A memoir of the extraordinary life and circumstances that led the author to the groundbreaking discovery of Remicade, which successfully treats two previously untreatable autoimmune diseases, Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2013, Vilcek (editor: American Odysseys: Writings by New Americans, 2012, etc.) was awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Barack Obama for his discovery, which utilized a protein naturally produced in the human body's defense system against tumors. In that year, Remicade was reported to be “the second-highest selling drug in the world, with sales of $10.1 billion.” Born in 1933 to a middle-class Jewish family in what is now Slovakia, Vilcek and his family were among the relatively few Jews to escape the Holocaust while remaining in Czechoslovakia. In his estimate, this was due to the family's decision to convert to Catholicism and his father's position as a business executive. In 1948, Czechoslovakia was taken over by communists, and the author and his family were forced to adjust to the new totalitarian regime. After attending medical school, Vilcek married and pursued a research career in the upcoming field of virology. He established contacts with Western researchers who facilitated the publication of his work. Despite the fact that he had launched a productive career, he and his wife wanted to escape the oppressive political regime. With help from Western friends, Vilcek was invited to join the faculty at New York University's School of Medicine, where he ran his own laboratory. His continued effort to find a treatment for autoimmune diseases proved successful and resulted in the commercial development of Remicade, which received FDA approval in 2000. His share of royalties has allowed him and his wife to sponsor careers in science and the arts.
Vilcek artfully joins the chronicle of his scientific work and the dramatic events that punctuated his life under two totalitarian regimes, culminating in his flight to freedom. An inspiring page-turner.