomers = I don't know what antiperiplanarity means
  5. We hope to obtain a synergism by changing two parts of the molecule = My 'word of the day' calendar only cost me $1.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Stinky friday

Last Friday was a big day for stink. It all started with a the smell of acrylonitrile. Napolean (because the guy talks like Napolean Dynamite) was doing a reaction in his hood with the stuff. He’s good chemist, so there wasn’t the faintest smell of the stuff in the lab. However, it was definitely in the main office. Turns out the exhaust pipe on his hood is shorter than the lip surrounding the roof. An the air intake for the office is, of course, also on that roof. When there’s no wind, the vapors go up the hood, across the roof and down the air intake into the office. Better yet, that hood is one of the few with over 150 cfm flow; so it is the designated toxic hood where the super nasty stuff is supposed to be done. Sweet.

Right about the time we figure this out, MC Hammer (because his ‘jeans’ are really denim-colored parachute pants) spills triphosgene all over himself. He’d been stinking up the lab with the stuff all day by stacking dirty glassware on his bench. He was complaining that his eyes were stinging and he didn’t feel so good. Then he spilled the reaction on his lab coat.

That might be enough to send some people home. Not him. Change the lab coat, and right back in the triphosgene scented lab. Only a couple more hours and…gurgle, gurgle, woosh. Somehow he managed to blow a Sonogashira reaction up. I have no idea how he did it, but he baptized himself in the name of palladium and copper and triethyl amine.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Now that's blue

I decided to make isoxazole from a nitrile oxide cycloaddition. The precursor was chlorinated acetaldehyde oxime shown above. Into chloroform goes the acetaldehyde oxime, (E/Z mixture from Aldrich) and 1 equiv. N-Chlorosuccinimide at room temp. Right away the thing turns bright turquoise blue. The bluest thing I've ever seen out of an organic reaction. We're talking like CuSO4 or TiCl4 blue. Go try it yourself and impress your local biologist.
So what makes the reaction mixture blue? As usual, I haven't had time to look into the chemical literature since that would take time away from the pile 'o analogues still waiting to be made. It must be a radical or charge-transfer intermediate or something of the sort.