Swapping A Test Tube For A Shotgun

Back in the mid-1980s, Australian scientist H. Mario Geysen was a prophet without a following. He had figured out a way to rapidly combine molecular building blocks in many different ways--an approach known as combinatorial chemistry. While conventional chemists could synthesize only a few dozen druglike compounds a year, he could churn out thousands of protein fragments called peptides in a few weeks. That offered a possible cure for one of the pharmaceutical industry's biggest headaches: discovering new drug candidates. The industry's response? A resounding yawn. "We couldn't get the message across," recalls Geysen.

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