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Future of Life Institute Podcast
114 min2020 DEC 11
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Future of Life Award 2020: Saving 200,000,000 Lives by Eradicating Smallpox


The recipients of the 2020 Future of Life Award, William Foege, Michael Burkinsky, and Victor Zhdanov Jr., join us on this episode of the FLI Podcast to recount the story of smallpox eradication, William Foege's and Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s involvement in the eradication, and their personal experience of the events. Topics discussed in this episode include: -William Foege's and Victor Zhdanov's efforts to eradicate smallpox -Personal stories from Foege's and Zhdanov's lives -The history of smallpox -Biological issues of the 21st century You can find the page for this podcast here: https://futureoflife.org/2020/12/11/future-of-life-award-2020-saving-200000000-lives-by-eradicating-smallpox/ You can watch the 2020 Future of Life Award ceremony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73WQvR5iIgk&feature=emb_title&ab_channel=FutureofLifeInstitute You can learn more about the Future of Life Award here: https://futureoflife.org/future-of-life-award/ Timestamps: 0:00 Intro 3:13 Part 1: How William Foege got into smallpox efforts and his work in Eastern Nigeria 14:12 The USSR's smallpox eradication efforts and convincing the WHO to take up global smallpox eradication 15:46 William Foege's efforts in and with the WHO for smallpox eradication 18:00 Surveillance and containment as a viable strategy 18:51 Implementing surveillance and containment throughout the world after success in West Africa 23:55 Wrapping up with eradication and dealing with the remnants of smallpox 25:35 Lab escape of smallpox in Birmingham England and the final natural case 27:20 Part 2: Introducing Michael Burkinsky as well as Victor and Katia Zhdanov 29:45 Introducing Victor Zhdanov Sr. and Alissa Zhdanov 31:05 Michael Burkinsky's memories of Victor Zhdanov Sr. 39:26 Victor Zhdanov Jr.'s memories of Victor Zhdanov Sr. 46:15 Mushrooms with meat 47:56 Stealing the family car 49:27 Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s efforts at the WHO for smallpox eradication 58:27 Exploring Alissa's book on Victor Zhdanov Sr.'s life 1:06:09 Michael's view that Victor Zhdanov Sr. is unsung, especially in Russia 1:07:18 Part 3: William Foege on the history of smallpox and biology in the 21st century 1:07:32 The origin and history of smallpox 1:10:34 The origin and history of variolation and the vaccine 1:20:15 West African "healers" who would create smallpox outbreaks 1:22:25 The safety of the smallpox vaccine vs. modern vaccines 1:29:40 A favorite story of William Foege's 1:35:50 Larry Brilliant and people central to the eradication efforts 1:37:33 Foege's perspective on modern pandemics and human bias 1:47:56 What should we do after COVID-19 ends 1:49:30 Bio-terrorism, existential risk, and synthetic pandemics 1:53:20 Foege's final thoughts on the importance of global health experts in politics This podcast is possible because of the support of listeners like you. If you found this conversation to be meaningful or valuable, consider supporting it directly by donating at futureoflife.org/donate. Contributions like yours make these conversations possible.