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Finding Effective Drugs I

I’m going to be out of pocket for two days in LA giving some lectures, so I won’t be up and running till Wednesday. In the meantime, have a look at the following WSJ article by Peter Landers published about a year ago: http://www.mindfully.org/GE/2004/Drug-Industry-Falls-Short24feb04.htm. It begins as follows:

A decade ago, pharmaceutical companies announced a revolutionary new way of finding drugs. Instead of relying on scientists’ hunches about what chemicals to experiment with, they brought in machines to create thousands of chemical combinations at once and tested them out with robots. The new technology was supposed to bring a flood of medicines to patients and profits to investors. Today, some leading chemists are calling the effort an expensive fiasco….

The article essentially says about the pharmaceutical industry what I’ve been saying right along about biology: Darwinian and evolutionary forces are not enough; real intelligence is required. A colleague of mine in the defense industry concurred when we discussed the article last year. He wrote:

This article really nails it, doesn’t it? It’s always amazed me that people are so willing to abandon the hard work and intuition that leads to intelligence, upon which rests the entire edifice of science, and resort to little more than gambling in an attempt to create innovation. I have another word for it–laziness.

Although it would be interesting to pursue the question of whether conventional evolutionary theory is a studied form of laziness (thus turning the tables on Richard Dawkins’s charge against Mike Behe that Behe is just being lazy and needs to get busy in the lab to figure out how natural selection built all those irreducibly complex molecular machines), I’m not going to go there. Rather, in a follow-up post, I want to explore whether the healing power of certain biological products might be evidence of design and how this might be formulated rigorously. Stay tuned.

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One Response to Finding Effective Drugs I

  1. “Serendipitous insight”, nice.

    “In hindsight, the quest to create millions of chemicals was based on a misconception about what scientists now call the chemical space. The number of theoretically possible drug-like chemicals is estimated to be at least 10 to the 40th power — one followed by 40 zeros. Just as the universe consists mostly of empty space dotted with an occasional galaxy, the ‘space’ of all these potential chemicals is mostly useless to humans.”… at a first glance it looks like a specification.

    I found a deep similarity between this and TRIZ, the theory of inventing problem solving.

    Now, without forgetting the “biological case”, where resides most of the ID action, it seems to me that it is time for ID to start to apply the theory into the industry. A good analysis on the importance of scientists’ “serendipitous insight”, for instance, would be valuable to drug industry. This and many other interesting applications have the implication of providing strong examples to the biological debate. Developing techniques in fraud detection or actuary are other possibilities. These things could be the beginning of ID research funds in universities and industry… what would be good news for the next generation of ID theorists and another important point in the “rhetoric of ID” to put it in Woodward language.

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