Economy and Your Research: Carpets and Oligos

Do you believe in six-degrees of separation? If you really don’t care how close you are related to Roger Tsien or Bill Gates or the dean of your graduate school, maybe you are still curious about how the economy downturn, oil production, and floor carpet production got to do with you–not just in the sense how the job market is shaping up, but also how your lab research budget and how your DNA oligos are served.

To illustrate how events far and away can influence your daily activities, just use oligos as an example. Starting in 2008 when the oil price was still near its peak (remember paying $4+/gallon?), it became too expensive for carpet producers to continue using petroleum for manufacturing carpets. They switched to some other source or halted business altogether. Side effect was production and supply of Acetonitrile (ACN) dried up. Yes, one of the most commonly used organic solvent is a by-product from making carpets. That, combined with facility shutdowns in Northern China in preparation of the summer Olympics (for clean air) and in Florida by a major hurricane, the price of 4 liters of Acetonitrile changed from ~$40 to about $400 plus lots of begging. This event alone pushed individual customer based (as compared to large scale or prefabricated) oligo businesses like Allele’s to be at a loss.

Eventually the situation changed, price went back to about $90/4L, but not before a long period when Acetonitrile was completely unavailable and alternative solvent had to be used. Long story short, that was some storm to whether! If you didn’t feel it in price or service from Allele Oligo, good, that means we did a fair job shielding the wind and shouldering the pressure from the collapsing roof.

Everything really is connected, sometimes by a few degrees less than you would imagine.

Allele’s mottos: care about the environment, help everybody whenever we can, do the right thing even when nobody is looking, have fun, and contribute to the good of mankind through science and innovation.

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Friday, August 14th, 2009 oligos and cloning, State of Research

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