• Eye Opening
  • Well Structured
  • Concrete Examples


Even if you regularly take a prescription drug, you might not consider the money, time, research and effort that went into creating and marketing your daily pill. But rest assured, somebody worked quite hard to create it. Journalist Barry Werth’s second study of the plucky start-up Vertex Pharmaceuticals follows Vertex founder Joshua Boger and his team in their quest to develop groundbreaking drugs for hepatitis C and cystic fibrosis. The saga has a happy outcome, but Vertex bled billions of dollars along the way. Werth could have cut his page count by a quarter or a third and not lost the essence of his tale. And when Boger steps down as CEO – when the hero of the story leaves the stage – the drama suffers. Still, Werth presents gripping insights into the pharmaceutical industry and the tortuous path pioneering drugs take to get to market. getAbstract recommends this eye-opening saga to investors, entrepreneurs, start-ups, students of finance and anyone fascinated by the complexities of the high-stakes pharmaceutical market.


From HIV to Hep C

In 1989, pharmaceutical executive and scientist Joshua Boger left a promising career at Merck to found his own drug-making start-up, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Boger became CEO in 1992. By 1993, Vertex had 110 employees and had already impressed its industry. The company joined with Kissei, a Japanese firm, to create drugs for AIDS patients in Asia. Although Merck led the charge on developing protease inhibitors, Boger believed AIDS drugs would vault Vertex into the top tier of pharmaceutical companies. Most drugs on the market were “small-molecule drugs” – medicines that affect body cells’ chemistry by “binding to them chemically in a way that alters their activity.” Vertex was working to develop drugs with a “structure-based design” that targets molecules more efficiently. During Vertex’s work fighting AIDS, one of its scientists brought the hepatitis C virus (HCV) to the company’s attention.

HCV research didn’t carry the urgency of AIDS; for many years, few individuals carrying HCV even knew they had it because the disease doesn’t manifest for years. The advent of a specific blood test means that more patients know that...

About the Author

Journalist Barry Werth wrote The Billion-Dollar Molecule, also about Vertex.

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