Review: Welcome to Biotech Nation by Moira Gunn

31 Jul

Welcome to Biotech Nation: My Unexpected Odyssey into the Land of Small Molecules, Lean Genes, and Big Ideas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book wasn’t what I was expecting.

It was far more readable and entertaining, but somewhat less educational. I was prepared to work very hard with my reading, and that wasn’t necessary.

From Goodreads:

As host of public radio’s Tech Nation, Dr. Moira Gunn has long been known for making all aspects of science and technology meaningful to the general listening public. But when she spontaneously decided at a cocktail-fueled biotech industry event that she would be launching a weekly segment on biotech — a subject that existed well outside of her normal comfort zone — she had her work cut out for her. For the millions of people who now listen to BioTech Nation, the rest is history.

Going behind the science and business of biotech, the book rides along with Dr. Gunn as she interviews an interesting and colorful cast of characters from the industry, including a DNA scientist with ego to burn and a pharmaceutical exec with a penchant for Viagra. Filled with compelling stories of everything from the genetically modified food fight to the reasons why the presidential stem lines are dying, the book explores the fascinating theories and breakthroughs in this exciting field.

So what did I get out of this book?

  • Some very entertaining stories.
  • How a radio show is put together.
  • The challenges of dealing with guests on a radio show.
  • A high level understanding of what Biotech is and where it is going.
  • An understanding of what some of the ethical issues involved are, and how they are (or aren’t) being addressed around the world.
  • Enough understanding of the issues to understand newspaper articles and follow conversations.
  • An exposure to the names of some of the key players in the field, and what their role is.

Biotech can be a somewhat touchy subject.   I think that in considering the technology and issues this book was written about 75% objective, 25% the author’s viewpoint based on the information she has.  That works for me.

I enjoyed reading it, and came out more knowledgeable. That works for me.

I discovered Welcome to BioTech Nation at last year’s Book Group Expo, and suggested it for my Book Club L.  The members voted it in, and we discussed it yesterday evening.

Everyone enjoyed reading it, and was glad we had wandered off of our usual path.  We had a good discussion on some of the issues that were raised in the book, things we’d heard before but now had a better grasp of.  Some of these issues included the use of genetically modified crops in the US and in Africa, and the problems with the Bush approved stem cell lines.

Some club members wished the book had gone deeper into the technology and the ethics, others were very happy it had not.  It was a good jumping off point for research into specific areas of interest.


Posted by on July 31, 2009 in Book Club, books, L, reviews


Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “Review: Welcome to Biotech Nation by Moira Gunn

  1. Mouli Cohen

    July 31, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for reviewing this, since biotech is something I am greatly interested in iit is currently on my to read stack.

  2. Care

    October 30, 2009 at 3:38 am

    Thank you! I’m quite interested. This would work for the Science Challenge, too. Off to tbr wishlist list I go…


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