tl; dr October
Hi Folks! This is what happened in October that caught my attention.
And the Nobel goes to… US government scaring scientists First-of-its-kind nanomaterial against cancer The very first working “nano-computer” CO2 emission drops to the 90’s level in the US Recognizing research in alternative fuels Q3 numbers for big pharma out
#1 What else than the Nobel announcements could deserve the first place this month? (Forgive me to only mention the chemistry prize this time, but it is much closer to my heart and the field I’m currently working on.) Congratulations to Arieh Warshel, Martin Karplus and Michael Levitt who were jointly awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy and won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 2013.1 They were chosen for their outstanding work in “the development of multiscale models for complex chemical systems”, which is tremendous acknowledgment for computational chemistry as a field helping us understand how molecules behave at different scales, and can give an enormous push for further developments. As a “cheminformatician” myself I am very proud of being part of the community, and looking forward the exciting times ahead of us.
#2 A not so pleasant topic was the US government shutdown earlier this month.2 It all started with the Democrats and Republicans failing to reach an agreement on the budget deal for the new fiscal year by the 1st of October, lasted for 16 days, and ended with a very questionable deal that only guarantees government funding until the 15th of January. According to some safe estimates these 16 days cost the US government $24 billion, but how did it affect the American universities and the national laboratories of the DOE nationwide that are largely government funded? Without federal funding science agencies, such as NIH and NSF have to delay or even cancel grants that in turn would have a significant impact on the whole chemical industry that is very much driven by the scientific enterprise. Although the overall effect on the chemical industry is not yet known it is generally agreed that this irresponsible behavior from politicians caused significant damages to various scientific research programs. Let’s hope that people learnt from it and history won’t repeat itself yet again!
#3 There’s gotta be something nano in this list, right? Researchers from the University of Cincinnati have developed a one of a kind nanostructure that is believed to have it all for cancer treatment.3 This unique nanostructure (Polystyrene/Fe3O4@SiO2) has a double sided (Janus) surface and a porous interior providing high surface area in turn allowing to load the structure with a wide variety of functionalities responsible for detection, delivery as well as controlled treatment, all in one. Hope this structure will live up to the promises, and it’ll turn into another successful use case in the nanomedicine field.
#4 I guess that we knew it for a while that the days of silicon based chips in computers are numbered, and we can’t just keep doubling the number of transistors every two years to increase the performance, as Moore predicted, forever. There are the laws of physics that prevents us to do so. Well, the day we are waiting for has finally come. Researchers from Stanford University created a working computer for the first time using a processor that is made up of 142 carbon nanotube transistors.4 Of course this is just the beginning, there is still a long way to go, and CNTs still have to prove the believers right, but this is definitely an answer to the problem that has to be taken seriously. A message that tells us carbon nanotubes are one step closer to win this battle against silicon once and for all. I’m curious what Bayer Material Science thinks about it now, after closing their nanotube production plant earlier this year.
#5 Interesting, and to me somewhat surprising, report came out from the Energy Information Administration this month saying that there was a significant drop in carbon dioxide emission in the US in 2012 reaching the levels of the early 90’s.5 Experts say the reasons for this decline include the recession, shifting from coal to natural gas and the warmer weather, which is caused by global warming. Funnily enough this means global warming actually has a positive effect. Although this result is very significant in itself, we should not read too much out of it. When it becomes a trend we may be able to see differently.
#6 Somewhat related to the previous topic. Researchers from the University of Southern California, George A. Olah and G. K. Surya Prakash, has been recognized for their pioneering work in the alternative fuels area, and awarded $1 million from the state of Israel.6 By the way, Prof. Olah is a Nobel Laureate (1994 for his contribution to carbocation chemistry), who was born in Hungary (making us, living in this small country, proud again)! He is one of the few great minds, who got widely acknowledged for his work done in not just one, but two very different topics.
#7 The trend of big pharma companies losing profit against generic drugs continues, and it will continue because of blockbusters going off patent for the foreseeable future. Pfizer Inc.’s Q3 profit admittedly dropped 19%, as well as Merck & Co. lost 35% of its Q3 profit as compared to last year’s.7 Bristol-Myers Squibb is also suffering from losing space against generic competitions, but was able to raise its sales, mainly overseas, and create Q3 profit. If you are interested check out this estimated list Medco published on generic competitors entering the market between 2012 and 2027.8
References 1) http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/ 2) http://swampland.time.com/2013/10/17/heres-what-the-government-shutdown-cost-the-economy/ 3) http://www.uc.edu/news/NR.aspx?id=18622 4) http://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/carbon-nanotubes-move-beyond-the-lab-in-first-functioning-computer/ 5) http://www.eia.gov/environment/emissions/carbon/?src=email 6) http://cen.acs.org/articles/91/web/2013/10/Alternative-Fuels-Research-Garners-1.html 7) http://www.dddmag.com/news 8) http://pharmacy.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=pharmacy&cdn=b2b&tm=82&f=00&tt=2&bt=4&bts=4&zu=http%3A//www.medcohealth.com/art/corporate/anticipatedfirsttime_generics.pdf