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The Horse Latitudes

I haven’t given any updates on my side project recently because, well, there hasn’t been much to update. Progress has stalled, for several reasons – instrument difficulties, power outages, people (including me) being out of town, resources being shifted around. This sort of work is particularly vulnerable to that sort of thing, because it exists through the sufferance of others. It’s always been a “work on this after everything else is taken care of” project, and recently everything else has been having its innings.
I have a backlog of completed experiments in the freezer, waiting for a chance to get run, and I’m working on the design of several more. One thing that window-of-opportunity projects force you to do is make the most of the chances you get, so experimental design becomes more crucial than ever. I can’t just run the first thing that comes into my head – odds are that it won’t be the optimum use of the time and resources. I can usually think up something better if I spend more time thinking about it. Even so, I’ve had about all the time to think that I can handle for now, and I’m working on ways to get things going again.
Another odd feature of this work is the solo nature of it. I’m used to working in teams, which is how the drug industry operates the overwhelming amount of the time. That’s because we have to have people who specialize in so many different areas, but there’s an operational aspect to it that doesn’t get mentioned much. In a team environment, people have to get things done because someone else is waiting on them. The biologists running the assays are waiting on the medicinal chemists for compounds, who are waiting on the assay numbers to see what to do next, and the same goes for formulations, metabolism, the in vivo assays, and all the rest of it.
But working alone is another story. No one is waiting on these results in the same way as in a normal drug discovery project. Many of my colleagues are interested in what’s going on, but I’m the main customer for my own data, for now. If I completely stopped doing this project- walked away and never came back – some folks would eventually ask me about whatever happened to that wild idea of mine, but most wouldn’t. And it wouldn’t take long for the memory of the whole thing to get buried under the steady pile-up of new work.
No, no one’s pressing me to do this but me. It’s a different sensation from the industrial research I’m used to. For everything else I’ve worked on, I’ve known that if I left the project it would roll along without me, but not this time. This idea would die immediately if I took my shoulder off the wheel, but I’m not going to let that happen.

One comment on “The Horse Latitudes”

  1. otey2 says:

    Good.
    Thanks for the update.

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