Boston Book Festival 2020 Boston Book Festival 2020

Pathogens and Pills

- EDT
Crowdcast 27
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Peter Kolchinsky
The Great American Drug Deal: A New Prescription for Innovative and Affordable Medicines

Peter Kolchinsky is a biotechnology investor, scientist, educator, and writer. His first book, The Entrepreneur’s Guide to a Biotech Startup, is available online and provides practical information on how to start a biotech company. His latest book, The Great American Drug Deal: A New Prescription for Innovative and Affordable Medicines, delves into the drug affordability debate. Kolchinsky offers bold new ideas to combat injustice in the drug industry in an attempt to balance affordability and innovation. John Hawkins says, “The book comes across as a common-sense, temperate manifesto on how biopharma enterprises can not only shape the future debate on drug pricing and health insurance/policy but also offers thoughtful remedies and perspectives.”

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Muhammad H. Zaman
Biography of Resistance: The Epic Battle Between People and Pathogens

Muhammad H. Zaman is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University. He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching from national and international organizations. In 2013, Scientific American named a technology from the Zaman lab, PharmaChk, among the ten technologies that will change the world. Zaman is also the co-director of the UN Africa Biomedical Initiative, and his columns on innovation in health and education as well as the issues of drug quality control and global health have appeared in newspapers around the world. His latest work, Biography of Resistance: The Epic Battle Between People and Pathogens, has been called a “vivid portrayal of our fight against an opponent that has been around for more than 3 billion years” by Kirkus in a starred review.

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Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR whose reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice, and education. She has had an extensive journalistic career at many stations, winning multiple awards from reputed organizations for her hosting, newscasts, and investigative reporting.


Our interest in pathogens has peaked recently, for obvious reasons. And while this session is not specifically about COVID-19, there are many overlapping themes. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed more than 50 million people, but although it was a virus that first invaded the body, bacterial infection in the lungs was ultimately responsible for most of the deaths. In its starred review, Kirkus Reviews calls Muhammad Zaman’s Biography of Resistance “a vivid portrayal of our fight against an opponent that has been around for more than 3 billion years. [Zaman] portrays a conflict—between humans and harmful strains of bacteria—that has played out in plagues and epidemics over millennia.” Fighting drug-resistant bacteria requires international cooperation, not to mention the participation of drug companies, which have little economic incentive to invest in antibiotic research. Drug companies are the subject of virologist and drug industry expert Peter Kolchinsky’s The Great American Drug Deal. He argues that there are solutions to the trade-off between drug affordability, innovation, and the drive for profits. In the end, it’s the insurance companies that  Kolchinsky calls out for making an already bad situation worse. Kirkus Reviews calls The Great American Drug Deal a “serious, impassioned, and informed call for change.” Join us for this eye-opening and urgent session, hosted by Deborah Becker, senior correspondent and host at WBUR, the media sponsor for this session.