Scientists make hilarious movie posters to punch disease in the face.

Right now, the world of infectious disease is looking incredibly optimistic.

A lab tech preps a test. Photo by Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images.

I know that might sound kind of weird. We don't often hear the words "infectious disease" and immediately feel all excited and hopeful. But we're actually making tremendous, tangible, changing-someone's-life progress every day.


"The more time you spend with folks working in the field, the more optimistic you become," said Trevor DeWitt, who works at the Center for Infectious Disease Research (CIDR), a research institute headquartered in Seattle.

In fact, the fight is looking so strong that the scientists at the CIDR decided to illustrate their battles in the style of epic movies.

Inspired by the fight against disease — as well as comics and classic movies — the center teamed up with a creative partner to created four colorful posters that capture the field's passion and optimism.

The posters help show how, though we laypeople might think of studying infectious disease as a never-ending, depressing slog through test tubes, microscopes, and hospital sick bays, this fight is actually every bit as exciting as any epic movie battle scene.

Check them out:

1. You can't run forever, HIV!

Image from the Center for Infectious Disease Research, used with permission.

Oh, by the way, this optimism isn't just horsefeathers.

Because while HIV (the virus that causes AIDS) once seemed insurmountable, today better education, better prevention, and new, better antiviral medications are putting this disease on the run. We may even see a HIV vaccine in the near future!

2. Time's up, malaria!

Image from the Center for Infectious Disease Research, used with permission.

Over 3 billion people are at risk of contracting malaria, which is a parasitic infection carried by mosquitoes. That might seem too big to fight, but actually, in the last 15 years, our hard work has been able to drop incidence rates by 37% and death rates by 60%!

3. Good riddance, tuberculosis!

Image from the Center for Infectious Disease Research, used with permission.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial disease that often attacks the lungs. It killed about 1.5 million people in 2014. That's a lot, but the World Health Organization has set a goal to eliminate 90% of infections by 2035, and with international support and a suite of powerful antibiotics, we might be able to pull it off!

4. You're finished, sleeping sickness!

Image from the Center for Infectious Disease Research, used with permission.

Sleeping sickness is a parasitic infection carried by tsetse flies, which are found in sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to sustained control efforts, cases have been steadily dropping — between 2000 and 2013, the new-case infection rate dropped 73%!

This fight is proof that when we all join forces, there's very little we can't do.

"The pace of discovery is quickening every single day," DeWitt said, noting the ability to share knowledge, inspiration, and technology has completely changed the infectious disease game. "From our view, there's never been a better time for scientific discovery than right now."

The center hopes that by publishing these posters, they can highlight a few of the less flashy, cable-newsy diseases. But more than that, they hope these posters help people become inspired to join the fight, whether through science, the creative arts, or simply pushing the government for more scientific funding.

DeWitt also said they're hoping to publish another poster series soon. And I, for one, can't wait to see them.

In 2015, Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price had a life-changing epiphany.

Price, who founded Gravity with his brother in 2004, was out hiking in the Cascade Mountains with his friend, Valerie. She told him her landlord had raised her rent by $200 and she was struggling to get by on her $40,000 a year income. Price, who was making $1.1 million a year as CEO of Gravity, was struck by her story. Not only did he feel for Valerie—a military veteran working two jobs and barely making ends meet—realized that some of his own employees might be facing similar struggles.

And they were. One employee frankly told him his entry-level salary was a rip-off. Another employee had secretly been working at McDonald's outside of work hours to make ends meet. So Price decided to make a drastic change by investing in his employees.

He researched how much money the average person would need in order to live comfortably and settled on $70,000 a year. In one fell swoop, he dropped his own salary to that amount, while also making it the minimum salary for anyone who worked at Gravity.

The move drew media coverage—and dire predictions from pundits. On Fox News and other conservative outlets he was called "foolish," a "socialist" and a "lunatic of lunatics." Rush Limbaugh called the company policy "pure unadulterated socialism" that was "going to fail" and should be a case study in MBA programs on how socialism doesn't work. Talking heads predicted that his employees would end up in the welfare line.

Six years later, Price has proved the haters wrong—by a lot.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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