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The Billion Dollar Molecule: One Company's Quest for the Perfect Drug Paperback – March 1, 1995

4.4 out of 5 stars 38 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

From test tubes to the Wall Street IPO and beyond, this is the riveting true story of a start-up pharmaceutical company working to create an anti-AIDS drug. Scientifically accurate, yet written with an attention to plot, timing, dialogue, and development of character more characteristic of the best thrillers.

From Publishers Weekly

A startup pharmaceutical company is the focus of this intriguing look at the nexus of biotechnology and high finance; features a new epilogue by the author.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Series: Touchstone Book
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Revised ed. edition (March 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671510576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671510572
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,018 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the story of the first few years of Vertex, a bioventure that sought to create drugs that were constructed molecule by molecule - it is supposed to be "rational drug design". In exchange for allowing the company to check his work for accuracy and proprietary disclosures, Werth was admitted into the inner circle of the company, with both executives and scientists, for four years.

Werth offers masterful descriptions of both the science and the intricacies of the busisess deals. The work is similar to that of Tracy Kidder in "The Soul of a New Machine" and, in my opinion, of the same quality.

At the center of the story is Vertex's founding visionary, Joshua Boger, formerly a researcher at Merck. He reasoned that instead of screening soil samples and insect secretions in a hot or miss approach in thousands of petri dishes, he could design drugs atom by atom to bind to - and thus inactivate - molecules instrumental to the disease process. In theory, these drugs would be without side effects: because of the precision of the design, they would adhere to their target alone, allowing beneficial enzymes of other chem reactions to go on unimpeded.

Boger's first target molecule was FKBP, which he believed was a crucial agent of the immune system. By blocking it, he hoped to prevent the host's body from rejecting transplanted organs. While Boger was out raising money (eventually reaching $60 million), Vertex's researchers hunkered down to isolate and analyze FKBP, whose molecular mechanic remained poorly understood.

Unfortunately, what happened is a great example of the difficulties in marrying business to cutting-edge science: after over two years of pushing themselves to the brink of nervous collapse, Vertex scientists found difficulties with FKBP.
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Format: Paperback
I first read this book nearly two years ago as research for a novel I was writing. Recently, I turned to it once more to pick up a few terms and found myself reading chapter after chapter!
This non-fiction tale has enough twists and turns and drama to match any thriller on the market. An informative and engaging tale of a pharmaceutical start-up and the people involved. Joshua is interesting enough that the book could have been solely about him, but he isn't the only one. All of the players in this ego-driven mega-drama are interesting on many levels.
Who would I reccomend this book to? Anyone who likes a well-told story. A background in medicine is not needed, and neither is a knowledge of business practices. All you need to enjoy this book is a brain . . . and a night light because you'll be reading this book deep into the night.
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Format: Hardcover
A thouroughly enjoyable read, Werth sheds light on the personaliteis and complexities of an amazing and multifaceted business. Throughout, the author uncovers the unseen deal-making, hand-wringing, and fist clenching that dominate the start of Vertex, a strucure-based paharmaceutical firm.
I particularly enjoyed the background on the Boger-Schreiber collaboration and rivalry, and the ensuing rivalry in Vertex's own labs. Further, following the last few years of Vertex's ups and downs via the Internet has been thoroughly enjoyable.
Werth's style is easliy read, and his obvious unhindered access to Vertex and its people make the story enjoyable, suspenseful, and dramatic.
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Format: Paperback
A well-told, vivid story about real life drug development, executed with a sharp observer's eye and an even hand. Hardly a gushing account of medical miracles in the making, but by no means industry bashing either. Rather, an inside look at real people in a fascinating world. This book never quite got the critical acclaim that it deserved.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book a couple of years ago and enjoyed it very much. Over time I have forgetten about it. But lately I've been doing research into new business creation and remembered this well written book. Many of the dry lessons of academic research are presented in a case study that reads like fiction.
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Format: Paperback
Working in a small start up biotech company, I found many parallels with the "Vertex Story" and the company I work for. I was able to identify with the pressure of finding a lead drug candidate (though not quite as intense as those Vertex scientists who went to Hell and back), the rallying of all the employees to do the best thing for the company, and hoping that upper management can keep raising the cash to keep us going. I might add that raising money now has become even more challenging with the advent of the Internet and the dot com companies that have taken a huge chunk of the available investment dollars. The story that unfolds in this book is a very good depiction of how difficult it is to find a drug candidate let alone one that will make it all the way through the FDA-required clinical trials. The clinical trials, although outside the scope for this book, are a significant part of getting a drug to the market and present their own set of challenges. A good book to get a pretty good feel of this is HER-2 by Robert Bazell about the road Genentech's Herceptin took before finally receiving FDA approval to treat breast cancer.
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