Org Prep Daily

August 23, 2017

Breaking Bad in South Florida (4)

Filed under: Uncategorized — milkshake @ 6:28 pm

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. If you find any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, deadly or lively, or actual molecules, carbons or heteroatoms, it is purely coincidental.

Part 4

(Here is Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Part 5)

It is pretty certain that our CEO did manufacture some ecstasy before the fire in March 2014. Even as he was deleting his NMR files, he was careless with the temp files stored in the console and he occasionally also left his NMR sample tube in the magnet. My cranky senior chemistry colleague told me that he saw his spectra and that he even re-run NMRs on some of the samples he found after the CEO. Clearly, there was MDMA even if the purity wasn’t great, maybe 80-85%. We could only speculate how much the CEO managed to produce – but couple months before he was into the final stage already, with methylamine and Al foil reductive aminaton, and he was doing the preceding Wacker oxidation step with oxygen gas. (The research director bought an oxygen tank and regulator for our CEO so they weren’t using benzoquinone in the Wacker oxidation step anymore.)

My guess is that the duo – our CEO with the technician – probably wasted most of the precursor, the one kilo of methylenedioxy benzene that the CEO bought the summer before (and had to retrieve from the DEA), and they needed more. But even with all their bumbling attempts they would have produced at least something useful from it, to get our technician excited enough to try ordering the precursor through the university purchasing system. It is only my speculation. Either way, the university confiscated the new bottles and our CEO wasn’t going to buy the stuff again, not after these two very near busts.

When he moved back to his lab after the fire, for a while he was spending less time there, his previously feverish MDMA work slacked probably due to lack of starting material. He also had some problems with his back injury so running long experiments wasn’t easy on him physically. But he was still working in the lab and continued to be interested in drugs: One day I noticed two new unopened bottles from TCI – we rarely used this chemical supplier but our CEO somehow felt it was easier to order from them since they did not ask too many questions. (At least that is what he told to our technician who shared this great insight with my old cranky chemist colleague.) The new bottles contained m-methoxy phenylacetonitrile and bis(2-chlorethyl)methylamine hydrochloride, aka nitrogen mustard mechlorethamin.

I recognized that this stuff was a material intended for making ketobemidone or some other similar pethidine opioid analog. I went to the CEO and explained what could happen if he spilled even a tip of spatula of that water-soluble nitrogen mustard blister agent around the balances and left it there without cleaning up the spill – I asked him to never bring that shit into our main chemistry lab. And he did not; it stayed unopened until we departed from the company.

The next thing I remember, our CEO ordered materials for making synthetic tropane alkaloids, namely cocaine, and left it in shared storage cabinets in his lab. He got a big bottle of acetonedicarboxylic acid, and also 2,5-dimethoxytetrahydrofurane. But only the bottle of acetonedicarboxylic acid was opened: my senior chemistry colleague later told me that our CEO was fruitlessly trying to make monomethyl ester of acetonedicarboxylic acid and he did not manage to avoid its decarboxylation during workup and so he wasn’t getting anywhere. But he was still trying, more than half year after the very near bust by the police. At this point I just walked to our research director and gave him an ultimatum – I was leaving for Germany, to oversee a technology transfer to our GMP manufacturing partner and when I am back I want this private project to be over, clean and gone.

And it worked – I came back from the trip and the clandestine drug work had already ended. But just before my departure to Freiburg, the CEO came to me and said in a hurt voice that he was always my biggest supporter at the company and that I should think twice before crossing him… (Even after the two near busts, the ass-covering research director had to tell the CEO that it was me who was now forcing him to stop.) And so, by the end of November of 2014 the drug making at our little company finally came to end. Only the coverups and screwups kept piling on.

I have good memories of the first half of 2015. The clinical candidate we bought with the small virtual biotech had atrocious manufacturing problems but I did manage to come up with a reasonably scaleup-friendly alternative route and the management loved it. I was also scaling up intermediates for another clinical candidate project and was told that soon we should have money to do a GMP campaign and go to clinic.

Then all of sudden without warning, the management fired my friend – the best biologist at the company – and they did it because they disliked data he produced. His results flew in the face of the simplistic descriptions of our technology as advertised to the prospective investors and buyers, and the management wanted to suppress the findings. On Friday morning meeting, he presented his unfavorable data about our clinical candidate and by the next Monday morning he was already made redundant.

I don’t know if our management considered the one minor problem when firing the biologist and censoring his study: that his office and biology lab space was adjoining the satellite lab where our CEO was cooking drugs; my friend had a front-row view of what went on in there. He was going to use it now against the company. And his wife was a lawyer – before the maternity leave she used to be a partner at a major law firm suing insurance fraudsters on behalf of the insurance companies. It was gonna be awesome.





  1. Wow. That last part of the story was such an unexpected plot twist. It must have been hard for you to suppress your urge to inform us of this fictious story this whole time.

    Comment by andyun19920608 — August 23, 2017 @ 10:06 pm

    • no, I think the plot twist was quite predictable. Anyone who watched the original Breaking Bad series knows that when you get into the drug manufacturing business you cannot risk disgruntled ex-employees

      Comment by milkshake — August 23, 2017 @ 10:15 pm

  2. Did CEO buy an RV finally?

    Comment by Slava Bernat — August 24, 2017 @ 12:54 pm

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