Nachum hosted Gregory Zuckerman, author of “A Shot To Save The World,” on this morning’s JM in the AM to explore this fascinating and timely book.
You can read the press release below:
A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD:
The Inside Story of the Life-or-Death Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine
Portfolio Books / October 26, 2021
The authoritative and heart-pounding untold story of the race to produce the most consequential scientific breakthrough of our time—a COVID-19 vaccine—from the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Man Who Solved the Market
HOT TOPIC: Politicians, government officials, business leaders and public-health professionals were unprepared when a mysterious respiratory illness emerged in Wuhan, China in January 2020. Vaccine research was unpopular and those working on cutting-edge technologies, including U.S.-based Moderna and German company BioNTech were years away from an approved vaccine or other proof that their approaches worked.
By now we know what went wrong in the response to the most devastating pandemic in a century. Mistakes were legion and many of the world’s biggest drug and vaccine makers were slow to react or couldn’t muster effective responses. A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD is the untold story of what went right. It’s a riveting chronicle of the scientists’ epic sprint to create Covid-19 vaccines, fulfilling decades of unheralded yet revolutionary work on messenger RNA, virology, immunology, and more.
At the heart of the story are a few unlikely and untested scientists, researchers, and executives who stepped up to save civilization. Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s French CEO, was long dismissed as a fabulist or even the next Elizabeth Holmes. Ugur Sahin, the Turkish founder of BioNTech, had little virus experience or proof of success. Dan Barouch, a Boston scientist, employed questionable, maybe even dangerous techniques. Adrian Hill, a British scientist at Oxford University, was among the most detested men in science. They and their colleagues scrambled to turn years of underappreciated work into life-saving vaccines in a matter of months, each gunning to make the big breakthrough—and to beat each other for the glory that a vaccine guaranteed.
DEEP ACCESS: Award winning Wall Street Journal reporter and bestselling author Gregory Zuckerman had unprecedented access inside the top-secret laboratories, corporate clashes, and high-stakes government negotiations that determined the trajectory of the vaccine efforts. Zuckerman interviewed more than 300 scientists, executives, and investors behind the most important pharma players, including Moderna, BioNTech, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Novavax and Merck, as well as top decision makers and stakeholders within Oxford University, the US government and key academic institutions.
It’s a story of unsung heroes, heated rivalries, unbridled ambitions, crippling insecurities, and unexpected drama. A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD offers a blow-by-blow chronicle of the most consequential scientific achievement of our time.
- A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD will be published as vaccination efforts across the world continue to ramp up and new variants of the virus emerge. This is the story of how science stopped a modern-day plague. It is the first book to tell the full story of how the vaccines were discovered and ‘what went right’ in the race to find a vaccine.
- Zuckerman argues that groundbreaking scientists will develop new vaccines to handle the Delta variant as well as future, inevitable variants. But he says it will likely be impossible to eradicate SARS-CoV- 2. Eventually, it could become an endemic virus that leads to seasonal disease, as well as more painful, periodic outbreaks.
- Zuckerman says the virus likely emerged naturally, spilling over from the animal world, and he’s skeptical of the thesis that it originated in a Wuhan laboratory.
- The vaccines are among humankind’s most unexpected achievements and are the result of decades of dedication, creativity, and frustration. At the start of the pandemic, many healthcare experts deemed it unlikely that safe and effective shots could be produced quickly—the average vaccine took 10 years to produce (until 2020, the fastest vaccine had been mumps, which had been developed after four years). Pioneering scientists began work on the 3 key vaccine approaches – mRNA, adenoviruses and protein subunit – around 1990, persisting despite years of failure and working in the face of deep skepticism, even scorn.
- Developing, testing, manufacturing and delivering safe and effective vaccines within a single year is a feat unmatched in modern science, and represents arguably one of humankind’s proudest moments. The Covid-19 vaccines have helped prevent more than 279,000 deaths and averted over 1.25 million additional hospitalizations.
- Many vaccine efforts came close to failure. Moderna didn’t have the money to make a vaccine as recently as May 2020, and Pfizer and BioNTech executives were unable to decide on a vaccine design, jeopardizing their own effort. Oxford University scientists weren’t convinced the virus was a true threat and needed the prodding of a junior researcher to become focused on a vaccine.
- Who didn’t meet success in the vaccine race? The world’s biggest drug and vaccine makers, including Merck, Sanofi, GlaxoSmithKline, were slow to react to the pandemic or couldn’t muster an effective response.
- The success of the vaccines can be a model for society, showing how private industry can work hand-in-hand with government bodies. While almost every topic of importance today has become politicized, Zuckerman argues that important lessons can be learned from the historic success of the Covid-19 vaccine efforts.
- The Covid-19 vaccine revolutionaries are now focusing on new challenges, including cancer, AIDS, malaria, multiple sclerosis and more. Their companies’ soaring shares and record profits could enable future medical breakthroughs.
“The race to develop a COVID vaccine is one of the most exciting dramas in medical history, and A SHOT TO SAVE THE WORLD is a thrilling account based on great reporting and access to all of the teams. An inspiring and informative page-turner.” -Walter Isaacson, author of #1 New York Times bestseller The Code Breaker
AUTHOR BIO: Gregory Zuckerman is a Special Writer at the Wall Street Journal where he writes about business, economic, and investing topics. He’s a three-time winner of the Gerald Loeb award, the highest honor in business journalism. Zuckerman regularly appears on such media outlets as CNBC, Fox, MSNBC, and is the author of The Greatest Trade Ever, The Frackers, and The Man Who Solved the Market.