When you're the 'new pharma' in town

A nurse holds pills at the pharmacy. 

The Antidote: Inside the World of New Pharma

When you're playing in the big leagues of "big pharma," getting investors to believe in your product is a tough game.

Barry Werth, author of "The Antidote" examines how founder Joshua Boger left Merck, the pharmaceutical Goliath, in 1989 to create Vertex -- with a plan to change the infrastructure of how medicine is made and distributed.

"He wrote down three things: one was to make better drugs faster, second was become Merck but better, and the third was build the 21st century bio-pharmaceutical company," Werth says.

Getting to a scientific break-through or developing a wonder drug is a game of high-stakes investment. The costs are huge, timelines are extensive, and the risk of failure is great.

According to Werth, it's a gamble that only Wall Street can handle.

"There's no place to raise that kind of money but Wall Street...1 in 300 ideas that you have gets to market and the other 299 crash and burn. In clinical trials 1 in 30, or 3 percent, make it to the finish line," he says.

The pressures of Vertex to continue its funding ultimately paid off.

Werth cites that Vertex's hepatitis C drug took 18 years before it hit the market. The drug then made $1.3 billion in its first year.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.
The Antidote: Inside the World of New Pharma

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