Coming soon to a pharmacy near you?
In 1991, graduate student Simon Friedman was studying drug design at the University of California in San Francisco. One day, he was chatting with Diana Roe, a fellow student, about one of the field's latest rages–HIV protease inhibitors designed to combat the AIDS virus–and the discussion turned to unexpected new therapies that might come from medicinal chemists. Suddenly, Roe exclaimed, "What are they going to try next? Buckyballs?" Buckyballs–microscopic, soccer ball-shaped cages made of exactly 60 carbon atoms–had been recognized just 5 years earlier. The Nobel prize was awarded in 1996 to their discoverers, who had formally named the molecule buckminsterfullerene for its resemblance to the geodesic domes of architect R. Buckminster Fuller.