...Building on this legacy, we have created a new discovery unit with NIBR: Chemical Biology & Therapeutics (CBT). To my knowledge, chemical biology has not previously been an organizing principle for serious efforts in coordinated drug discovery.
What does this mean in practical terms?
We have pulled the foundational disciplines of chemical biology into one seamless collaborative unit. CBT — under the direction of Jeff Porter — will innovate new small-molecule libraries with unique functionalities, implement high-throughput biology in annotated libraries, reconsider protein sciences and integrate sophisticated computational analyses, all to glean unexpected insights from biological systems. Examples include new types of therapeutic agent, such as targeted-protein degraders that link the cellular machinery of degradation to proteins of therapeutic interest, and reconsiderations of chemical equity, such as vast and chiral DNA-encoded libraries. We intend to organize around new types of chemical tool to make unprecedented insights into disease biology, and we expect that new therapeutic vectors will emanate immediately from these efforts.
I envision more than 400 chemical biologists organizing around these principles. (emphasis CJ's) And we've spent a lot of time reworking the organization to colocalize these individuals, because I believe that a high degree of effective molarity drives innovation in biomedical research.So how many chemical biologists are there? I sent this question out on Twitter, with the rhetorical question of "Are there 400 chemical biologists?" I regret that what I really meant was "Are there 400 chemical biologists who are footloose-and-fancy-free enough for Jay Bradner to hire?" I think most folks interpreted my question as "no way there are 400 chemical biologists!", and I only have myself to blame for that. (I don't think that, actually.)
There were a vast number of estimates, all taking the over: Laura Kiessling said definitely more than 400 (so did Matt Disney), Anirban Mahapatra also suggested a number in the 1000s (with a good way to estimate being the various co-authors of the various chemical biology journals out there). Patrick Holder also says "well over a 1000 worldwide" (considering that Cal probably has produced over 120 during its time). Aaron Crapster suggests that there have been over 500 trained in the Bay Area alone (in the past 10 years.)
Finally, Professor Bertozzi weighed in: "If the >150 PhD and postdocs trained in my lab qualify as chemical biologists, then the # worldwide must be more like 10,000."
(This has got to be wrong, don't you think? Are there 66 Carolyn Bertozzi-equivalents in the world in terms of training chemical biologists? Are there 132 0.5CBEs? or 264 0.25CBEs?)
Sadly, I can't rely on my favorite crutch, the Survey of Earned Doctorates, which is relatively silent as to the specific field of chemical biology. I did find a surprising fact: the United States has graduated somewhere between 700 and 800 Ph.D. biochemists every year between 2005 and 2015. By comparison, readers of this blog know that the U.S. graduated somewhere around 600-650 Ph.D. organic chemists a year during this time.
Regarding the specific question that I had, i.e. "how many Ph.D. chemical biologists have graduated in the United States?" I estimated (without much thought) that the number was less than 1000. (I was spitballing 50 per year with "chemical biology" having been around for ~20 years.) I could be convinced it's more than that (2000? 2500?), but not by much. As for the worldwide number, I honestly have no idea.
Readers, what do you think?