How to Learn Biotech

This is my updated 2022 roundup of top resources in biotech, ruthlessly refined down to key sources from the comprehensive 2019 original.

This list excludes many great ways to learn: conferences, scientific degrees, textbooks, talking with people or working in the sector. However, they’re the best materials you can access at any time, from anywhere, mostly for free.

The Best Papers

PubMed is the bread-and-butter of biotech knowledge. If you feel daunted by the volume of content, start with this real-time list of trending papers.

bioRxiv, medRxiv and chemRxiv are now the cutting edge for new results, which often appear in preprints months before traditional publication. Also sign up for new updates from Nature, Science, Cell and other leading journals.

Sci-Hub is a piracy site that instantly pulls almost any scientific paper as a free PDF and you shouldn’t use it because if you do Elsevier may sue me in its war to keep taxpayer-funded science from being taxpayer-accessible.

The Best Essays

In The Pipeline, written by Derek Lowe and hosted by Science, is the leading industry blog covering everything from med chem to machine learning.

LifeSciVC is the blog of Atlas partner Bruce Booth, with analyses of biotech VC, highlights from his firm’s portfolio and “in the trenches” guest essays.

The Curious Wavefunction is a short series of “musings on science, history, philosophy and literature” by Ash Jogalekar, primarily on chemistry and AI.

The Best News, Newsletters & Podcasts

Sign up for the free Endpoints newsletter (~15 short articles by email Mon-Fri at ~11am EST) and the corollary Early Edition (top headlines ~6am EST).

Timmerman Report has paywalled articles for $169/year. His podcast The Long Run has free and unique hour-long interviews with biotech leaders.

STAT has free newsletters and a free weekly podcast, The Readout Loud. Most articles are paywalled, but the public content is also high-quality.

BioCentury hosts detailed weekly articles and profiles, though it’s all pay-walled. There is a good free podcast, BioCentury This Week.

Anika Gupta, a rising star bioinformatician at Harvard, hosts The Data Pulse, an excellent new podcast covering biotech and data science.

BioPharmCatalyst tracks each day’s top catalysts (clinical readouts, FDA approvals or trial halts, etc.) and resulting impact on each biotech company.

The Best Books

The investor Andrew Goodwin hosts an extensive list of biotech-related books.

My favorites from his list include: Bad Blood (John Carreyrou), The Billion Dollar Molecule and The Antidote (Barry Werth), Genentech: The Beginnings of Biotech (Sally Smith Hughes), The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene (Siddhartha Mukherjee), Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Brenda Maddox) and Regenesis (George Church).

Others I recommend: Complications and Being Mortal (Atul Gawande), Designs on Nature (Sheila Jasanoff), The Great American Drug Deal and The Entrepreneur’s Guide to a Biotech Startup (Peter Kolchinsky), Cutting for Stone (Abraham Verghese) and The Case Against Perfection (Michael Sandel).

A few acclaimed books I haven’t read yet: Hood (Luke Timmerman), The Forever Fix (Ricki Lewis), I Contain Multitudes (Ed Yong), She Has Her Mother’s Laugh (Carl Zimmer) and The 8th Day of Creation (Horace Freeland Judson).

The Best Government Resources

FDA provides extensive guidance on trials, pharmaceuticals, devices, regulations, new initiatives, industry reports and open-source datasets.

CFR is the code of federal regulations. Title 21, Chapter 1 covers pharma. It’s worth reading at least once in your life. As Cromwell said of the Tyndale Bible in Wolf Hall: “You read it, you’ll be surprised what’s not in it.”

USPTO publishes patents 18 months after initial IP filing date. Google Patents has the best tools to find and track relevant patents.

ClinicalTrials.gov is the best database of trials. Clinical Trials Register is the European-focused equivalent and WHO maintains its own list.

SEC requires companies to disclose key info: Form D venture financings, S-1 notice ahead of IPO, and 10-K/10-Q/8-K filings by public corporations.

GovTrack is a topic-agnostic tool for tracking legislation, which I’ve customized to follow congressional actions in healthcare and biotech.

The Best Others

Twitter is a diverse source of insights and real-time updates from the biotech community. You can start with the list of people I follow @nbhorwitz.

Clubhouse is a chat room app. Tune in Sun 4pm EST to BiotechCH. Like Twitter, you can start with my biotech follows list: search @nbh in app.

BioMedTracker, UpToDate and GlobalData are expensive subscription services with enhanced search capabilities for companies and technologies.

What Not to Read

If you’ve never heard of the journal that published the paper you’re reading and the data seems weak—low n-values, high p-values—it may be garbage.

SeekingAlpha regularly posts mediocre or inaccurate intel on biotech stocks and has been at the center of multiple biotech pump-and-dump schemes.

Biopharma press releases. Follow them for real-time updates, but caveat lector until you see the content critiqued and corroborated by independent sources.

Conclusion

I hope you found new sources of biotech wisdom here. Know any essential resources that I didn’t include? Let me know!

Happy learning. —NBH

Principal at RA Capital, on the boards of 8 biotech companies. Founder/CEO of Nivien Therapeutics. Australian-American. 55 countries and counting.

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Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz

Nathaniel Brooks Horwitz

Principal at RA Capital, on the boards of 8 biotech companies. Founder/CEO of Nivien Therapeutics. Australian-American. 55 countries and counting.

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