The Quest for The Cure is a very interesting book that gives an overview of past and present pharmaceutical breakthroughs. I don’t have much formal education in chemistry or biology, but I am drawn to medical and biotechnology breakthroughs. Medical issues touch everyone and in my view this field has the greatest impact on improving the human condition. That being said, this is a one of kind book that gives just the right amount of detail on the past, present and future of drug development. The book essentially chronicles several major breakthroughs in drug developments, beginning with the birth of biochemistry.
I think that anybody who’s inclined to solving problems (eg. engineers like me) will find the writing style very engaging. The typical chapter will start by describing some unsolved biological or chemical issue in drug treatments. The author then explains an innovation that addresses the issue. You learn about the background and personality of the researcher investigating the problem, the hurdles they went through and some of the scientific mechanisms for how the break through works. One of the most interesting stories is how American scientists studying the effects of mustard gas during World War 2 lead to the first chemotherapy drugs. The author seems to give just the right amount of scientific detail to explain the crux of the breakthrough. With my very modest background I was able to understand most of it, although you’ll probably get more out of the book if you understand a few very basics, like what the difference between a gene, RNA and proteins are.
Overall I’d highly recommend anybody interested in medical breakthroughs to check out this book. It’s inspiring to read about researchers who overcame great obstacles and percevered for years (or decades) in order to create life saving drugs. Had I read this in high school, I might just be a chemistry phd right now.