Monday, August 12, 2013

The Division of Medicinal Chemistry Wants to Change Its Name

Also from this week's C&EN, a fascinating bit of ACS inside baseball:
The ACS Division of Medicinal Chemistry has announced a proposed name change: Division of Drug Discovery.  
I am a former Medicinal Chemistry Division chair and former editor of Annual Reports in Medicinal Chemistry (ARMC). Though retired, I am still a member of the division and still intellectually involved. 
I have carefully read the rationale for changing the name of the division and frankly find it lacking. Chemistry is chemistry whether one is synthesizing peptides, small molecules, oligonucleotides, or whatever. Medicinal chemists have always been versed in biology and interacted with other disciplines. Likewise, ARMC has always included topics in biology and other related disciplines relevant to drug discovery. 
One sentence in the “rationale” summed up what this is really all about: “This revised description of the Division can potentially address one of its most pressing threats: stagnant membership associated with contraction of the industrial R&D organizations, limiting the ability of the Division to provide the range of services attractive to members.” 
I encourage my fellow medicinal chemists to contact Eric Walters, the secretary of the division, and ACS with their views. This is a watershed event. We should not remain silent and allow only division members who attend the ACS national meeting in Indianapolis in September to decide our fate. 
Richard C. Allen
Flemington, N.J.
I have lots of thoughts on this issue, but (as you can tell) I am a little pressed for time today. Here are (some of) my thoughts:
  • I am really glad that MEDI has recognized that they have a problem. 
  • That said, it seems to me that they've chosen an odd solution -- did people really think that by changing their name, that they'd attract more members? 
  • I also briefly read the summary of their executive committee discussion; lots of #chemjobs talk in there that I need to address. Also, a lot of talk about younger chemists and attracting them to MEDI. 
    • Might I suggest that the reason that there aren't very many younger MEDI members is that the industry has seemingly quit hiring large numbers of entry-level medicinal chemists? 
More to come. All of this to say that these membership problems cannot possibly be solved with a name change... but they probably knew that anyway. (Something must be done / this is something / therefore, it must be done!) 


  1. Nero fiddled while Rome burned.

    (Love, a card-carrying long-term member of MEDI and ORGN who joined during undergrad)

  2. At least when Analytical wanted to change it's name i saw the point. This is... delusional?

  3. Talk about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. I'd love to hear why I should be attracted to med chem given the job outlook. What I would like to hear even more is why the only metric for success for the ACS is membership numbers? If people aren't entering the field because of a lack of jobs why should we be working to lure them in against their best interests?

    Better metrics for success might be current members' ability to find employment or job satisfaction. I shouldn't be surprised to find that both of those could be inversely related to number of members in the current climate.

    1. The problem is that their funding depends on the number of section members - thus their measures of success depend on the member count.

      How could they measure (much less influence) happiness or employment? They could help give access to training, but if there aren't any jobs, well... People don't want to start businesses, because they take immense amounts of work, have lots of risk, and aren't likely to reward the people who actually make an idea happen in any proportion to those who funded it (people value justice more than money, and even though some money is better than none, some money and not enough justice is worth less to most than no money and sufficient justice). They can't make Sanofi (or anyone else) decide to hire more people, because they don't get enough from who they have now (and can't imagine firing themselves for that inability). So I'm not sure what they could or should do. The things that would likely make MEDI members happy (respect by their bosses and the public for what they do, meaningful work) seem to conflict with the things that make pharma want to employ them.

      Changing the division name, however, is loony.

  4. If they want to do their members and themselves a favor, they should rename themselves to the Division of Structure Activity Relationships. Maybe then it would be easier for a laid off medicinal chemist to be considered "experienced" for an essentially a SAR job in consumer products.

  5. Has anyone noticed that DoDD is pronounced "dud"?

  6. I was going to make a comment that the leadership are out of touch with the places that produce jobs for their members, but looking at the officers of MEDI, there are a lot of people from industrial research labs who should know better.

    This is completely different than what I am used to with POLY/PMSE. Empathy doesn't usually come with tenure.