The Lock and Key of Medicine: Monoclonal Antibodies and the Transformation of Healthcare

The Lock and Key of Medicine: Monoclonal Antibodies and the Transformation of Healthcare

by Lara V. Marks


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The untold story of monoclonal antibodies—the molecular heroes of biotechnology that revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of more than fifty major diseases

This book is the first to tell the extraordinary yet unheralded history of monoclonal antibodies. Often referred to as Mabs, they are unfamiliar to most nonscientists, yet these microscopic protein molecules are everywhere, quietly shaping our lives and healthcare. Discovered in the mid-1970s in the laboratory where Watson and Crick had earlier unveiled the structure of DNA, Mabs have radically changed understandings of the pathways of disease. They have enabled faster, cheaper, and more accurate clinical diagnostic testing on a vast scale. And they have played a fundamental role in pharmaceutical innovation, leading to such developments as recombinant interferon and insulin, and personalized drug therapies such as Herceptin. Today Mabs constitute six of the world’s top ten blockbuster drugs and make up a third of new introduced treatments.
Lara V. Marks recounts the risks and opposition that a daring handful of individuals faced while discovering and developing Mabs, and she addresses the related scientific, medical, technological, business, and social challenges that arose. She offers a saga of entrepreneurs whose persistence and creativity ultimately changed the healthcare landscape and brought untold relief to millions of patients. Even so, as Marks shows, controversies over Mabs remain, and she examines current debates over the costs and effectiveness of these innovative drugs.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300167733
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 06/30/2015
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Lara V. Marks is a historian of medicine. She is managing editor of the website and has research affiliations with King’s College London and Cambridge University. She lives in Kent, UK.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xxi

List of Abbreviations xxv

1 Hunting for the Elusive "Magic Bullet" 1

2 A Hesitant Start: Patents, Politics, and Process 25

3 Breakthroughs at the Bench 47

4 The First Medical Applications 69

5 Joy, Disappointment, Determination: Early Clinical Tests 88

6 The Wild West of Antibody Commercialization 110

7 The Challenge of Monoclonal Antibody Drugs 139

8 Antibody Engineering: A Renaissance for Mab Therapeutics 159

9 Blockbuster Mab Drugs 184

10 A Quiet Revolution: The Legacy of Monoclonal Antibodies 218

Notes 237

Glossary 293

Bibliography 301

Index 307

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