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Story of Taxol

  • Taxol is arguably the most celebrated, talked about, and controversial natural product in recent years. Celebrated because of its efficacy as an anticancer drug and because its discovery has provided powerful support for policies concerned with biodiversity. Talked about because in the early 1990s the American public was bombarded with news reports about the molecule and its host, the slow-growing Pacific yew tree. Controversial because the drug and the yew tree became embroiled in several sensitive political issues with broad public policy implications. Taxol has revolutionized the treatment options for patients with advanced forms of breast and ovarian cancers and some types of leukemia; it shows promise for treating AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma. It is the best-selling anticancer drug ever, with world sales of $1.2 billion in 1998 and expected to grow. Goodman and Walsh's careful study of how taxol was discovered, researched, and brought to market documents the complexities and conflicting interests in the ongoing process to find effective treatments. From a broader perspective, The Story of Taxol uses the discovery and development of taxol as a paradigm to address current issues in the history and sociology of science and medicine. Jordan Goodman is a Senior Lecturer in History at the Manchester School of Management, University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology. He has written on subjects as varied as the history of medicine and economic history for journal articles and in edited volumes. Goodman's previous books include Tobacco in History (Routledge, 1994) and Consuming Habits: Drugs in History and Anthropology (Routledge, 1995). Vivien Walsh is Reader in Technology Management at the Manchester School of Management, University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology. She has been researching the pharmaceutical and chemical industry for years and is currently working on globalization of innovative activity in the face of technological and organizational changes in the chemical, pharmaceutical, and agro-food industries. Walsh has been a consultant to the European Commission and to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
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