The trail of inspiration that led to the bullring

Just because I'm not a natural science illustrator (by that I mean an illustrator of natural science, not a science illustrator who comes by it naturally, which I like to think I am) doesn't mean I'm never inspired by macroscopic nature. A while ago on a trip with our son to the San Diego Zoo, I saw a spiral-horned antelope for the first time, and I had a feeling that I was going to want to invoke this beautiful helical-headed beast at some point. Months later, it popped into my head when I was tasked with creating cover art to highlight a technology in which peptides are conjugated with relatively short strands of polyethylene glycol (PEG) to increase their half-life intracellularly. Adding PEG to increase the half-life of proteins is common enough, but part of what sets this work apart is that exactly two chains are added to the peptide, and they are smaller than the peptide itself. Once on, they protect the peptide from proteases that will mercilessly destroy them should the peptide happen to get in their way (see the animal stampede in the distance?). But I wasn't reminded of the antelope until I was doing a little reading about the structure of PEG for this project, and learned that it takes on a somewhat helical structure in solution. From there, the rest of the analogy fell into place. That said, what this sketch did was to spark an idea in the client's mind to swap the antelope for a bull chasing a matador (the target of the peptide) while itself being chased by picadors (proteases). Which means I can keep the antelope in my back pocket for a little while longer!