Wow, there is nothing like a multi-year-ago-pre-scoop to fire up a blinding case of imposter syndrome even in the most confident researcher. Remember when I found out about getting scooped on one of our proof-of-concept manuscripts a little while ago? And I said oh well, "at least I guess it's better than finding a really old paper that shows you are a dumbass." Well, yeah--I'm a dumbass.
I just got a rejection email from a relatively high impact journal for a different paper we submitted on a different proof-of-concept. This proof-of-concept is the basis for my K99/R00 project (which, luckily, expands upon it dramatically, which I guess was why it was fundable). In the review, the referee said that the work was good but someone had already done it before. They gave me the reference. From 2004. 2004. In the world of technology development, that is last fricking century. I was but a baby chemist starting a postdoc and just learning what enzymes even DO at that point.
Sure, we had two potential novel and exciting aspects--but only mentioned as the next extension, not actually demonstrated yet for various reasons. One of which is that reagent I complained about before that lost 1000-fold sensitivity in the new lot, and for which there is no good replacement product. So, as I correctly stressed about, not being able to show that part of the method sufficiently was a big deal.
But the worst part is, HOW, in all my literature scouring for my K99 project, how did I miss that paper? Were the keywords just totally wacked out? Was the title somehow not close enough to what I was searching for? (It sure as hell looks like it is). I do not understand what my problem was, that I never saw this until now. I'm also weirded out that nobody else I have talked to, in the three years since conceiving of and starting to present about this project in various forums, has mentioned this pre-empt on a crucial aspect of the technology. Could it be true that nobody else knew either besides this reviewer??? No, of course not. It's in a good journal. It's from a good research group. SO WHY DIDN'T I SEE THIS BEFORE TRYING TO SUBMIT A MANUSCRIPT THAT SAYS THE SAME DAMN THING?
This is the stress of publishing in the technology development world. In chemistry, reviewers can give you trouble because they didn't understand what you did or the impact of it. In biology, reviewers will argue with you about your interpretation of your data, insisting you do 16 more controls and change the fundamental scope of your project. In technology development, people will point out to you that somebody already f'ing did what you are trying to report.
And in chemical biology, you get all f'ing THREE of those things pressing in on your impact and ability to publish. That tool who said chemical biology was easy for the "special people" can go suck it.