A Shot to Save the World

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

You know what went wrong.

This is the untold story of what went right.

Few were ready when a mysterious respiratory illness emerged in Wuhan, China, in January 2020. Politicians, government officials, business leaders and public-health professionals were unprepared for the most devastating pandemic in a century. Many of the world’s biggest drug and vaccine makers were slow to react or couldn’t muster an effective response.

It was up to a small group of unlikely and untested scientists and executives to save civilization. A French businessman dismissed by many as a fabulist. A Turkish immigrant with little virus experience. A quirky Midwesterner obsessed with insect cells. A Boston scientist employing questionable techniques. A British scientist resented by his peers. Far from the limelight, each had spent years developing innovative vaccine approaches. Their work was met with scepticism and scorn. By 2020, these individuals had little proof of progress. Yet they and their colleagues wanted to be the ones to stop a virulent virus holding the world hostage. They scrambled to turn their life’s work into life-saving vaccines in a matter of months, each gunning to make the big breakthrough – and to beat each other for the glory that a vaccine guaranteed.

A number-one New York Times bestselling author and award-winning Wall Street Journal investigative journalist, Zuckerman takes us inside the top-secret laboratories, corporate clashes and high-stakes government negotiations that led to effective shots. Deeply reported and endlessly gripping, this is a dazzling, blow-by-blow chronicle of the most consequential scientific breakthrough of our time. It’s a story of courage, genius and heroism. It’s also a tale of heated rivalries, unbridled ambitions, crippling insecurities and unexpected drama. A Shot to Save the World is the story of how science saved the world.


‘Thrilling, inspiring and informative page-turner.’ Walter Isaacson, author of The Code Breaker

© Gregory Zuckerman 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021

Critics Review

  • The race to develop a COVID vaccine is one of the most exciting dramas in medical history, and A Shot to Save the World is a thrilling account based on great reporting and access to all of the teams. An inspiring and informative page-turner.

    Walter Isaacson, author of The Code Breaker
  • An appropriately breathless account of the business and scientific rivalries between researchers and companies behind the successful coronavirus vaccines. Zuckerman shows how a global catastrophe transformed the fortunes of tiny, visionary ventures, and huge pharmaceutical enterprises, as they raced to stem the pandemic’s spread.

    Financial Times
  • Zuckerman conveys decades of complex scientific research in a gripping fashion. His focus on the slow burn of discovery makes for a fascinating angle and offers plenty of inspiration. The result is tough to put down.

    Publishers Weekly

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