A fine account of a medical tour de force.
The story of the development of the first effective Covid-19 vaccine.
Readers of Gregory Zuckerman’s excellent A Shot To Save the World learned about the complex mix of unparalleled science, rampant ambition, and fierce competition that led to the creation of a viable vaccine. Miller, the Frankfurt correspondent for the Financial Times who reported on the scientific race, tells a different but equally gripping story that emphasizes aggressive German startup BioNTech, founded by the brilliant husband-and-wife team of Türeci and Şahin. Miller narrates the story, which begins in January 2020 with the workaholic Şahin noting a news story about the emergence of a “novel respiratory illness” in Wuhan, China, that was not yet concerning world epidemiologists. What disturbed him was evidence that healthy people could carry the virus and transmit it, unlike previous (and short-lived) epidemics of SARS and MERS in 2002. Using his experience and calculations, he concluded that it was likely the beginning of a global pandemic. Of course, he was correct, although the World Health Organization didn’t come around until six weeks later. Şahin predicted perhaps 3 million deaths; the number is now over 4 million. At the time, BioNTech concentrated on anti-cancer drugs and was struggling financially. Yet Türeci and Şahin convinced executives (who controlled the money) to change course and devote their entire force to making a vaccine. There follows a vivid, complex (sometimes overly so) description of the frantic 10 months that followed as the company dealt with the political, immunological, technical, statistical, and public relations problems of bringing a radical new vaccine to market in record time. Remarkably, they succeeded. In mass testing of 170 individuals who were infected with Covid-19, only 8 had received the vaccine—a success rate of 95%. Pfizer had worked with BioNTech, especially in the testing and marketing approval process, so many Americans know it as the Pfizer vaccine, but it was conceived in Germany by two Turkish-born scientists.A fine account of a medical tour de force.
Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022
Page Count: 288
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022
Share your opinion of this book
by Walter Isaacson ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
A warts-and-all portrait of the famed techno-entrepreneur—and the warts are nearly beyond counting.
To call Elon Musk (b. 1971) “mercurial” is to undervalue the term; to call him a genius is incorrect. Instead, Musk has a gift for leveraging the genius of others in order to make things work. When they don’t, writes eminent biographer Isaacson, it’s because the notoriously headstrong Musk is so sure of himself that he charges ahead against the advice of others: “He does not like to share power.” In this sharp-edged biography, the author likens Musk to an earlier biographical subject, Steve Jobs. Given Musk’s recent political turn, born of the me-first libertarianism of the very rich, however, Henry Ford also comes to mind. What emerges clearly is that Musk, who may or may not have Asperger’s syndrome (“Empathy did not come naturally”), has nurtured several obsessions for years, apart from a passion for the letter X as both a brand and personal name. He firmly believes that “all requirements should be treated as recommendations”; that it is his destiny to make humankind a multi-planetary civilization through innovations in space travel; that government is generally an impediment and that “the thought police are gaining power”; and that “a maniacal sense of urgency” should guide his businesses. That need for speed has led to undeniable successes in beating schedules and competitors, but it has also wrought disaster: One of the most telling anecdotes in the book concerns Musk’s “demon mode” order to relocate thousands of Twitter servers from Sacramento to Portland at breakneck speed, which trashed big parts of the system for months. To judge by Isaacson’s account, that may have been by design, for Musk’s idea of creative destruction seems to mean mostly chaos.Alternately admiring and critical, unvarnished, and a closely detailed account of a troubled innovator.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 688
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
Share your opinion of this book
The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.
The chef, rapper, and TV host serves up a blustery memoir with lashings of self-help.
“I’ve always had a sick confidence,” writes Bronson, ne Ariyan Arslani. The confidence, he adds, comes from numerous sources: being a New Yorker, and more specifically a New Yorker from Queens; being “short and fucking husky” and still game for a standoff on the basketball court; having strength, stamina, and seemingly no fear. All these things serve him well in the rough-and-tumble youth he describes, all stickball and steroids. Yet another confidence-builder: In the big city, you’ve got to sink or swim. “No one is just accepted—you have to fucking show that you’re able to roll,” he writes. In a narrative steeped in language that would make Lenny Bruce blush, Bronson recounts his sentimental education, schooled by immigrant Italian and Albanian family members and the mean streets, building habits good and bad. The virtue of those habits will depend on your take on modern mores. Bronson writes, for example, of “getting my dick pierced” down in the West Village, then grabbing a pizza and smoking weed. “I always smoke weed freely, always have and always will,” he writes. “I’ll just light a blunt anywhere.” Though he’s gone through the classic experiences of the latter-day stoner, flunking out and getting arrested numerous times, Bronson is a hard charger who’s not afraid to face nearly any challenge—especially, given his physique and genes, the necessity of losing weight: “If you’re husky, you’re always dieting in your mind,” he writes. Though vulgar and boastful, Bronson serves up a model that has plenty of good points, including his growing interest in nature, creativity, and the desire to “leave a legacy for everybody.”The lessons to draw are obvious: Smoke more dope, eat less meat. Like-minded readers will dig it.
Pub Date: April 20, 2021
Page Count: 184
Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021
Share your opinion of this book
Hey there, book lover.
We’re glad you found a book that interests you!