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The Antidote: Inside the World of New Pharma by [Werth, Barry]
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Werth, author and journalist, offers this sequel to The Billion-Dollar Molecule (1994), on the founding of the pharmaceutical company Vertex. Joshua Boger, founding scientist and president, along with a group of young scientists, set out in a garage to overtake the big drug companies. The author returns to Vertex to learn what it takes to succeed in science and business and sees that 22 years later and at about four times the anticipated cost, Vertex is now set to achieve Boger’s initial goals: “Make better drugs, faster. Create the 21st century biopharmaceutical company. Become Merck, only better.” Werth seeks to discover what Boger’s vision has become and considers if it is a road map toward “a new biological epoch.” We learn that “all progress in the pharmaceutical business is backbreaking, freighted with unknowns, and takes twice as long as you think it will.” Now Vertex has nearly 2,000 employees, and it is about to debut the company’s first drugs discovered and developed internally and commercialized under its own label. --Mary Whaley

Review

"A revealing, readable book about 'some of competitive capitalism's most complicated science and most cutthroat marketing maneuvers.'" ---Kirkus

Product Details

  • File Size: 4231 KB
  • Print Length: 449 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 4, 2014)
  • Publication Date: February 4, 2014
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DPM7ZW6
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,828 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ash Jogalekar TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a biomedical scientist I really enjoyed this book. It is the sequel to the author's previous volume "The Billion Dollar Molecule". Both books provide a fly-on-the-wall account of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, an innovative biopharmaceutical company that brought two breakthrough medicines - one for hepatitis C and the other for cystic fibrosis - to market two years ago. Both these drugs were the first of their kind and have given thousands of patients a new lease on life. From a broader perspective however, the author's goal is to shed light both on the immensely challenging process of bringing a new drug to market and the brilliant scientists and driven personalities that make it possible.

Werth's account of Vertex focuses mainly on the hepatitis C drug, with the cystic fibrosis drug playing a smaller but still important role. The previous book was much more science-heavy than this one, emphasizing the chemistry, biology and computer science that goes into the early stages of drug discovery. In spite of the intense scientific competition and research depicted in that volume (much of it spanning the late 80s and early 90s), Vertex did not bring a successful drug to market until 2010, underscoring the challenge of drug discovery in which you have to furiously paddle simply to stay afloat. The two books thus mirror two different phases of the company: the first dealing mainly with the science and the birthing pains of a new startup, and the second dealing with the transformation of the startup into a commercial enterprise. You will thus find much more of the business, legal and commercial aspects of drug development in this volume. Boardroom deliberations and the subtleties of drug pricing litter the narrative.
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As a retired "Merckie" in R&D, I found Barry Werth's insider views incredibly interesting and educational. More non scientists should read these two books. Most people haven't the faintest idea what it takes to discover, collabarate, scaleup, purify, clinically test, manufacture and market a new drug or vaccine. Not to mention publication and patent and naming issues. Great books.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is amazing because I never thought a corporation can have so many souls dancing inside, let alone a Pharma company. I want to say that I exaggerated only a little to compare this book's story to the 10 year Trojan War.

What really touched me are the stories of individuals. The Bogers who "bore the torch" in the early days of doing great science and exploring the frontiers, the successors who financed and commercialized the founders' vision, the Wall Street analysts wanting to milk the new Pharmas like they did with the old, the patient advocates who wanted Vertex to remain true to its mission even when it is burning through hundreds of thousands of dollars a day... Those are real people competing viciously with selfish aims and playing out in a ruthless business world where billions of dollars would be won or lost on any single day. The deciding factors at the end of the day are two things: luck and balls.

Who doesn't become exited when warm humanitarian ideas and cold hard cash were tossed together and shaken violently by a group of crazy scientists? I will have that straight up any day.
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My son participates in Phase 1 and Phase 3 drug trials at the Univ of Texas. That is complex stuff. The scientific development of the drugs being tested is much more difficult. This book gives you some idea of what is involved. I wish that there were more books like this on other drug companies. This book was particularly good on giving you some idea of the gyrations of the stock price of these companies and what is behind the gyrations. Vertex brought a drug to the market to cure hepatitis C. Possibly one might come up with some discounted cash-flow analysis which would give a value for the company......but after Vertex got its drug to market someone came along with another better drug. How do you model that?

I admire Vertex's quest for innovation. But 20 years of research before it can bring a drug to market is almost unbelievable. How they managed to finance this is amazing.

The key to all economic growth is innovation. One of the vital issues is how to finance this innovation which requires so much research. There aren't any easy answer. The US seems to be doing better than most other countries.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Extremely interesting followup to his previous book (The Billion-Dollar Molecule: The Quest for the Perfect Drug) on the biotech company Vertex. Many of the characters from the prior book have either moved on to other ventures or moved up the corporate ladder. Werth traces the evolution of Vertex from a feisty startup focused on perfecting an immunological anti rejection compound for transplants to the more mature company with a different focus and portfolio that it has become over three decades. It also serves as a cautionary tale for the drive to keep a company afloat with investors and in placing too much emphasis (HepC) on a single disease and compound for a company's success. Vertex dominated the HepC market, but only for a brief instant in time. Eric Olson (who has left Vertex) spearheaded the cystic fibrosis program which is now the leading product and dominant revenue stream for the company. Read both books to see how the company started out to design drugs de novo from protein structural information, and by a very convoluted path ended up where it is today.
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