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Life in the Drug Labs

Good Suppliers – And The Other Guys

Is it just me, or is the fine chemicals supply business getting even more out of hand than usual? I was just talking with a colleague who’d sourced an interesting intermediate, at the (steep!) price of about $900 for a gram. She placed the order and. . .you guessed it, the supplier immediately back-ordered it, saying the price had changed. It took someone from Purchasing to drag the new quote out of them (they apparently wouldn’t give it over the phone). Now (to no one’s surprise, I’m sure) the material is over $3000/gram, and will have a lead time of weeks.
This sort of thing has gone one for a long time, of course. But my impression is that there’s more of it than ever. When the Chinese and ex-Soviet suppliers began to appear some years ago, they were often a pretty cheap source of some unusual compounds. But that’s changed.
My belief – and I’ll be glad to hear from people who do more compound purchasing than I do – is that the Chinese outfits especially have decided in recent years that they have some real pricing power, and are pushing it to see how far they can get. Add that to the hand-waving don’t-you-worry-now aspect of many of their product lists, and you have a recipe for irritation and wasted time. (Another colleague described some of these online catalogs as “things they wish they sold”.)
A previous comment on to a post like this listed some suppliers that had been found to be reliable, and I’ll reproduce that here, in no particular order: Maybridge, Enamine, Asinex, Key Organics, ChemBridge, Specs, ASDI Biosciences, InterBioScreen, Vitas M Labs, Life Chemicals, Labotest, and TimTec. Suppliers of weirdo outlier compounds that nonetheless tend to come through were Albany Molecular, Chem T&I, Florida Center for Heterocyclic Compounds, and Princeton Biomolecular. I’ve used many of those folks myself (and have had particular success with Life Chemicals and Specs, as far as availability and purity). Some of these companies are faster to ship than others. But the thing that stands out with all of them is that they have what they say that they have, and what’s more, it costs what it says that it costs.
For intermediates, as opposed to final-compound-like structures, I’d say that I’ve had good dealings with Apollo, Synthonix, Matrix, Pharmacore, Adesis, Tyger, Fluorochem, Oakwood, and Astatech. There are, I’m sure, several other suppliers in this category, and I’d be glad to list more of them after seeing the comments.
But now let’s reverse the polarity. What’s a blog for if you can’t say what you really think? Here, then, is a preliminary blacklist of suppliers. These people either have product listings that overlay poorly with reality, try to jerk you around on the price, take much longer to deliver than their initial estimates, or (lucky you) can do all of these at once. My personal recommendation is to be quite careful with ChemPacific, Uorsys, CTI, Zelinsky, and everyone with the words “Hangzhou” or “Shanghai” in the company name.
Please feel free to add others to the lists. I’ll do a consolidated post reflecting everyone’s experience – that way, we can give business to deserving companies you might not have worked with before, and we can perhaps shame some others into acting more reasonably.

53 comments on “Good Suppliers – And The Other Guys”

  1. CRO Cowboy says:

    The Good
    Precious Metals Online (cheapest palladium around)
    The Bad
    PIP pharm
    The Ugly

  2. Od Timer says:

    3B Scientific will lead you on for months.

  3. CanChem says:

    The good:
    Strem – for anything organometallic. EE’s are what they say, complexes are pure and active.
    TCI – If it’s on their website, they have it for what it’s listed at, and you’ll get it in 1-2 days.
    Chem-Impex – 49/50 clean and good. 1/50 (a gly-OSu derivative) was 2:1 good/bad.
    The bad:
    American Custom Chemicals Corporation (ACC corp) – For $1200 they took 3 weeks to send me a gram of the wrong stuff, then argued with me when I pointed this out, then took another 8 days to get me the right stuff.

  4. nitrosonium says:

    I’ll put ACC Corp. on the do not even waste your time list. They’re in the “Hangzou” category of we have everything with a CAS# in stock but it will take 6-8 weeks to…..find it on the shelf I guess???

  5. Dennis says:

    For peptide-y stuff, I tend to prefer Adv Chem Tech over Chem Impex. They’re slightly more expensive, but I’m much more likely to get a nice white powder from Adv Chem Tech whereas Chem Impex’ll give me some chunky sticky solid that’s a pain to weigh out.

