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September 2001
Vol. 4, No. 9, p 7.
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This issue marks the start of the fourth year of Modern Drug Discovery. The magazine’s launch was in the fall of 1998; this is the 26th issue, the frequency having accelerated from bimonthly to monthly. We’ve covered a fair amount of ground in the past three years, reporting on combinatorial chemistry, molecular modeling, high-throughput screening, clinical trials, and other subjects of drug discovery interest. With the readers’ indulgence, I’d like to review some of the reasons MDD was started and how we’re doing so far.

The publisher and owner of Modern Drug Discovery is the American Chemical Society. Founded in April 1876 in New York City, ACS was chartered by an act of the U.S. Congress on August 25, 1937. In part, that congressional charter states that the objective of ACS should be to encourage the advancement of chemistry in all its branches (emphasis mine), to increase chemical knowledge, and to aid the development of the chemical enterprise. Of course, through the early part of the last century, chemistry was easy to define. Smokestack industries produced the basic materials of 20th-century prosperity, ranging from synthetic polymers and plastics to new agricultural pesticides. Chemists, too, were easy to define. They mostly worked in labs with pungent chemicals synthesized in refluxing flasks that produced gram quantities of an end product.

Today’s chemists are harder to define;many of us work in biochemistry rather than chemistry labs. The synthetic chemicals we make are increasingly biopolymers of proteins and DNA rather than simple hydrocarbon chains. There are fewer refluxing flasks, and the concept of working with gram quantities in a drug discovery lab is somewhat laughable now that many reactions are carried out in 96-, 384-, or 1536-well microtiter plates. In discovery labs, there’s nary a bubbling glass lab apparatus in sight.

ACS has seen its membership change over the yearsjust as chemistry has changed. Now, many of our 163,000-plus members work in the pharmaceutical and drug discovery industries. This magazine was started as a service to those chemists and as another way for ACS to fulfill its congressional charter.

In addition to the charter, on the editorial side we believe that this magazine meets an additional need, namely that of good pragmatic journalism. I say that because we have the results from our annual reader survey. We surveyed 1200 of you, the readers, and to say the least, your responses were encouraging. Remarkably, almost one in every five of you reads the magazine cover to cover and nearly three in five more of you read at least a half dozen selected feature and department articles in each issue. Timewise, better than two in five of you spend from 30 minutes to more than an hour reading each issue. As for readers’ degree of interest in particular articles, your highest ratings went to our feature articles; in second place was the “Diseases and Disorders” column, followed by the “News in Brief” department.

Compared with other publications in this field, MDD was judged by a solid 9 out of every 10 respondents to have good to excellent amounts of information that is not in other publications. Finally, nearly 9 out of 10 of you rated MDD overall as above average or superior to other magazines in the drug discovery field.

That’s not to say that there aren’t improvements to be made. As one example, we want to expand our coverage of proteomics and other postgenomic issues in drug discovery. But by and large, we believe that after three years, we’ve made some substantial strides toward fulfilling those charter objectives of promoting chemistry and informing chemists who work in the pharmaceutical industry.

James Ryan

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