Despite the importance of human diploid cell cultures to the history of science, they might seem to be the least promising of subjects for the casual reader. But Dr. Wadman, a physician who works as a reporter for Science magazine, puts them at the center of a riveting tale of scientific infighting, clashing personalities, sketchy ethics, and the transformation of cell biology from a sleepy scientific backwater to a high-stakes arena where vast fortunes are made.
It is an extraordinary story and Wadman is to be congratulated, not just for uncovering it but for relaying it in such a pacy, stimulating manner. This is a first-class piece of science writing that does considerable justice to Hayflick, a character who achieved great things but let his pigheadedness lead him into trouble.
The Vaccine Race is an important read—for scientists, politicians, physicians, parents and everyone interested in how the world of medical research works ... Her love of science and the intrigue involved in the politics of medical research make The Vaccine Race a very compelling read ...Wadman’s feelings about Hayflick are ambiguous, and that plays out in the book. She admires Hayflick the scientist and his 'thoroughness, patience, determination, and an outsized tolerance for the seemingly mundane repetitive work.' However, her mistrust of his commercialization of the WI-38 cells is apparent. Consequently, Hayflick’s fall—the investigation by the NIH and his subsequent resignation from Stanford—aren’t as compelling as they would be if Waldman could make the reader identify with him more as a sympathetic character ... That is why it is so important to read this book, to see how science works and how politics can and does interfere with what science does best and what is best for us.