  6. J-bone says:

    Frontier Scientific is great for boronic acids, will beat Sigma by a good deal on price. The only issue (and it’s only an issue for labs with small budgets) is that they have a minimum purchase requirement.

  7. KB says:

    Ambinter (It seems that they just source their compounds from everybody else so you end up with double the pain when they source it from China)

  8. Anonymous says:

    The idea of ordering some FOOF to teach these guys a lesson sounds good!

  9. A Nonny Mouse says:

    UK others
    Frontier are every good and cheap for metal catalysts and boronics (and Bob’s very friendly).
    I’ve also found Flurochem to be very good on price for silanes (cf TMS-acetylene). The website also gives their exact stock position in total quantity on hand.
    Apollo tend to be a bit hit and miss; they tend to list a lot but often lack stock.

  10. weirdo says:

    Transworld is pretty great to deal with — no BS, they ship what they say, and will even ship odd lots if that’s all they have on the shelf. At a pro-rated price of a larger bottle (not X times 1 gram).
    Cool looking catalog (yes, some people still use catalogs) too.

  11. mehere says:

    I’ll second Frontier – reliable for boronic acids and trifluoroborates (for those of you who are not trifluoroborate fans yet, read some Molander papers and get them used, great reagents). Also Rieke metals used to be great for Grignards and organozincs but not used them for a couple of years so this may be out of date. Activate have some interesting heterocycles and are reliable if pricey. Do ChemStep still show up in SciFinder – they were a complete waste of time and had nothing in stock ever.

  12. Brutus says:

    The good;
    NetChem (with a site in Jersey and Shanghai, prices can be great and product quality I have not had a problem with)
    Combi-Blocks (I second that)
    The bad;
    Combi-Phos (high priced tar at times, had some regio-isomer issues with them as well)

  13. Polyene says:

    Recently had a bad experience with Ontario Chemical.
    Was given a quote and lead time, which quickly became 5x longer that quoted. Could never get ahold of them and then I got this…
    We are so sorry about this. As we have lots of projects to be completed by the end of this month. We did several times of the product you enquired. unfortunately, we did not succeed. yield and ee are very low. This the reason we didn’t reply you earlier. Any way, the order form will be sent to you today.

  14. Lu says:

    What’s about peptide suppliers?

  15. Anne says:

    @polyene: Is that an exact copy of the email from them? Because that is appallingly unprofessional, grammatically speaking. And can’t forget the content! Yikes.

  16. Lu says:

    What’s about peptide suppliers?

  17. tyrosine says:

    I’m surprised Frontier didn’t make your initial list of “the good”.
    Combiblocks is great
    Netchem is relatively new, but I have personally ordered many in-stock, out-of-stock, and custom chemicals from these guys with phenomenal turnaround time. No order has ever taken more than 3 weeks and I even had one custom order that took literally 10 days from order to reach my bench.

  18. RB Woodweird says:

    For custom peptides,
    21st Century
    all reliable, fast, reasonable prices

  19. Anon says:

    I would toss ChemMaker into the lake of fire and sulfur. Became interested in them lately because they (theoretically, anyway) stock a lot of organotrifluoroborates. Our purchasing department informed me that their sales rep answered the phone, “Hello?” without identifying the company or anything. When we asked for the compound, they said it wasn’t in stock. When we asked how long the backorder was, they said, “We don’t know.” How can anybody stay in business operating this way?

  20. Bunsen Honeydew says:

    @polyene and @Anne
    I recently ordered a compound from Ontario Chem as well. My experience was better than yours. I received the compound in about 2 weeks and the purity was decent enough- traces of ethyl acetate and that’s about it. The compound wasn’t anything too complex- a substituted piperidine. I would order simple things from them again but with the proviso that it would likely take at least a couple of weeks.

  21. Chemjobber says:

    BTW, what’s the definition of a fine chemical, anyway?

  22. CanChem says:

    re: Ontario Chem
    They’re in my neck of the woods, so we tried to get some stuff from them, figuring they’d be a handy resource, and always happy to support fellow Canucks. Quickly found out everything they listed that we needed was out-of-stock and coming from eastern Europe. Lead times were ridiculous too. We flat-out ignore them in supplier results now.

