|MadSci Network: Chemistry|
The short answer is "yes." There are a number of factors that influence the cost of a reagent. COST OF SYNTHESIS: Especially for natural products, the synthetic procedure can be multi-step and require dozens of hours on the part of a highly-talented (although never highly paid) laboratory technician. There might be scores of different reagents used. COST OF PURIFICATION: Making it might be simple, but getting it pure is often the greatest challenge. It might require tedious distillation or huge quantities of expensive silica gel for chromatography, plus the cost of solvents and the cleaning of glassware when done. COST OF ANALYSIS: We must make sure we have the right material before we send it out. That might require nuclear magnetic resonance or infrared spectroscopy, and possibly mass spectral analysis. Both the identity and the purity must be certified. All of these things cost in both time and money. COST OF SHIPMENT: Sometimes to make the stuff here is so expensive that companies will look for it abroad. They might be able to import it from another country, but that requires import duties. They also must be licensed to transport hazardous materials, and very likely must employ one or more people simply to handle placarding and permitting and other shipping issues. COST OF WASTE DISPOSAL: Now that the material is made and purified, we have to get rid of the waste that was generated. That might include flammable solvents, heavy metal reagents (like osmium tetroxide or amalgams), highly toxic materials, etc. These can be incredibly expensive to haul away. MARKET: Remember, chemicals are sold on an open market, which means there is competition, and for some chemicals, a lot of competition. A company cannot afford to inflate the price of an individual reagent beyond a reasonable profit margin, because it will not take long for its competitors to start undercutting it on the cost. As for leptin itself, I cannot answer with any authority, because I do not know the actual manufacturing costs. But considering the structure of leptin, I would say that $45 for half a milligram is actually very cheap. Leptin is a rather lengthy protein: MHWGTLCGFLWLWPYLFYVQAVPIQKVQDDTKTLIKTIVTRINDISHTQSVSSKQKVTGLDFIPGLHPIL TLSKMDQTLAVYQQILTSMPSRNVIQISNDLENLRDLLHVLAFSKSCHLPWASGLETLDSLGGVLEASGY STEVVALSRLQGSLQDMLWQLDLSPGC Each of those letters represents an amino acid. The synthesis of this material can be accomplished on an automated protein synthesizer, but it is going to take a very long time, and will require relatively large quantities of reagents.
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