The most important evolutionary book since Dawkin’s Selfish Gene

Dr Frank Ryan

The extraordinary role of viruses in evolution and how this is revolutionising biology and medicine.

In 2001, when two separate organisations laid bare, for the first time, the DNA structure of our human genome, it revealed a deeply paradoxical truth. Where we expected some 100,000 genes coding for the same number of proteins, in fact just 1.5% of our DNA codes for just 20,000 proteins. Meanwhile, almost half our DNA is viral – with a genetic structure very similar to the genome of HIV-1, the viral cause of AIDS. What does this mean in terms of the story of our human evolution? In Virolution, Frank Ryan tells the remarkable story of how viruses came to play an important role in our human evolution, and indeed in the evolution of biodiversity itself. There are very important lessons for medicine, with applications to common diseases such as cancer and MS.

Virolution is the product of Dr Frank Ryan’s two decades of research at the frontiers of this new science – now called viral symbiosis – and the revolution this is introducing into biology and medicine.

First published by William Collins (HarperCollins, UK) in 2009.


‘Viruses aren’t always harmful … Frank Ryan uses some beautiful examples to illustrate this idea. Worth reading.’
BBC Focus

‘Ryan has built an exciting story of heroic outsiders and fierce conflict over the nature of evolutionary innovation…The story moves along. Anecdotes fascinate, personalities excite.’
Stephen A Frank, Nature

‘Ryan is very good at making technical matters comprehensible to the lay reader but more impressive still is the way he conveys the intellectual excitement and elation of scientific discovery.’
Anthony Daniels, Literary Review

“Frank Ryan’s book is an important work because it provides a clarification of viruses’ role in evolution and it highlights that mutation is not the only driving force for hereditary change.”  Symbiosis


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