  23. Polyene says:

    @ Anne and others…
    That’s their email… and about 3-4 weeks later, after still not getting the compound, I called and they just flat out canceled the order and hung up. I just laughed at that point and dropped the target.
    I now gauge a new supplier by:
    Did they answer the phone with a simple “Hello?”

  24. S says:

    AK Scientific (intermediates and peptide coupling reagents; quick and hassle-free to deal; very good quality/cheap/large qty. HATU purchased)
    Oakwood’s always been good with their stuff.
    Anyone order something from “AOBChem” or “Carbocore”? I am considering getting from 5g-ish material from them. The former is a Chinese outfit, but have a distributor in L.A.

  25. Sili says:

    Careful. You don’t want to get sued for libel in England!
    I wonder if I should make a note of these names, but I suspect they, too, aren’t hiring.

  26. Sean says:

    I put up a couple of chemicals on my site to address a number of a number of the problems mentioned in the post(shipping, price, quality, etc..)
    I see many chemical companies operating on the notion of keeping their prices hidden by only offering quotes. If customers can’t find out prices easily then they won’t know if they are massively overpaying.
    For example, 100g of IPTG from Fisher is at 2341.73, we charge 309.

  27. CMCguy says:

    Although experience definitely dated I would have put “Aldrich” in the low category years ago as commonly true statements “have product listings that overlay poorly with reality, try to jerk you around on the price, take much longer to deliver than their initial estimates, or (lucky you) can do all of these at once.” This was before all the players of today when Aldrich knew they had people by the balls and maybe Sigma and Fluka brought positive influences as had good luck with those prior to the joining.

  28. Maks says:

    What about ABCR? I had good experience with them, lots of chemicals, good quality, delivery time was acceptable and muuuuuch cheaper than Sigma.
    Also good experience with Apollo, needed one weird chemical for SAR experiments and they had it in stock for a reasonable price.

  29. David P says:

    Some of the smaller suppliers I have had success with include Matrix, TransWorld, Oakwood, Tyger, TCI. Also have one called BioBlocks, but we only ordered one thing from them so far.
    Funnily enough, SPECS was one that I had passed over – perhaps they have improved, but when I was doing library work a few years ago, they never seemed to come through with the chemical.

  30. Martin says:

    What? And no-one has mentioned Aurora yet and we’re down to comment #29?
    Actually would like to know how people have dealt with Maybridge overseas. Just had a colleague forced to go via Ryan Scientific and was charged (or was going to be charged, he may have cancelled) x3 the Maybridge price. And they want Credit card prepaid up front etc etc.

  31. Martin says:

    a short followup.
    Big ups to Chembridge by the way. Always very reliable and quality for us has been very good. Only once did we get a compound with cis/trans double bond isomers in 1:1 ratio when the catalogue said trans. Mind you their supplied NMR spectrum showed both isomers too

  32. JC says:

    Ficher has the entire maybridge catalog in stock in New Jersey.

  33. jss says:

    We paid $1000 for a gram (plus shipping) of one product from J&W Pharmlab, which contained none of the claimed material by NMR, and had no reasonable response from them.

  34. Anonymous says:

    The reason it takes so long to get some chemicals is that the items are NOT on the shelf. There is no stock, and the supplier only makes it when they get an order (or two) for the particular item. And if it costs more to make it now, compared to the last time they made it, well then of course they charge you more than the listed price.
    I have always found Oakwood to live up to their word. Good communication with Oakwood.

  35. Anonymous says:

    Bad experience with BBB.

  36. I second the praise for Oakwood. Synquest from Florida (was once PCR in olden days, the catalog was a reference fluorocarbon data source) is also very good in the same line of business. They once sent quickly a nicely crystalline perfluoro-sulfonimide, they know how to handle stuff. ABCR was also a total pleasure to deal with. I would have a lot to say (from a past job) about how some companies are true professionals if you supply them as a custom manufacturer, others just spam everyone with an inquiry and have no clue whatever, like they expected me to go break and enter a college at night, pirate SciFinder, get analyses for free, work pro bono, and then they repack and cash your three thou per gram. But that would become a longish story.

  37. BigDollarSpendar says:

    Re: ChemImpex
    ChemImpex is great for achiral compounds. Good purity and fast delivery. However I would recommend against ordering anything chiral from them (e.g. amino acids). These are typically mixtures of enantiomers even though they are advertised as being chirally pure. To their credit, when you call up regarding specs on optical purity, they will tell you that they don’t bother to measure and don’t have the capability to do ee determinations even if you wanted them to do it!

