After years of studying illness from the germs' point of view, microbiologist Paul Ewald believes that Big Pharma is wrong about some very big issues. What's right? The leader in evolutionary medicine posits radical new approaches.

Why you should listen

Paul Ewald has a problem with modern medicine: It ignores the fact that many diseases of unknown origin can be linked to slow-growing infections caused by viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms.

Ewald -- whose theory stems from both a formal education in biological sciences, ecology, and evolution, and a personal bout with diarrhea in the 1970s -- aims to change this thinking. To that end, he has written popular news articles, academic papers, and two books (Evolution of Infectious Disease and Plague Time) that explain and expand his idea. Ewald is regarded as the leading expert in the emerging field of evolutionary medicine. He directs the evolutionary medicine program in the Biology department at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and lectures worldwide.

Among other honors, Ewald was the first recipient of the Smithsonian Institution's George E. Burch Fellowship in Theoretic Medicine and Affiliated Sciences, which was established to foster pioneering work in health sciences.

What others say

“Ewald smashe[s] the old, and unfortunately still widely accepted, notion that parasites and their hosts inevitably evolve toward a benign coexistence.” — Scientific American

Paul Ewald’s TED talk

Paul Ewald on the TED Blog

Q&A

TED Book: “Controlling Cancer” offers bold plan to stop a killer

January 10, 2012

The scourge of cancer has ripped through bodies, families, and generations for so long and with such power that it feels almost invincible. Biologist Paul Ewald—widely regarded as the leading expert in the emerging field of evolutionary medicine—and co-author Holly Swain Ewald may have found a way of attacking the intractable killer, which they detail in […]

Continue reading

Can we domesticate germs? Paul Ewald on TED.com

May 7, 2008

Evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald drags us into the sewer to discuss germs. Why are some germs more harmful than others? How could we make the harmful ones benign? Searching for answers, he examines a disgusting, fascinating case: diarrhea. (Recorded February 2007 in Monterey, California. Duration: 17:52.) Watch Paul Ewald’s talk on TED.com, where you can […]

Continue reading

Quotes from Paul Ewald

We could get evolution working in the direction we want it to go, rather than always having to battle evolution as a problem.
Paul Ewald
TED2007 • 279K views May 2008
Informative, Fascinating