A recent discussion on the popular MyBio community on LinkedIn focused on a simple question: What books would you recommend an entrepreneur read before starting a biotechnology or pharmaceuticals business?
About a dozen members of the community offered their thoughts. The list below provides a brief look at five books suggested in the conversation.
The Billion Dollar Molecule: One Company’s Quest for the Perfect Drug: This 1995 book by Barry Werth received the most votes from MyBio. It focuses on the story of startup Vertex Pharmaceuticals and its push to develop an AIDS drug. The story traces the company’s rise from the labs to its dealings with Wall Street. “This nonfiction tale has enough twists and turns and drama to match any thriller on the market,” said one Amazon reviewer.
Science Lessons: What the Business of Biotech Taught Me About Management: Published in 2008 and written by former Amgen CEO Gordon Binder, this book details that company’s rise to prominence. It details the company’s turning point — the 1989 release of anemia drug Epogen — and discusses the development of other drugs. “Using the principals of the scientific method, [Binder] shares his recommendations for tackling pressing business challenges — such as managing creative employees, navigating the IPO process and protecting intellectual property,” according to Amazon.
The Cell Game: Sam Waksal’s Fast Money and False Promises–and the Fate of ImClone’s Cancer Drug: The general public apparently didn’t take to this 2003 book the way the biotech community has; it’s in Amazon’s bargain bin, priced at $13 for a new hard cover. It tells the story of Sam Waksal and ImClone, both of which are best known for being embroiled in the Martha Stewart stock-trading scandal. Waksal seems like a fascinating character in his own right — “a brilliant, mercurial and desperate-to-be-liked entrepreneur” who “hosted parties at his fabulous art-filled loft and was a fixture in the gossip columns.” ImClone’s cancer drug Erbitux failed and brought Waksal down in his own insider-trading controversy.
Building Global Biobrands: Taking Biotechnology to Market: This 2009 book from two professors and marketing strategists has won praise for its use of case studies and its international emphasis, but has drawn criticism for being a bit dense and written in a “plodding” tone. As the title would imply, it’s aimed at marketing executives with biotech firms. “The authors set out to show managers how companies can innovate with bionetworks, win customers with biobrands and create sustainable advantage worldwide,” according to Booklist.
A Commotion in the Blood: Life, Death and the Immune System: Released in 1999, this apparently out-of-print book aims to be an accessible guide to immunology for nonscientists. It provides a behind-the-scenes look into the world of scientific research, in which ego often rules the day and scientific credit isn’t always given where it’s due. Here’s how an enthusiast on LinkedIn described the book: “A study of 100 years of attempts to discover and develop immune modulators to cure cancer … a great example of the ups and downs of biotech ideas.”
[Photo from flickr user cote]