Yali Friedman's Building Biotechnology

This book review is long overdue. I first read Yali's Building Biotechnology, 3rd Edition, in my NIH biotech business course. I had just shut down Xiaoxiaowang.com, and only began learning about the industry. Like many researchers who only have full-time bench experience, I didn't really know much, or quite honestly, anything, about the business aspects of the life sciences. This book became an important piece in my efforts to transition into business. Now onto the review...

What is this book?

Put simply, this book is a business text book. It is comprehensive enough to cover all the topics on every stage of the drug development, including science, intellectual property (IP)/regulations, and business aspects. Researchers with advanced degrees can skim through the science portion of the book (under a quarter of the book's content). The first section covers molecular biology and latest trends in research (genomics, etc) that would be useful for the non-science businessperson. However, researchers should not skip the drug development section, as that helps puts research in the context of drug development. As the science takes up relatively few pages, the book definitely caters to the technical audience.

The second section covers legal, regulatory and political aspects of biotechnology. Complex IP issues and strong federal regulation are perhaps the most unique characteristics of the industry. The book covers all aspects of IP, including patents, copyright, trademarks, as well as regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These important topics take up the 2nd quarter of the book.

The last section, the business of biotechnology, takes up the remaining half of the book. It provides a very comprehensive overview of the topic, starting with company formation and financing, to R&D and marketing. This section also covers strategic aspects such as partnerships, mergers and aquisitions, and even issues on global biotechnology. After reading this section, the reader should gain a broad and solid understanding of business issues surrounding the commercialization of life sciences breakthroughs.

Who is this book for?

This book is fabulous for researchers and clinicians with a technical background who would like to enter a business role at a biotechnology company. It is also great reading for the non-biotech business person to learn the issues specific to the industry. The language is easy to understand for both the non-scientist and non-business reader in mind.

Favorite part of the book?

Scattered throughout the book are boxes that include interesting stories of biotech companies. Textbooks usually get pretty dry, but I always looked forward to reading these boxes. These one page news snippets provide examples for the topics that are discussed and give them real world meaning. This makes the text more lively and enjoyable to read, and allows the reader to get updated on major trends that helped shape the biotech industry today.

The book does not dive too deeply into any specific topic, as expected from a textbook. It does, however, provide leads into further learning. For example, I heard about the first biotechnology tomato from reading the text, and purchased the book, First Fruit (review on the way), for further reading. I mention good biotech blogs to follow in this post, and would recommend reading this book as a first step. This book would be perfect preparation for the future biotech industry leader.

Get the book here.

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