How to Learn Biotech
The best scientific literature, news, podcasts, books and more!
This is a roundup of top resources in biotech, pharma and healthcare.
My list excludes many great ways to learn: conferences, scientific degrees, textbooks, talking with people, or working in biotech. However, it’s the most curated (and now most widely-read) collection of materials that you can access at any time, from anywhere in the world, mostly for free.
If I’ve missed a good source or you’d like to connect, feel free to reach out!
bioRxiv, medRxiv and chemRxiv are the cutting edge for new data as the latest results often appear in preprints months before formal publication. Also subscribe for updates from Nature, Science, Cell, PNAS and NEJM.
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.
FDA provides extensive guidance on trials, drugs, medical devices, regulations, 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.”
GovTrack is a topic-agnostic tool for tracking legislation, which I’ve customized to follow congressional actions in healthcare and biotech.
Massachusetts Life Sciences Center is a public-private partnership between Massachusetts and the industry, with a range of useful resources.
News, Newsletters & Podcasts
Sign up for the free Endpoints newsletter (~15 short articles by email Mon-Fri at ~11am EST) and the Early Edition (top headlines ~6am EST).
BioPharmCatalyst tracks each day’s top catalysts (clinical readouts, FDA approvals or CRLs, trial halts, etc.) and their effect on biotech stocks.
Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit with a free newsletter focused on health and healthcare issues in the US like the opioid crisis and insurance policy.
Exome is Xconomy’s free biotech section, which focuses on financial news like stock movements, upcoming IPOs and relevant government activity.
Asia-Pacific Biotech News is a magazine with free online healthcare and biotech news in China, Japan, Korea, India, and SE Asia. ChinaBio Today is the pay-walled site and free newsletter of the eponymous advisory firm.
PharmaExec publishes useful annual reports and insightful essays on a wide range of biotech issues, typically written by biopharma executives.
Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News (GEN) is one of the oldest biotech publications and provides broad coverage, from bio to software.
Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN) hosts news and features (free) alongside a magazine (paid) from the American Chemical Society.
In The Pipeline, written by Derek Lowe and hosted by Science, is a wide-ranging blog covering everything from in-depth med chem to sober critiques of over-hyped companies peddling AI in pharma.
LifeSciVC is the blog of Atlas partner Bruce Booth, whose writing focuses on analyses of the venture industry and highlights from the Atlas portfolio. He also regularly invites biotech executives to write ‘From the Trenches’ essays.
Drug Truths is a series of essays by John LaMattina, ex-president of R&D at Pfizer. He writes on a variety of pharma and regulatory topics, now split up between his old blog and his new platform as a Forbes contributor.
Laura Deming, founder of Longevity Fund, summarized her field as of 2018 in A Beginner’s Guide to Longevity Research, which I edited.
PlengeGen, by Celgene VP and former Harvard professor Robert Plenge, focuses on drug discovery research, human genetics and emergent tech.
The Curious Wavefunction is a short series of “musings on science, history, philosophy and literature” by Ash Jogalekar, primarily on chemistry and AI.
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), Life at the Speed of Light and A Life Decoded (Craig Venter), Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA (Brenda Maddox), The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene (Siddhartha Mukherjee), and Regenesis (George Church).
Others I recommend: Science Business (Gary Pisano), 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), The Case Against Perfection (Michael Sandel), and Medicine, Science and Merck (Roy Vagelos and Louis Galambos).
A few acclaimed books I haven’t read yet: Hood (Luke Timmerman), Deep Medicine (Eric Topol), I Contain Multitudes (Ed Yong), The Forever Fix (Ricki Lewis), Science Lessons (Gordon Binder), She Has Her Mother’s Laugh (Carl Zimmer), The 8th Day of Creation (Horace Freeland Judson), and Bad Medicine (Milton Silverman, Mia Lydecker and Philip Lee).
Clubhouse is an app that hosts audio-only chat rooms. Tune in to BiotechCH each Sun 4–6pm EST for discussion hosted by Chris Garabedian (Xontogeny), Daphne Zohar (PureTech) and Brad Loncar (Loncar Investments). Similar to Twitter, you can start with my biotech-focused list (search @nbh in the app).
CafePharma is the reddit of biopharma, with a roundup of news and a lively anonymous forum haunted by biotech gossipers and disaffected pharma folks.
Top analysts such as Umer Raffat, Jeffrey Porges, Alethia Young, Michael Yee, and Brian Skorney provide detailed research on biopharma companies. You must be a client to get on their lists — technically.
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.
Biopharma press releases. Follow them for real-time updates, but caveat lector until you see the content critiqued and corroborated by independent sources.
Popular media. Like industry PR, it can be helpful context for breaking news, but mainstream outlets not known for high credibility may be prone to errors.
I hope you found new sources of biotech wisdom here. Know any great resources that I didn’t include? Let me know!
Happy learning. —NBH