Article with David Nichols

This is the start of the international year of chemistry, intended to celebrate the contribution of my field to mankind's well-being. Yet, during the previous year it has become disturbingly clear to me that some of my scientific contributions may not be aiding people's well-being at all. In fact, they could be causing real harm.

A few weeks ago, a colleague sent me a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal. It described a "laboratory-adept European entrepreneur" and his chief chemist, who were mining the scientific literature to find ideas for new designer drugs - dubbed legal highs. I was particularly disturbed to see my name in the article, and that I had "been especially valuable" to their cause. I subsequently received e-mails saying I should stop my research, and that I was an embarrassment to my university.

Read more: Legal highs: the dark side of medicinal chemistry

 

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