A veteran journalist dramatizes the controversial search for an AIDS vaccine-the players, the politics, the money-in a vivid, suspenseful story that reveals how science is done, and not done, in America today. When the human immunodeficiency virus was identified in 1984, the competition to create an AIDS vaccine was fierce. Now Patricia Thomas brings the contenders to life in a fast-paced, dramatic narrative: Two biologists rescue precious virus cultures from destruction by a military biohazard team. Other researchers drive hundreds of miles during a heat wave to work in a safe containment lab. And a heroic figure from Randy Shilts's And The Band Played On just might win the vaccine marathon. Thomas shows how the scientists' youthful optimism is honed into gritty determination as they struggle with difficult research challenges, public condemnation of AIDS patients, cautious bureaucrats, conservative executives, hostile activists, and a perennial shortage of money. The lives and complex motivations of the characters illustrate the triumphs and frustrations of the quest for a vaccine. Interwoven with these gripping human stories are lucid explanations of how vaccines aim to block the potentially deadly tango of the AIDS virus and the human immune system. Above all, Big Shot shows how the health of future generations rests on the shoulders of individuals who are as strong, and as weak, as the rest of us. Just as A Civil Action ultimately told us more about human nature than environmental law, Big Shot is about a great deal more than AIDS vaccines.
Author Biography: Patricia Thomas has written about medical research for many years, and from 1991to 1997 she was editor of the Harvard Health Letter. She has been a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT, and in 1998 was awarded the Leonard Silk Journalism Fellowship. Thomas was one of the first healthy volunteers to be injected with an experimental DNA vaccine for AIDS, in a study at the National Institutes of Health.