Science Fiction and Real-Life Biopharma
Richards’ novels have drawn comparisons to another author whose thrillers skillfully blended suspense with accurate science, Michael Crichton (1942–2008). Three years after writing Jurassic Park (1990), the sci-fi thriller became a Steven Spielberg-directed blockbuster that incorporated knowledge about the tools and technologies used by scientists who handle DNA, following a visit by the movie’s assistant art director to GEN.
“If you have to be compared to somebody, you could do a lot worse than being compared to Michael Crichton,” Richards said. “I write thrillers with science-fictional elements that are driven by a core of meticulously research science, striving for accuracy, and I think that’s what Crichton did as well. This being said, you can’t be too rigorous in your explanations because you have to move the plot along. And, obviously, you take liberties, because it is speculative fiction. For example, genetically engineering a cure for psychopathy is impossible.”
For now, at least. But research into the link between brain scans and other mental and behavioral disorders continues to bear promising results. On October 16, MIT neuroscientists led by Susumu Tonegawa, Ph.D., the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, published study results in the journal Neuron showing neural activity linked to schizophrenia in mice.
Dr. Tonegawa, winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, and colleagues at the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory found that mice lacking the brain protein calcineurin had hyperactive brain-wave oscillations in the hippocampus while at rest, and were unable to mentally replay a route they had just run, something normal mice can do.
Richards also evokes comparisons to another insider-turned-best-selling author—John Grisham, who has had more than 275 million of his books printed worldwide, translated into some 40 languages, by bringing readers into the inner workings of the courtroom and law firm.
The Cure, similarly, strives to bring readers into the biopharma world, with its depictions of a biotech company, gene sequencing, gene therapy, FDA, and an insider’s look at a vivarium that Richards said was “an exact description of the vivarium at a company I worked at, from the different species of animals, the way they were handled, to the experiments that were conducted there.”
“I bring almost two decades of insider experience to my novels,” Richards added. “I’ve found that people in the biotech-pharma industry really get a kick out of my books, above and beyond their popularity with the general public. They seem to truly enjoy reading science fiction thrillers written by one of their own.”