Oh HELL no! (update)

Let me just publicly express my fury with Anaspec. They are a peptide reagent company, and sell a number of products to use in peptide synthesis. I have had MANY problems with them over the years, including a $2500 batch of a biotinylated lysine that was sold to us that wouldn't dissolve in the normal solvents and wouldn't couple onto the resin, wasting us thousands of dollars beyond the purchase price of that reagent because of all the failed syntheses and troubleshooting we had to do. Their response? "Our quality control says it's fine, so you must be doing something wrong." Our response? Buy the product from someone else, it dissolves fine and couples beautifully.

Now, these folks recently sold us a bottle of Fmoc-protected phosphotyrosine. My students, at the time still pretty inexperienced in this stuff, tried using it and it wouldn't couple onto their peptides--they kept getting 100% TMG termination where it was supposed to be. TMG termination is what happens when you have an excess of your coupling reagent (when using the uronium salt reagents) over your amino acid. The students say "Well, it looks funny, like it isn't dissolving." I look at their bottle of reagent: IT IS RESIN. Little polymer beads of RESIN. We check it under a microscope: RESIN. Someone at Anaspec dispensed some unknown resin into the bottle that was supposed to contain Fmoc-phosphotyrosine. We take some pictures, get ready to argue.

My student initiates a complaint. They "look into it." They respond that "Our lot is fine." and DO NOT REPLACE THE PRODUCT.

Meanwhile, I am on maternity leave with lots of other things to worry about. I forget about it until today, I ask my student what ever happened about that. He tells me their response. OH HELL NO! You are not getting away with sending us RESIN in place of a material because someone in your company f'ed it up. Sure, your bulk lot of that stuff probably IS fine, because THAT ISN'T WHAT YOU PUT INTO THE BOTTLE. You put something else into the bottle. And whoever did that must be a total moron, because anyone who understands chemicals (especially peptide chemicals) should be able to recognize IMMEDIATELY that the stuff looks more like a polymer bead resin than a white powder. SERIOUSLY, who do you have working there dispensing this stuff?

I am ready to blow a gasket on these people, and they WILL be replacing this with AT LEAST ONE bottle of the actual material. And they will NOT be getting our business again, so help me gawd.

UPDATE: Ah ha, it turns out their QC manager (who managed our initial complaint) left, and the position was vacant for a while. The new guy says he'll replace the stuff right away and hopefully get us the right material this time! They get some points back for how promptly they have responded to me now.


I have been changing so many diapers that I've got the "Desitin finger." This 40% zinc oxide cream is all embedded in my pointer finger cracks, and deeply ingrained under my fingernail. The grossest part? I realized it after I absentmindedly chewed on my fingernail and tasted the weird soapy Desitin taste. Then also remembered that the reason it's covered in Desitin is because I wipe it on my baby's butt. Eeeeeeeeeew.

Repost: The Fate Game II

Repost: A year ago last week I saw my cousin for the last time. A year ago this week I wrote the following post. A year ago three weekends from now, she died. I still cry a little bit every time I remember that she is gone.

If she had gotten sick this year or next instead of five years ago, I would never have had to write this post because she would have had the health insurance to cover her diagnosis in time. Would have, could have, SHOULD HAVE. Thank you America for finally getting serious about figuring this mess of a system out, but don't get complacent because our lives depend on it working.

Miracles can happen. No, not that I've seen one recently. But I heard a story on the radio this morning (from NPR's Story Corps) about a little boy whose life was saved. It was told by a man who had been the little boy, the story of a time when he leant out of his family's five-story window a little too far and lost his grip, a fall he never would have survived, except for the barber neighbor who had come home from work early that day and was at the door to the building just at that moment. In the right place at precisely the right time. He quickly ripped off his jacket, reached out, and caught the boy (who was presumably only about 5.5 ft from the ground by then). He saved the little boy's life, and it became the most important moment in his own life, as well. A miracle for both of them, this unfathomable chance of random events coming together.

This is the kind of miracle I can believe in: the wonder and amazement of the what-ifs, the literally fantastic luck of timing. When the tragic action (of a car, of a slip or fall, of a cell, of a clot) is caught by the reaction of someone with a jacket, who just happened to be there at the right time. Where there is simply an action and a reaction, and no claim of one or the other without its partner. This is the kind of miracle that isn't there for so many, all the people who wonder "Why me?" or "Why her?" So many opportunities for a different fate, missed by miles or by hairs, the extent is no comfort because the outcome is the same.

This is how I feel right now: I have been walking, trying to run, down this street towards the building, watching her fall inexorably and slowly for more than three years like time is molasses. I don't even have a jacket on, and it took so long to process what I was seeing (and denial is so powerful), and I wasn't there at the window and I wasn't there to see the hand slip and I wasn't there to grab it. And nobody else was there either: the doctors guarding the windows failed in their jobs to watch over and test the windows against this possibility (was it their hubris? ignorance? or the age-old problem of who is going to pay for it?). Why do some of these goddamn windows have so many guardians and others are barely noticed? Some very, very good people have tried in vain to reach out and catch from other windows along the way down, like her parents running from floor to floor to floor. Good people set up experimental superstrong magnets that they are trialing to see if they can use to slow the fall or even stop time. But none of these things have worked. We needed either for the windows to be better guarded or for someone to have been there with a jacket at the very first fall of the very first cells going wrong and pumping out cortisol THAT WAS THERE IN HER BLOOD FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE IF ANYONE HAD JUST LOOKED. There would have been the time to catch her, and change the course of history.

So here we are now, there is still room for hope. Hope that at the most, the fall is slowed enough to give her time to look around and enjoy the feeling of flying, the beautiful sunshine outside, and all the people down there reaching out their ineffectual arms wishing they could catch her with the sheer force of their love. And at the very least, hope that with the here and now, our unique position in history, that we are on the cusp of something better. We have the opportunity and are beginning to develop the understanding to create tools to be there, at the right place and the right time, when they need it and before it is too late. All we can do is hope for the miraculous: that we are there, with our jackets out, ready to catch people.