  38. Old-Timey says:

    In my opinion, Oakwood is the rising star in the chemical supply business. Always reliable and good quality.
    Back in grad school, when I used TMS-acetylene, I liked GFS Chemicals in Ohio. They had the best prices for TMS-acetylene and other alkynes. Also a good alternative to Strem for quality inorganics.

  39. Chemjobber says:

    I third the praise for Oakwood (who cut the cost for TBSCl for our lab in half – thanks, Tenderbutton!) and second the praise for Synquest, which has a broad supply of fluorinated compounds.
    I have had great customer service experiences with Strem and Synquest; it appears that it’s not hard to get real technical assistance when needed.
    Rieke is another good supplier of specialty organometallitcs (surprised it hasn’t been mentioned) and if you’ll leave, you’ll probably get your call returned from Dr. Rieke himself!

  40. RodneyS says:

    Agree with past experiences with Aldrich – recent ~5 years they’ve ‘righted’ their game, especially when material in stock. Fast and reliable.
    China – appear to be some decent guys, all noted above, but some scoundrals as well.

  41. Our blacklist:
    Shanghai Worldbest Group Co.,Ltd.

  42. Andy says:

    #9. I’ve pretty much always found Apollo to be hit rather than miss – for the things aren’t available, but they will give you a price and date if you e-mail them (and this was reliable on the one occasion I did this), the material is always good quality, and often (literally) a tenth of the price of Aldrich and the others. Fluorochem are also good, and usually cheaper than the rest too. (For example, last year I bought 100 g HBTU from fluorochem: £40. From Aldrich, 25g was £250!) I was under the impression that Fluorochem was just the UK version of Oakwood as the catalogue numbers are the same – is this not the case?
    I really dislike the Fluorochem website, though. I can’t tell which buttons are the active ones, but at least they’ve now fixed the bug with the dropdown menu where it told you a price, but not how much was being sold for that price.
    This whole post sounds like I’m working for one of them – I’m not, honest!

  43. chris says:

    I’d happily recommend Peptide Protein Research Ltd for custom peptide synthesis.

  44. hse says:

    I’ll second AK Scientific — very good.
    Bad: Beta Pharma

  45. Dharam says:

    I found that Matrix is very good in lead time as well as in price.

  46. Anonymous says:

    CombiPhos is terrible. I have to check everything they send by NMR. Usually it is junk. I think they have a vat of brown oil that they dispense into all of their bottles, and then just label it whatever they want. Don’t buy from them!

  47. cookingwithsolvents says:

    Alfa Aesar (entire catalog next-day from VWR)
    TCI (they have gotten MUCH better over the years and still trending up)
    Aldrich (once got a bottle with 1/2 the amount I ordered…good thing I weighed a whole-bottle reaction. got what I paid for next-day shipping)
    Gelest (never “on the shelf”, quality suspect though that might be their packaging?)

  48. MIMD says:

    $3000 a gram?
    How much is a gram of plutonium?

  49. Luke says:

    Heres my list of good suppliers-
    ACC Corp
    We use them regularly.

  50. Robert says:

    I have had good experiences with many of suppliers listed here another that has done pretty well is:
    Chemical Block
    One that was a pain to deal with was:
    Ark Pharm

  51. Anonymous says:

    “everyone with the words “Hangzhou” or “Shanghai” in the company name.”
    Are you saying all Chinese products are bad? Isn’t this, in a way, racial profiling?

  52. anonymous says:

    anyone bought from Boron Molecular?

  53. In response to #30-Martin, Ryan Scientific sells maybridge at the list price delivered from England, so if the item is $30/1g we sell at $30/1g and you pay a very fair $15 UPS 2nd day shipping rate from us to you.
    Also I would like to offer the services of my company, Ryan Scientific Inc who have for 25 years dealt with the intricacies of ordering in building blocks and screening compounds from these international vendors. Please see our site for further information and let our experience in dealing with these different vendors globally save you time and money that is better spent on your research. We have dealt with all the vendors listed on this thread and currently work with over 300 vendors globally. Please keep us in mind for all of your overseas ordering needs and we will save you time and money in your compound sourcing.

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