Candace Pert

Genius, Greed, and Madness in the World of Science


By Pamela Ryckman

Read by Jess Nahikian

Read by Pamela Ryckman

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The story of maverick scientist Candace Pert, whose groundbreaking research introduced the world to the mind-body connection, opioid receptors, and peptide T, and her fight for recognition in a toxic healthcare system.

Candace Pert stood at the dawn of three revolutions: the women’s movement, integrative health, and psychopharmacology. A scientific prodigy, she was 30 years ahead of her time, preaching a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to healthcare and medicine long before yoga hit the mainstream and “wellness” took root in our vernacular. Her bestselling book Molecules of Emotion made her the mother of the Mind/Body Revolution, launching a paradigm shift in medicine. Deepak Chopra credits her with creating his career, and he said as much in his eulogy at her funeral.
Candace began her career as an unbridled maverick. In 1972, as a 26-year-old graduate student at Johns Hopkins, she discovered the opiate receptor, revolutionizing her field and enabling pharmacologists to design new classifications of drugs from Prozac to Viagra to Percocet and OxyContin. The tragic irony of her breakthrough, touted as the first step to end heroin addiction, is that it helped spawn a virulent epidemic of drug dependence. Facing the largest public health crisis of the 21st century, Candace was incensed that the Hippocratic oath—“first, do no harm”—would succumb to greed, and as witness to this abuse of power, she was one of few scientists courageous enough to protest.
Later, as Chief of Brain Biochemistry at the National Institutes of Health, Candace created Peptide T, the non-toxic treatment for HIV featured in Dallas BuyersClub. As the AIDS pandemic raged, triggering panic across Reagan-era America, the U.S. government poured massive amounts of money into finding a cure, sparking a battle among scientists for funding and power. Bested by rivals with competing drugs yet desperate to help, Candace went rogue, becoming a lynchpin in the black market for Peptide T.
After a scandalous departure from her tenured position at the NIH, Candace launched a series of private companies with Michael Ruff, her second husband and collaborator. Naïve to the world of business, she was manipulated by investors keen to wrest control of her discoveries. But Candace too became tainted, believing that her noble ends would justify devious means. Like a mythic hero, she succumbed to a fatal flaw, and her greatest strengths—singularity of purpose and blind faith in her own virtuosity—would prove to be her undoing.


On Sale
Nov 7, 2023
Hachette Audio

Pamela Ryckman

About the Author

Pamela Ryckman is a screenwriter, producer, and business executive with a focus on women in the workforce. She is the author of STILETTO NETWORK: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business (HarperCollins Leadership/Amacom, 2013), which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. Ryckman is also a thought leader and speaker who consults on diversity to global corporations. With Shaquille O’Neal and Credit Suisse, Ryckman launched Momentum: Black Men’s Leadership Retreat, which convened 50 of the nation’s most high-powered African American men in 2015 to focus on job creation and economic empowerment in the Black community.

Additionally, Ryckman has written for The New York Times, Financial Times, and Washington Post, among other publications. She was the first to shed light on Belizean Grove, a secret society of the world’s most powerful women, and she co-authored CS Gender 3000, a Credit Suisse research report that debunked the “Queen Bee” myth for women. Ryckman is an investor in Operator Collective, a venture fund that supports women and minorities, and in Lucky Godot, a theatre development fund. She is also a board member of Page 73 Productions, which won a 2020 Obie Award for providing extraordinary support for early-career playwrights and counts among its alumni two Pulitzer Prize winners and a MacArthur Fellow.

From 2003 to 2009, Ryckman was on the board of The Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York, which won a 2010 Tony Award for Excellence in the Theatre. Early in her career, Ryckman held internal strategy roles at Merrill Lynch’s Global Markets and Investment Banking Group, and at Goldman Sachs & Co.’s Equities Financial and Strategic Management group. She earned her A.B. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University and her M.A. in Journalism from NYU.

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