Colorful, packed with facts and delivering a clear message: that the risks of investing in biotechnology aren't just...

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THE BILLION-DOLLAR MOLECULE

ONE COMPANY'S QUEST FOR THE PERFECT DRUG

A you-are-there account of the turbulent early days of Vertex, a high-tech, high-risk biotechnology firm.

Werth (a freelance science and business writer) spent nearly four years following the travails of Vertex, where he seemingly had considerable access to its inner workings. His story begins in 1989, shortly after the company was launched with $10 million in venture capital—and with a plan to design superior new drugs, atom by atom if necessary. Vertex's chief, the brilliant and exuberant chemist Joshua Boger, is convinced that the company can design a safer immunosuppressive drug and capture the multimillion-dollar-a-year transplant market. Doing so will require brains, time, and lots of money, but Boger brings together the brains and raises the money that buys the time. Negotiating with pharmaceutical firms in England (Glaxo) and Japan (Chugai), he gives Vertex temporary financial security by striking a deal with Chugai and, in 1991, he takes Vertex public. Meanwhile, back at the lab, it turns out that the scientific side of the firm's endeavors aren't as straightforward as Boger's presentations to would-be investors might suggest: There are complications, rivalries, disappointments, and no end of technical problems, and, at the conclusion of the narrative, Vertex still has no product to sell, although its expectations remain high. Throughout, Werth—adept at explaining both science and business—provides enough history to anchor the present, and peoples his story with memorable characters: Besides the energetic, charismatic Boger and his crew of talented, eccentric, overworked chemists and biologists, notable are Harvard researcher Stuart Schreiber—exasperating as a colleague, devastating as a rival—and aging transplant-wizard Thomas Starzl (The Puzzle People, 1992).

Colorful, packed with facts and delivering a clear message: that the risks of investing in biotechnology aren't just high—they're stratospheric.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-72327-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1993

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Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

STILLNESS IS THE KEY

An exploration of the importance of clarity through calmness in an increasingly fast-paced world.

Austin-based speaker and strategist Holiday (Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue, 2018, etc.) believes in downshifting one’s life and activities in order to fully grasp the wonder of stillness. He bolsters this theory with a wide array of perspectives—some based on ancient wisdom (one of the author’s specialties), others more modern—all with the intent to direct readers toward the essential importance of stillness and its “attainable path to enlightenment and excellence, greatness and happiness, performance as well as presence.” Readers will be encouraged by Holiday’s insistence that his methods are within anyone’s grasp. He acknowledges that this rare and coveted calm is already inside each of us, but it’s been worn down by the hustle of busy lives and distractions. Recognizing that this goal requires immense personal discipline, the author draws on the representational histories of John F. Kennedy, Buddha, Tiger Woods, Fred Rogers, Leonardo da Vinci, and many other creative thinkers and scholarly, scientific texts. These examples demonstrate how others have evolved past the noise of modern life and into the solitude of productive thought and cleansing tranquility. Holiday splits his accessible, empowering, and sporadically meandering narrative into a three-part “timeless trinity of mind, body, soul—the head, the heart, the human body.” He juxtaposes Stoic philosopher Seneca’s internal reflection and wisdom against Donald Trump’s egocentric existence, with much of his time spent “in his bathrobe, ranting about the news.” Holiday stresses that while contemporary life is filled with a dizzying variety of “competing priorities and beliefs,” the frenzy can be quelled and serenity maintained through a deliberative calming of the mind and body. The author shows how “stillness is what aims the arrow,” fostering focus, internal harmony, and the kind of holistic self-examination necessary for optimal contentment and mind-body centeredness. Throughout the narrative, he promotes that concept mindfully and convincingly.

A timely, vividly realized reminder to slow down and harness the restorative wonders of serenity.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-53858-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Portfolio

Review Posted Online: July 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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