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The Beautiful Cure: Harnessing your Body’s Natural Defences

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The immune system holds the key to human health. The scientific quest to understand how it works – and how it is affected by stress, diet, sleep, age, and our state of mind – is now unlocking a revolutionary new approach to medicine and well-being.

The Bodley Head / Random House
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Daniel M. Davis


Short-listed for the Royal Society Science book prize

The immune system holds the key to human health. The scientific quest to understand how it works – and how it is affected by stress, diet, sleep, age, and our state of mind – is now unlocking a revolutionary new approach to medicine and well-being.

The body’s ability to fight disease and heal itself is one of the great mysteries and marvels of nature, but within the last few years painstaking research has resulted in major advances in our understanding of the immune system, revealing an inner world of breath-taking sophistication, complexity and beauty. Far more powerful than any medicine ever invented, it also plays a crucial role in our daily lives. Already we have found ways to harness these natural defences to create break-through drugs and therapies that help us fight cancer, diabetes, arthritis and many age-related diseases, and we are starting to understand whether or not activities such as mindfulness might play a role in enhancing our physical resilience.

Written by an expert at the forefront of this adventure, The Beautiful Cure tells a dramatic story of detective work and discovery, of puzzles solved and of the mysteries that remain, of lives sacrificed and saved, introducing the reader to this revelatory new understanding of the human body and what it takes to be healthy.


‘Absorbing…Daniel Davis is a wonderful storyteller.’
Bill Bryson

‘Written with an irresistible blend of authority, charm and wit, The Beautiful Cure is an eye-opening tour de force of scientific writing that reads like the best kind of adventure story. As David Attenborough opens our goggling eyes to the natural world without, so Daniel Davis brings us face to face with the stunningly clever and, yes, beautiful world within – our immune system. It is a story of scientific leaps of imagination, faith and restless curiosity, one of those books that makes you look at everything human in a new, challenging and thrilling way.’
Stephen Fry

‘The human body is the most complicated assemblage of chemicals in the known universe. It’s a huge scientific challenge to understand how we metabolise, how we acquire immunity, and how drugs work. Daniel Davis is a distinguished expert in this field – and he’s a fine writer too. He portrays vividly how great discoveries emerge – via prolonged effort, via cooperation and competition, and sometime sheer luck. This gripping book gives an authentic flavour of how science is actually done – and why it’s important for humanity’s future.’
Professor Lord Martin Rees

‘Gives extraordinary new details of an ancient remedy that is already more marvellous, powerful and flexible than any medicine to come out of a lab.’
Roger Highfield

‘This book is an insight into new, remarkable and almost unnoticed advances in immunology and shows how medicine is moving on from the world of the gene to the world of the antibody.’
Professor Steve Jones

‘Forget AI, robotics, the internet of things. This is where the future feels strange and exciting: in the ‘inner universe’ of our immune system, and in the radically new therapies that are using it to conquer disease.’
Sunday Times

‘One of the best accounts I have yet come across of the nature of biological science and discovery … Daniel Davis’s wonderful book recounts in exceptionally clear and sympathetic prose how research into the immune system in recent decades has resulted in what amounts to a health revolution … Davis’s book illustrates this wonderfully well: the immune system is a thing of great beauty and awesome complexity.’
Henry Marsh, New Statesman

‘Davis relates the extraordinary modern developments in immunotherapy – the idea of somehow supercharging the body’s own immune system to fight disease, and one day maybe even eliminate cancer … The general upshot of Davis’s terrific analysis seems to be that if there’s anything in medical science that could ever count as a panacea – something to cure all ills – it would be the immune system itself … Not only a fascinating but an entertaining read.’
Steven Poole, ***** Telegraph

‘Thrilling … Do not underestimate the importance of immunology. This field relates to you personally.’
Adam Rutherford, Guardian

‘A sweeping tour d’horizon … lucid and entertaining … Much as Siddhartha Mukherjee did in his book The Gene, Davis expertly weaves together human stories and scientific endeavour.’
Tom Whipple, The Times

‘A terrific book by a consummate storyteller and scientific expert.’

‘New ways to treat cancer, diabetes, arthritis and other age-related diseases … Davis is a sure and engaging guide to these developments.’

‘An inspirational book that not only reveals the secret joys of scientific discovery but is jam-packed full of revelations for non-scientists.’
Mail on Sunday

‘Any reader completely unfamiliar with the workings of the immune system is likely to be dumbstruck with admiration for its intricacy … Davis’s book is full of enlivening little anecdotes.’
Literary Review

‘Highly readable, beautifully researched, backed up with notes, references and interviews by Davis himself, whose status as an immunology professor confers added credibility. He believes that we now know enough about the major components and interactions of the immune system to begin manipulating them to cure diseases such as cancer. We stand, he predicts, on the threshold of a medical revolution.’
New Scientist

‘A modern equivalent of Paul de Kruif’s 1926 classic, Microbe Hunters, Davis’s work is concise and illuminating.’
Publisher’s Weekly

‘A visceral appreciation for how messy, and how human, medical science can be.’
David A. Shaywitz, The Wall Street Journal