July 23, 2020

Muhammad H. Zaman

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes MUHAMMAD H. ZAMAN—the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University—for a discussion of his book Biography of Resistance: The Epic Battle Between People and Pathogens. He will be joined in conversation by fellow Boston University professor and co-director of the Health Law Program, KEVIN OUTTERSON.


In September 2016, a woman in Nevada became the first known case in the U.S. of a person who died of an infection resistant to every antibiotic available. Her death is the worst nightmare of infectious disease doctors and public health professionals. While bacteria live within us and are essential for our health, some strains can kill us. As bacteria continue to mutate, becoming increasingly resistant to known antibiotics, we are likely to face a public health crisis of unimaginable proportions. “It will be like the great plague of the middle ages, the influenza pandemic of 1918, the AIDS crisis of the 1990s, and the Ebola epidemic of 2014 all combined into a single threat,” Muhammad H. Zaman warns.

Biography of Resistance is Zaman’s riveting and timely look at why and how microbes are becoming superbugs. It is a story of science and evolution that looks to history, culture, attitudes and our own individual choices and collective human behavior. Following the trail of resistant bacteria from previously uncontacted tribes in the Amazon to the isolated islands in the Arctic, from the urban slums of Karachi to the wilderness of the Australian outback, Zaman examines the myriad factors contributing to this unfolding health crisis—including war, greed, natural disasters, and germophobia—to the culprits driving it: pharmaceutical companies, farmers, industrialists, doctors, governments, and ordinary people, all whose choices are pushing us closer to catastrophe.

Joining the ranks of acclaimed works like Microbe HuntersThe Emperor of All Maladies, and SpilloverBiography of Resistance is a riveting and chilling tale from a natural storyteller on the front lines, and a clarion call to address the biggest public health threat of our time.

About Author(s)

Muhammad H. Zaman is the author of Biography of Resistance: The Epic Battle Between People and Pathogens. He is the Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor of Biomedical Engineering and International Health at Boston University. He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching from the American Society for Engineering Education, The US National Academy of Sciences, The University of Texas System, Boston University and other national and international organizations. He is a regular contributor on issues of drug quality control and global health for the Project SyndicateHuffington Post and writes a weekly column on innovation in health and education for leading Pakistan daily, Express Tribune which is part of the International New York Times group.

Kevin Outterson teaches health care law at Boston University, where he co-directs the Health Law Program. He serves as the Executive Director and Principal Investigator for CARB-X, a $500M international public-private partnership to accelerate global antibacterial innovation. Professor Outterson’s research work focuses on the law and economics of antimicrobial resistance. He served as a senior author on many key research reports on antibiotic innovation, including Chatham House, ERG, DRIVE-AB, and the Lancet Commission.