My question is: Does the position of the word "Targeted" change the meaning of these phrases: targeted protein degrader and protein-targeted degrader?

Also, please explain what is the meaning of the word "hits" in this sentence: targeted protein degrader hits the clinic.

Thank you.

  • 1
    The second sentence using "hits" is ambiguous. It could mean "targeted protein degrader is now available at the clinic", or it could mean "targeted protein degrader damages the clinic's business." What is a "targeted protein degrader" anyway? May 29, 2020 at 9:11
  • Hi, Thanks for your help. About your question: protein degrader is a small molecular that can target disease-causing proteins, such as cancer-causing proteins, to send it to trash. It's a new therapeutic. Instead of inhibiting a protein’s activity by blocking its active site, protein degraded breaks the proteins down entirely. I read it in here: nature.com/articles/d41573-019-00043-6 May 29, 2020 at 9:33
  • Whether or not 'protein-targeted degrader' is the more logical according to 'rules' of morphology, one has to look at how idiomatic usages are. Idiomaticity (and not logic / patterning) rules: English is usage-driven. 'Chinese checkers' isn't a form of checkers, nor did it originate in China. Panama hats come from Ecuador. Catgut has never been made from the guts of cats, but from those of sheep. Peanuts aren't nuts. And "I only want to see Thursday's figures" is what most people would say when 'grammar demands' "I want to see only Thursday's figures". So, which form is used? Both? May 29, 2020 at 10:47

1 Answer 1


1) I think it does change the meaning of the sentence considerably. In your first case i.e. targeted protein degrader means that the protein degrader is targeting some random thing, but it doesn't specify what.

In your second sentence i.e. protein-targeted degrader, it specifies that the degrader is targeted towards proteins specifically and not anything else. Also, here the degrader is assumed to be separate from a protein degrader and if they are the same things, then both sentences convey the same thing. So, in short, it depends on where you want to use these words and what are their applications.

2) Hits the clinic in this context doesn't literally mean 'hitting the clinic' :P, which is pretty obvious from the way it has been used. Here, it means that when the protein degrader arrives at clinic or when it has reached the clinic for using it in various purposes or simply when it is available for use at the clinic, as pointed out by @Weather Vane.


Edit: After the comment from the OP, I think the whole first point becomes moot. If they are the same things, then there should be no difference to the overall structure of the sentence and thus, both of them seem appropriate to me. But if I were I you, I'd still use the protein-targeted degrader as it simply sounds better than the other usage. Also, it shows the specificity in great detail, which may be required.

  • Hi, really appreciate your help. 1/ Yeah, i believe degrader and protein degraded are the same things. May 29, 2020 at 9:38
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    I wouldn't have been too happy with 'building-, antenna-, span- or Earth-jumping', but the [hemi-?]acronym works and is the accepted term. We have to be aware of what people actually use, not just the guidelines, 'rules' of English. If someone calls a quad bike a quad bike, and it catches on, that's the proper way to accept additions to the lexicon. The question is, what did the discoverers / researchers / inventors call the thing, and is that what most people now call it? What have you found? May 29, 2020 at 11:59
  • As I see it: targeted protein degrader – something that degrades protein(s) and is capable of being directed (or is designed) so as not to degrade other relevant material. ++ protein-targeted degrader – a degrader that is aimed specifically at protein(s) and may or may not affect other material.
    – Greybeard
    May 29, 2020 at 13:22
  • I'm inclined to agree with @Greybeard on his comment here, but I'll still leave it to the OP on the specifics of the instrument here, as they may be knowing better as to what is the correct term in reality. May 29, 2020 at 14:08
  • Your answer was more accurate before you added the edit. Now it reads, in its entirety, as if you aren't sure of yourself—or as if the first paragraph is wrong. However, I believe that your first paragraph is mostly right. It's not the case that hyphenation makes no difference to parsing a phrase. (And it's not simply that its "sounds better.") Wherever there's any chance of ambiguity, hyphenation is essential. The particular phrase in the question isn't nearly as unambiguous as "hot dog," so hyphenation is critical—unless its being read by a group of people who could have no doubt. May 29, 2020 at 16:08

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