Can Chicken Feathers and American Cockroaches be pharmaceutically active?

28 Jul

I’ve been writing a lot about the NPC Browser and NCGC data collection during the past few weeks. Today I was chatting about the software and content with a fellow advocate of online data for chemistry and I was asked for examples of “ridiculous content” that he might be able to refer to. He’d already read some of my earlier posts. It’s worth considering what the NPC Browser is supposed to deliver.

From the website the data collection is defined as:

What is the NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC)?

The NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC) is a comprehensive, publically-accessible collection of approved and investigational drugs for high-throughput screening that provides a valuable resource for both validating new models of disease and better understanding the molecular basis of disease pathology and intervention. The NPC has already generated several useful probes for studying a diverse cross section of biology, including novel targets and pathways. NCGC provides access to its set of approved drugs and bioactives through the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) program and as part of the compound collection for the Tox21 initiative, a collaborative effort for toxicity screening among several government agencies including the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), and the NCGC. Of the nearly 2750 small molecular entities (MEs) that have been approved for clinical use by US (FDA), EU (EMA), Japanese (NHI), and Canadian (HC) authorities and that are amenable to HTS screening, we currently possess 2400 as part of our screening collection.”

Some very interesting items have found there way into the database as mentioned previously. Sean Ekins also pointed out in a comment left out on a blog post that “American Cockroach” was also in the list. Really? Strangely enough….yes. See below.


There are many natural products that have become drugs…not so many insects though! Pop two under the tongue….likely to cause indigestion rather than cure it. drugs on the market....

Other things included in the database are listed below…all as part of the NCGC pharmaceutical collection…bear bile??? Agh



About tony

Antony (Tony) J. Williams received his BSc in 1985 from the University of Liverpool (UK) and PhD in 1988 from the University of London (UK). His PhD research interests were in studying the effects of high pressure on molecular motions within lubricant related systems using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance. He moved to Ottawa, Canada to work for the National Research Council performing fundamental research on the electron paramagnetic resonance of radicals trapped in single crystals. Following his postdoctoral position he became the NMR Facility Manager for Ottawa University. Tony joined the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester, New York as their NMR Technology Leader. He led the laboratory to develop quality control across multiple spectroscopy labs and helped establish walk-up laboratories providing NMR, LC-MS and other forms of spectroscopy to hundreds of chemists across multiple sites. This included the delivery of spectroscopic data to the desktop, automated processing and his initial interests in computer-assisted structure elucidation (CASE) systems. He also worked with a team to develop the worlds’ first web-based LIMS system, WIMS, capable of allowing chemical structure searching and spectral display. With his developing cheminformatic skills and passion for data management he left corporate America to join a small start-up company working out of Toronto, Canada. He joined ACD/Labs as their NMR Product Manager and various roles, including Chief Science Officer, during his 10 years with the company. His responsibilities included managing over 50 products at one time prior to developing a product management team, managing sales, marketing, technical support and technical services. ACD/Labs was one of Canada’s Fast 50 Tech Companies, and Forbes Fast 500 companies in 2001. His primary passions during his tenure with ACD/Labs was the continued adoption of web-based technologies and developing automated structure verification and elucidation platforms. While at ACD/Labs he suggested the possibility of developing a public resource for chemists attempting to integrate internet available chemical data. He finally pursued this vision with some close friends as a hobby project in the evenings and the result was the ChemSpider database ( Even while running out of a basement on hand built servers the website developed a large community following that eventually culminated in the acquisition of the website by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. Tony joined the organization, together with some of the other ChemSpider team, and became their Vice President of Strategic Development. At RSC he continued to develop cheminformatics tools, specifically ChemSpider, and was the technical lead for the chemistry aspects of the Open PHACTS project (, a project focused on the delivery of open data, open source and open systems to support the pharmaceutical sciences. He was also the technical lead for the UK National Chemical Database Service ( and the RSC lead for the PharmaSea project ( attempting to identify novel natural products from the ocean. He left RSC in 2015 to become a Computational Chemist in the National Center of Computational Toxicology at the Environmental Protection Agency where he is bringing his skills to bear working with a team on the delivery of a new software architecture for the management and delivery of data, algorithms and visualization tools. The “Chemistry Dashboard” was released on April 1st, no fooling, at, and provides access to over 700,000 chemicals, experimental and predicted properties and a developing link network to support the environmental sciences. Tony remains passionate about computer-assisted structure elucidation and verification approaches and continues to publish in this area. He is also passionate about teaching scientists to benefit from the developing array of social networking tools for scientists and is known as the ChemConnector on the networks. Over the years he has had adjunct roles at a number of institutions and presently enjoys working with scientists at both UNC Chapel Hill and NC State University. He is widely published with over 200 papers and book chapters and was the recipient of the Jim Gray Award for eScience in 2012. In 2016 he was awarded the North Carolina ACS Distinguished Speaker Award.

