The Quest for the Cure: The Science and Stories Behind the Next Generation of Medicines

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Overview

After more than fifty years of blockbuster drug development, skeptics are beginning to fear we are reaching the end of drug discovery to combat major diseases. In this engaging book, Brent R. Stockwell, a leading researcher in the exciting new science of chemical biology, describes this dilemma and the powerful techniques that may bring drug research into the twenty-first century.

Filled with absorbing stories of breakthroughs, this book begins with the scientific achievements of the twentieth century that led to today's drug innovations. We learn how the invention of mustard gas in World War I led to early anti-cancer agents and how the efforts to decode the human genome might lead to new approaches in drug design. Stockwell then turns to the seemingly incurable diseases we face today, such as Alzheimer's, many cancers, and others with no truly effective medicines, and details the cellular and molecular barriers thwarting scientists equipped with only the tools of traditional pharmaceutical research.

Scientists such as Stockwell are now developing methods to combat these complexities—technologies for constructing and testing millions of drug candidates, sophisticated computational modeling, and entirely new classes of drug molecules—all with an eye toward solving the most profound mysteries of living systems and finding cures for intractable diseases. If successful, these methods will unlock a vast terrain of untapped drug targets that could lead to a bounty of breakthrough medicines. Offering a rare, behind-the-scenes look at this cutting-edge research, The Quest for the Cure tells a thrilling story of science, persistence, and the quest to develop a new generation of cures.

Columbia University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Globe & Mail
This very readable, even exciting work takes us through the medical breakthroughs of the past century.
Nature Chemistry
The reader is not only left with a satisfying overview of the proud history and future challenges of finding new medicines but also encouragement that Stockwell and his contemporaries are creatively committed to academic drug discovery.

— David Kroll

Nature Medicine
Stockwell writes well — his prose is accessible to the educated reader, irrespective of his or her background. All of the personalities, errors and successes in contemporary drug discovery are presented. Stockwell enlivens their stories with anecdotes...

— Garrett A. FitzGerald

Globe and Mail

This very readable, even exciting work takes us through the medical breakthroughs of the past century.

Cell
This book deserves a readership, and there is certainly a need for it. As a drug companyresearcher, I have often wished that more people understood what the field was likeand how simultaneously fascinating and frustrating it can be.

— Derek B. Lowe

Science News

In this well-researched look into the complexities of making medicines, a chemical biologist gives a history of drug making and details innovative methods of drug discovery.

Harvard Magazine

Despite our current political paralysis, government leaders should listen to Stockwell and be certain to advance our capacity to generate the drugs that our society and the world need.

Choice

The book is well organized and includes many interesting, clever analogies to explain what can be complicated scientific problems.

Journal of Clinical Investigation
An engaging and rewarding read...

— Donald C. Lo

Robert Bazell

The dearth of promising new treatments for many a serious disease remains a major challenge not just for the pharmaceutical industry but for all of society. In this exhaustively researched book, Brent R. Stockwell surveys the history of drug development and offers insightful suggestions for innovative new approaches. This is critical reading for the many involved in and concerned about this urgent issue.

Geoffrey Cooper

This is a terrific book! Stockwell's writing is clear and engaging as he presents a thoughtful analysis of drug development that can be understood and appreciated by a diverse readership. Stockwell beautifully combines scientific history and personal anecdotes with clear explanations of the principles and practices of chemical biology to make a fascinating story of the past, present, and future of drug discovery. His book is informative, accurate, and a good read all put together.

Siddhartha Mukherjee

This is a truly wonderful book. Stockwell's writing will open the door to a universe that many readers may know little about. Drugs are born, biotech companies are created, scientists' careers are made and unmade, egos are raised and dashed. This book is so readable, it is an absolute page-turner. Yet it is also authoritative and scientifically sophisticated, managing to distill a complex, changing field into a beautifully written, well-crafted story.

Cell - Derek B. Lowe

This book deserves a readership, and there is certainly a need for it. As a drug companyresearcher, I have often wished that more people understood what the field was likeand how simultaneously fascinating and frustrating it can be.

Journal of Clinical Investigation - Donald C. Lo

An engaging and rewarding read...

Nature Chemistry - David Kroll

The reader is not only left with a satisfying overview of the proud history and future challenges of finding new medicines but also encouragement that Stockwell and his contemporaries are creatively committed to academic drug discovery.

Nature Medicine - Garrett A. FitzGerald

Stockwell writes well -- his prose is accessible to the educated reader, irrespective of his or her background. All of the personalities, errors and successes in contemporary drug discovery are presented. Stockwell enlivens their stories with anecdotes...

Oncology Times - Robert C. Young

It is impossible to read this relatively short book...without being captured by the author's optimism about the future of drug development.

Publishers Weekly
Stockwell, professor of biology and chemistry at Columbia University, claims that the success drug companies have had developing specific chemicals to combat disease is likely coming to an end. According to Stockwell, the techniques scientists have used to fight disease up to now, binding drug molecules to proteins, may have reached its limit, as most proteins, it seems, cannot bind with drug molecules; they are "undruggable." But genes are "druggable." Stockwell is impressive in describing a new paradigm of pharmaceutical research that could open a host of new possibilities for currently untreatable diseases involving advances in genomics, molecular biology, and chemistry. By providing accessible explanations for the underlying biological and chemical principles that apply to the complex solutions he describes, Stockwell enables even the scientifically unsophisticated reader to gain a wider perspective on what future disease treatment might entail.He also brings to life the excitement of scientific research by highlighting classic experiments that have shaped our understanding of biological systems and profiling major players in the field. Illus. (June)
Library Journal
This year, the new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will carry out research in the hopes of attracting drug company investment and speeding up new drug development, making this title very timely. In the preface, Stockwell (biological sciences & chemistry, Columbia Univ.) writes that this book is about the "high-stakes search by scientists to create the next generation of medicines." Covering current problems and emerging approaches, he focuses on the types of molecules that constitute the next generation of medicines and who is making them. His specific interest is in "undruggable proteins" that cause as-yet-incurable diseases. Virtually all references are from current and historic scientific literature. VERDICT This is a serious work, and despite the author's efforts to interject a less academic tone, it will likely be appreciated the most by readers who already have a good grasp of the subject matter. There are few current books on this specific topic other than scientific textbooks, making this appropriate for reference collections in large public libraries and for academic institutions that support chemistry and pharmacology programs.—Martha E. Stone, Massachusetts General Hosp., Boston
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780231152136
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2013
  • Pages: 284
  • Sales rank: 991,123
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Brent R. Stockwell is an associate professor of biological sciences and chemistry at Columbia University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientist. He serves on the editorial board of Chemistry & Biology, has been awarded ten U.S. patents, and has published fifty-four scientific papers. Among his recent honors are a Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award at the Scientific Interface and a Beckman Young Investigator Award.

Columbia University Press

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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsPrefaceAcknowledgmentsAbbreviationsPart I. The Vanishing Cures1. The Drug Discovery Crisis2. A New Science of Molecules3. The Birth of the First Cancer Drugs4. A New Company Creating Drug Combinations5. The Undruggable RAS Protein6. The Druggable GenomePart II. The Path to the Next Generation of Medicines7. Peering Inside Proteins8. The Nature of Interactions Between Proteins9. From Protein-Protein Interactions to Personalized Medicines10. A Revolution in Peptide Synthesis11. A Vast Array of Drug Candidates12. Moving Outside the Small Molecule Box13. Accelerating the Arrival of Next-Generation DrugsNotesGlossaryIndex

Columbia University Press

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