What are some good books on the founding of biotechs and pharmas?

The most well-known, and one that I can recommend, is “The Billion-Dollar Molecule” by Barry Werth. It describes the founding and early days of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, and their efforts to use rational drug design technologies to create a new immunosuppressant drug for transplant patients. Werth does a great job not only of explaining the science, but capturing the Read More …

What would the CDC or the government do if there was a massive outbreak of an antibiotic-resistant disease?

If there was indeed a massive outbreak of antibiotic resistant bacterial infections, the government and CDC would do little or nothing. Why? Because they no longer function in any recognizable form. A severe outbreak of bacterial disease could only happen if these institutions have collapsed. Antibiotics are not critical to keeping society safe from bacterial Read More …

The horse who founded the NIH

I’ve become interested in antivirulence therapy as an alternative to antibiotics.  The Golden Age of Antibiotics ended about 1990, and although we are nowhere near to suffering a post-antibiotic apocalypse, there is also no doubt that new therapies are needed. It’s not just that new antibiotics are increasingly difficult to discover and develop, but that Read More …

Is CRISPR/Cas9 one of the most important inventions of our time?

Sure. But let’s not get carried away. That “of our time” qualifier is hugely important. We’ve already done most of what is possible to allow humans to live out a natural life span. The invention that enabled this advance was germ theory. Equipped with germ theory – one of the few useful theories in biology Read More …

Is the actual work in a biology research lab not as intellectually interesting as the conceptual aspect of the discipline?

Biology is not a lawful science. That is to say, you can’t start with a set of principles and reason your way to interesting conclusions. The big intellectual leaps in biology always follow advances in technique and technology, particularly those advances that make data collection faster and easier. The biggest advance of all – Darwin’s Read More …

Can we evolve to be immune to diseases?

We can and we do evolve immunities to specific diseases. Tuberculosis is a good example. In the 17th-19th centuries it was often the largest single cause of death among Europeans, particularly in cities[1] . What’s more, it was a disease of young adults, with most victims being in their 20s and early 30s. TB exerted Read More …