Armed with blood samples, high-tech tools and a small army of fieldworkers, Nathan Wolfe hopes to re-invent pandemic control — and reveal hidden secrets of the planet's dominant lifeform: the virus.

Why you should listen

Using genetic sequencing, needle-haystack research, and dogged persistence (crucial to getting spoilage-susceptible samples through the jungle and to the lab), Nathan Wolfe has proven what was science-fiction conjecture only a few decades ago -- not only do viruses jump from animals to humans, but they do so all the time. Along the way Wolfe has discovered several new viruses, and is poised to discover many more.

Wolfe's research has turned the field of epidemiology on its head, and attracted interest from philanthropists at Google.org and the Skoll foundation. Better still, the research opens the door to preventing epidemics before they happen, sidelining them via early-warning systems and alleviating the poverty from which easy transmission emerges.

What others say

"Wolfe's brand of globe-trotting, open-ended viral discovery echoes an almost Victorian scientific ethic, an expedition to catalog the unseen menagerie of the world." — Wired

Nathan Wolfe’s TED talks

Nathan Wolfe on the TED Blog
See all
Biology

New Edge videos explore the staggering potential of genetics

July 31, 2009

What is life? Can we create it? Customize it? Edge has just published over six hours of video from their new Master Class on the future of biology, which attempts to answer those and other provocative questions. Featuring geneticists George Church and Craig Venter, the set is a a surprising, challenging look at what science […]

Continue reading

The week in comments

May 3, 2009

This was an especially lively week on the TED commenting front, as our community tackled debates on swine flu, race and politics, and globalization. These amazing discussions can get a little heated — so we appreciate that there always seems to be a voice of reason that emerges from the group to soothe frazzled nerves […]

Continue reading

Quotes from Nathan Wolfe

Many people on our planet right now despair; they think we’ve reached a point where we’ve discovered most of the things. I’m going tell you right now: Please don’t despair.
Nathan Wolfe
TED2009 • 854K views Mar 2009
Informative, Fascinating
It was little over 100 years ago that Beijerinck discovered viruses. We had automobiles, but we were unaware of the forms of life that make up most of the genetic information on our planet.
Nathan Wolfe
TED2012 • 674K views May 2012
Fascinating, Informative
About 20 percent of the genetic information in your nose doesn't match anything that we've ever seen before.
Nathan Wolfe
TED2012 • 674K views May 2012
Fascinating, Informative