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Pharma Books

Below is a collation of some of the favorite pharma and biotech books from the Rxference team.

Billion Dollar Molecule: This is probably the book that is most widely recommended when it comes to books about pharma. It is a wonderful narrative which follows the inception of Vertex from idea to organization and how that organization evolved in its early days. Barry Werth does a great job connecting the science to the business and the ever-present balances that need to be struck to appease various stakeholders and the company interest. Great for anyone interested in biotech startups, especially.

Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech: Another book about the start of a company, but this one at the same time about the start of an industry: biotechnology. Sally Smith Hughes does a great job telling the story of how the legendary Genentech started in San Francisco, the fierce competition amongst biotechs at the forefront of a revolution, and how the business model evolved to what it is today.

Science Lessons: What the Business of Biotech Taught Me About Management: Former CEO of Amgen Gordon Binder does a wonderful job highlighting some of his key experiences and learnings over his 18 years at Amgen, including 12 as CEO. A great book to get the perspective of someone who was at the helm of an emerging global player in the industry.

The Antidote: Inside the World of New Pharma: This is the follow-on to the Billion Dollar Molecule in which Barry Werth looks at the continued evolution of Vertex again in astounding detail. This book really gives a better idea of the business side of development and is less science-heavy than its predecessor making the two books a great pair to understand and appreciate the full complexities associated with drug development.

Career Imprints: Creating leaders Across an Industry: While not necessarily marketed as a book about pharma, but rather one about career development and growth, the case studies that Monica Higgins follows are primarily centered around biopharma, and specifically the folks at Baxter who went on to become founders and leaders in the burgeoning biotech industry. This book has some excellent stories and insights on the early days of biotech and follows players including Henri Termeer of Genzyme. An interesting book from the perspective of how to drive career development as well.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup: Not about conventional biotech drug development, but related is the story of Theranos, the Silicon Valley startup looking to revolutionize the field of lab blood testing. This book almost reads more like fiction at times, but it is not by any means- an amazing story of a startup gone horribly awry.

The Cell Game: Fast Money and False Promises — and the Fate of ImClone’s Cancer Drug: Staying on theme with Bad Blood, this is another story about a fraudulent startup. This time, it is one that worked on a drug (Erbitux) that was eventually approved but only after the company went through tremendous turmoil due to an insider trading scandal.

The Great American Drug Deal: Written by biotech VC Peter Kolchinsky, this book focuses on issues of drug pricing and patents. Kolchinsky makes the case for contractual genericization, whereby all drugs would become generic after a set number of years via contractual agreements between payers and pharma as opposed to the current system which is primarily driven by patent law and regulatory exclusivity. Kolchinsky talks about this in a broader context of the social contract between pharma and society and what other elements it does and should include.

Technical Books

Moving away from typical narrative-driven books, below are a list of more technical books meant to be references or guides.

The Pharmagellan Guide to Biotech Forecasting and Valuation

The Medical Science Liasion Career Guide: How to Break Into Your First Role: A Hiring Manager Reveals the Secrets for Success

Have others that you have enjoyed? Share in the comments below!