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Incubation is a podcast that traces the history of humanity through viruses. We’ve all seen how the SARS CoV2 pandemic changed just about everything — from family life to work to politics –– but that’s just the latest installment in a long line of virus shake-ups. Other viruses –– influenza, HPV, smallpox, RSV –– have dramatically changed or endangered life as we know it. In many cases, scientists have been able to change the odds in favor of humanity. But deadly viruses persist — and containing them remains a scientific and technological challenge that each successive generation must take on.

Author and What’s Your Problem host Jacob Goldstein takes us on a journey with leading medical researchers, doctors and historians to trace key moments in our battles with viruses, breakthroughs in vaccine research, and the impact of vaccination campaigns.  These stories will help us better understand the evolutionary contest between humans and viruses, and how vaccines and new technologies are changing the score.

Most Recent Episode

Phages: Bacteria’s Worst Nightmare

Can bacteriophages help us in the fight against antibiotic-resistant infections? Author Tom Ireland joins the show to discuss the fascinating world of bacteriophages, also known as phages – viruses that…

Herpes: Symptoms and Stigma

Why do we all know so little about the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), despite the fact that herpes infections are common and chronic? First, we get some Herpes 101 from…

HPV: Unpacking Papilloma

What can the mythical jackalope teach us about HPV? Author Michael Branch tells the story of how scientists first discovered horned rabbits, and how their findings paved the way for…

Influenza: In the Wild

What risk does H5N1 pose to humans? We hear from David Quammen, author of “Spillover,” about the vast and complicated interplay between influenza, the environment, animals, and humans. Then, molecular…

The Common Cold: A Viral Mystery

What do we know – and not know – about the suite of viral infections known as “the common cold”? We speak with curator Katie Dabin about the UK’s Common…

RSV: The Quest for a New Vaccine

What is ‘structure-based’ vaccine design? Before scientists used these techniques to design vaccines against Covid, they were testing them in the lab to combat RSV. Keren Landman joins the show…

Polio: The Last Mile

Why has polio been so challenging to eradicate? Karen Torghele tells the story of two polio vaccines and the two rival scientists who developed them: Albert Sabin and Jonas Salk.…

Smallpox: Gone but Not Forgotten

What can we learn from the centuries-long quest to eradicate smallpox, once the scourge of humanity? And how did it set the stage for all vaccines to come? First we…

Introducing: Incubation

A new podcast that traces the history of humanity through viruses.

The Host