Boston Filmmaker Plans to Make a Movie About the Early Days of Vertex

Boston Filmmaker Plans to Make a Movie About the Early Days of Vertex July 12, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

BOSTON – The story of another pharmaceutical company may be making its way to the silver screen. This time the story of Vertex Pharmaceuticals , from its founding by Joshua Boger to the quest for drug development based on rational design, will be told.

Massachusetts filmmaker Yael Beals optioned the rights to Barry Werth’s 1994 book “The Billion Dollar Molecule: One Company’s Quest for the Perfect Drug,” the Boston Business Journal reported Monday. Beals’ film will be a feature film and appears to have all the key players on board to make the film a reality, the Journal said. Beals told the Journal that she found the book, which details the early years of Vertex, “inspirational.” The book tells the story of Boger, who left his role at Merck to found Vertex as a company that would design drugs based on the knowledge of its biological target—a risky move at the time.

“I thought it was a story that should really be told. I’m hoping it will help people see scientists in a new way,” Beals told the Journal.

According to the website Beals set up about the film, the film aims to show audiences “the personal struggles and triumphs of these pioneers in the world of biotech.” The story focuses on how the Vertex team worked diligently to develop therapies for diseases such as hepatitis C, HIV and cystic fibrosis. On the site Beals said the film will show how scientists are the true heroes of the world due to their tireless efforts to “tackle the world's most devastating health problems.”

In addition to the work in the lab, the Billion Dollar Molecule story so shows how Boger and others approached Wall Street to find financing for their drugmaking vision and the quest to take the company public.

Beals has planned a few fundraising events to find financing for her film, including one tonight at the Mass Innovation Labs in Cambridge. Several of the key players in Vertex’ early history, including Roger Tung, CEO of Concert Pharmaceuticals and Manuel Navia, president of Hub-Bio Advising, will be on hand, as will author Werth, the Journal said.

Although Vertex has struggled to show a profit since its founding in 1989, the company has developed some key treatments for cystic fibrosis, including its newest drug, Orkambi, which analysts predict could generate up to $5 billion in annual revenue by 2018. Orkambi is predicted to have a much wider reach than the company’s other key CF drug, Kalydeco. Last year Kalydeco received a key boost when President Barack Obama touted its success during the State of the Union Address.

This is the second pharma film to be talked about in recent months. Earlier this summer Jennifer Lawrence was reported to have signed to have signed on to play the title character in the story of Elizabeth Holmes, the embattled founder and chief executive officer of blood-testing company Theranos. The planned film is the project of writer/ director Adam McKay, best known for his “The Big Short” script, which won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay earlier this year.

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