book reviews

Miscellaneous chemistry books
Reviewed by: T.J. Nelson

Good Laboratory Practice
The Why and the How
Jürg P. Seiler

G LP is an organizational structure and a set of rules for conducting research studies to be submitted to regulatory bodies such as the FDA, EPA, and comparable agencies in Europe. As such, the rules are vague enough to be unhelpful in conducting research, but detailed enough to create a burden on the investigator. Their purpose is to enable every aspect of a study to be reconstructed by a third party. This book describes the rules in narrative format, then provides the actual rules from the OCED, FDA, and EPA in an appendix.

If you're interested in bureaucratic regulations for some reason, or if you are forced to learn about GLP, this book is a good way to do it. The subject matter is intrinsically boring, but the writing style is reasonably good. Do not buy this book yourself: your employer should be paying you to read this crap -- er, stuff.

Real World Drug Discovery:
A Chemist's Guide to Biotech and Pharmaceutical Research
Robert M. Rydzewski

A gentle introduction to the pharmaceutical industry as of 2008. Written at an undergraduate level with lots of extra useless words. Informal writing style. A good way for beginning pharmacology students or technicians to learn about the drug industry. Not really useful for chemists as the title implies, unless by "chemists" you mean students and associates.

Introduction to Bioanalytical Sensors

Alice J. Cunningham

T his book is a general review of the technology and principles for creating biosensors. oriented toward analytical chemists wishing to expand into detection of biomolecules. It discusses amperometric detectors, field effect sensors, potentiometric sensors, light addressable potentiometric sensors, fiber optic devices, evanescent wave, surface plasmon resonance, electrogenerated chemiluminescence, thermal sensors, and acoustic wave devices. Doesn't give the level of detail as the excellent Bioconjugate Techniques, which gives a wealth of information on covalent modification of proteins, and doesn't discuss procedures for actually building or using the biosensors like Affinity Biosensors: Techniques and Protocols, but has numerous literature references for those who need more detailed and specific information, and is mainly useful as a source of ideas.

Toxic Legacy:
Synthetic Toxins in the Food, Water, and Air of American Cities
P J Sullivan et al

T his book consists mainly of a collection of tabulated data of food and water contaminants in 36 American cities. This is an important topic. Unfortunately, the data are woefully incomplete. Most of the numbers are not pollutant levels, but totals of the number of times a particular chemical was detected. But what method was used? What was the sensitivity level? Today's ultrasensitive equipment can measure vanishingly small levels of contaminants. What concentration was actually measured? What was the variability? Without this information, to say that something was "detected" is to say almost nothing at all. Any conclusions drawn from such data would be equally suspect.

Many of the numbers that do represent real quantities are also not credible. For example, Table 8-7 shows New York City with a total of 7 pounds of toxic air pollutants released between 1996 and 2001, while Baton Rouge had 32,051,286 pounds. Does this make any sense? Appendix 8, which lists toxic air pollutants by city, lists the concentrations of 42 substances for Charleston, SC, but only two substances for Binghamton, NY. Only once--in a graph showing the acrylamide concentrations in various brands of potato chips (p. 197)--is any number in the book accompanied by an estimate of error. The authors say that hot dogs and tuna are contaminated with chloroform. What hotdogs and tuna? How much chloroform? One part per billion? Ten thousand? How is anyone supposed to use data like this?

The authors say (p.13) that knowledge of chemistry is not needed to understand the toxicological implications of the data. That is true, if all you want to do is frighten uninformed people. If, on the other hand, you want to find out whether a given pollutant is a problem, you need to know a great deal of chemistry. And if, for some inscrutable reason, you wanted to know what's really happening in the environment, you would need some real numbers, and some meaningful ones. Maybe someday we will get them.

Drug Truths:
Dispelling the Myths About Pharma R&D
John L. LaMattina

I n this short, non-technical book, John LaMattina, the former president of Pfizer Global Research and Development, provides an articulate defense of the pharmaceutical industry. Says LaMattina: “Only pharmaceutical R&D discovers, develops, manufactures, tests, and demonstrates the properties of compounds that prove or disprove medical hypotheses.” LaMattina describes the stories of successful and unsuccessful drugs, including torcetrapib, a heart disease drug that Pfizer spent 15 years and 800 million dollars on, only to have it fail in Phase 3 testing. A fascinating memoir by an impressive scientist.