If medicinists want to test a new drug, they can literally choose between hundreds or thousands of reported molecules. But the real problem they are here facing is the high number of ill-suited molecules, that are not properly described, e.g., compounds that target enzymes other than the desired one, or have unwanted side-effects. Finding a suitable drug for a biomedical study can thus take endless hours before the study itself has even started.
Chemical biologists have now used crowdfunding to start an internet platform that recommends chemical probes, as reported in Science News. This action is in my opinion a very exciting act of self-empowerment, based on the strong impression that the self-correction mechanisms in scientific publishing are not sufficent. I think, one underlying problem might also be the reproducibility crisis, science is still facing. Once a new compound is published, its reproduction (and cross-checking) by other labs is not feasible anymore, since the work would be not original. Problems in reproduction therefore usually occur when the compound is supposed to be used for an application.
Maybe ChemicalProbes.org has the potential to provide an alternative metric for science, based on the applicability of drugs and drug-like molecules.
As Retraction Watch observed in the last week, the dutch scientist Henk Buck delivered new insights about his publication in Science that was retracted in 1990. In the original paper, the authors claimed nothing less than the successful inhibition of HIV infectivity, allowing for a cure of AIDS.
Four separate investigations turned up faked data, manipulated images, and highly selective reporting designed to obscure the fact that HIV-fighting molecules never existed.
Having this in mind, I think that this new publication 25 years later might leave many people speechless. When I read the recent publication, the originally retracted paper and the retraction, I wanted to give this new interpretation a fair chance. At least, it is a discussion of the data, so what could be wrong with that? Apparently, quite a lot: First, of course the fact that Buck was proven guilty of scientific fraud. In addition to that comes the journal owned by Scientific Research Publishing (SCIRP), registered in Delaware and located in China and its questionable reputation.
Now, the two big questions are: Why? And why now?
I am keeping my fingers crossed that Retraction Watch receives an answer from the author, as this might be the beginning (or a very late continuation) of an interesting story.