3 Responses to Can Chicken Feathers and American Cockroaches be pharmaceutically active?

  1. Ajit Jadhav

    July 30, 2011 at 7:40 am

    Tony, Thanks for the amusing post. See here for more details of one example, american cockroach, which is Antigen Laboratories’ allergenic extract:

    And we can go on. But I would rather keep moving in a forward direction in life.

    Regarding NPC… in case if it’s not clear yet, the collection is a small subset of HTS amenable compounds. The other content in the NPC Browser is supplementary.

    Regarding you and Sean Ekins, you guys should go on the road as a comedic duo act. After all the serious scientific talks, the two of you can be the entertainment. One can be called Spinning and the other can be called Wheel.

    I will volunteer to do the drum rolls for you 🙂

    Gents, have fun working. Or… spinning if you enjoy that more. Apparently, the NPC Browser has hit a nerve in each of you. So I will check back on the blog to see what other entertainment you’re dishing out. The more outrageous, the better! It just reveals more about you than the NPC Browser 🙂


  2. tony

    July 30, 2011 at 9:37 pm

    Ajit…thanks for the compliment! Sean and I do try and keep our posts humorous and engaging. From my side it must be my improv training at NRACT : A number of fun evenings and encouraged for all if you get the chance. Improv is great fun so if you can find a local class try it.

    NPC was not ORINGINALLY described as a small set of HTS amenable compounds according to the Science Trans Med paper that describes it. According to the paper, and I quote “…the NCGC Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC) – a definitive collection of drugs registered or approved for use use in humans or animals. It also states that the NPC is the most comprehensive and accurate exposition to date of MEs registered or approved for human or vetinary use worldwide. Having reviewed a subset of structures related to a particular class of compounds, over 140 entities, with a >70% failure in “accuracy”, I have to question this statement. I judge that the Merck Index (book form or electronic form) is a better collection. In case you are not aware of this resource details are:

    “”Although competition for this reference work continues to grow, The Merck Index remains probably the best source for one-stop shopping for the data and information that it contains. The editorial process is ongoing, and the data and information continues to be evaluated, expanded, and corrected where needed. The quality of the contents in one concise volume makes TMI the premier work of its kind.”
    — Robert E. Buntrock”

    I” chat with Sean tomorrow about doing some type of TED talk …maybe we’ll call it BOB, regarding the quality of data in public domain databases. I think you are would be fun. The NPC Browser is an excellent example of the quality that haunts public domain data sources. The database I work with, ChemSpider, also has numerous issues in terms of data content…but we have over 26 million chemicals from over 400 data sources and have inherited many issues. We’ve done a good, but of course imperfect job cleaning up the data. It’s a long process. The job to clean up the NPC browser should be much faster as you could collaborate easily with the NCA resolver team, PubChem etc and it would clean up a lot of the issues quickly. And since it’s all US tax dollars all of these systems working together would bring you to a better conclusion faster one would hope. That said, maybe that collaboration is already in place. Markus Sitzmann in particular would be a great person to consult in regards to the drugs.

    Thanks for the feedback Ajit. Much appreciated. It would be good to see you at the National Meeting at NCI in August. Will someone for your group be presenting there? Cheers


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.