Sunday, February 19, 2017

Yeah, I Suppose Bill Gates Does Know a Lot About Viruses

This isn't all that new. But it seems to be news to the Telegraph.  I'm surprised that they are surprised.  

Bioterrorists could one day kill hundreds of millions of people in an attack more deadly than nuclear war, Bill Gates will warn world leaders.

Rapid advances in genetic engineering have opened the door for small terrorism groups to tailor and easily turn biological viruses into weapons.

A resulting disease pandemic is currently one of the most deadly threats faced by the world, he believes, yet governments are complacent about the scale of the risk.

Speaking ahead of an address to the Munich Security Conference, the richest man in the world said that while governments are concerned with the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, they are overlooking the threat of biological warfare.

Mr Gates, whose charitable foundation is funding research into quickly spotting outbreaks and speeding up vaccine production, said the defence and security establishment “have not been following biology and I’m here to bring them a little bit of bad news”.

Mr Gates will today (Saturday) tell an audience of international leaders and senior officers that the world’s next deadly pandemic “could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist”.

He told the Telegraph: “Natural epidemics can be extremely large. Intentionally caused epidemics, bioterrorism, would be the largest of all.

Bill is not wrong.  That day is getting close. It's getting very close.  The technology is almost but not quite here.  Grad students that are trying to get into gene engineering frequently design (on paper) bioweapons simply because it's so easy to do.

One early draft of Dark Winter had the Zombie Apocolypse kick off because a professor thought that designing that virus would be a good way to get grant money.  

I dropped it because a friend of mine had told me that John Ringo was working on a similar thing.  Turns out my friend was half wrong.  While Ringo was working on a ZA novel series, the professor inventing it for funding was from a Facebook Note he had posted.

Regardless I'm happier with the prion I came up with Dark Winter.

This is the Note from John Ringo

Moore's Law (if you really don't know what it is, look it up) in some variance applies to all emerging technology. In Untold Histories Field Marshall William Slim noted that he liked to gauge the state of industrial technology's advancement between WWI and WWII by the increase in size and power of London City busses. Milling, steam, internal combustion, while they did not precisely 'double in power every eighteen months" all folllowed a fairly set trend of improvement and thus reduction in cost and difficulty of manufacture. Building an original Apple computer took the genius of the Great and Powerful Woz. Building one, now, is literaly child's play. (For values of children.)

The same can be said of biotechnology. I recall a friend who worked in the Tropical and Emerging Diseases Lab, a Class Four Facility (highest contagion) located on the UGA campus and associated with the CDC who's team was attempting in the early Millenia to build a virus following the prescription of the first person to do so from scratch. They tried time and time again to replicate it and were unable.

In 2005, five years later, a Newsweek reporter, buying materials from EBAy, did the same thing, literally, in his kitchen. (With Spanish Flu no less. He was later fired as was the editor who approved the story since they LAID OUT THE ENTIRE RECIPE!)

That is how fast biotech advances. Moore's Law, to some extent or another, applies to all emerging technologies. One day it takes a genius, the next day anybody with the right IQ and background finds it to be child's play.

Second point: A few years ago, at a bio conference in London, a researcher proudly stood up and showed that his lab had proven they could create an infection that would infect a vast swath of population (choose species, genus, phylum or family) but only kill ONE INDIVIDUAL based upon that individual's DNA.

When he asked for questions one member of the audience stood up and proclaimed:

"We've known that in (university research center) for the last five years but we were never STUPID enough to speak about it in PUBLIC!" At which point things became shouty.

1 comment:

Kentucky Headhunter said...

That's the Ringo zombie series with the 13 yo girl who can beat up special forces troops and clear an entire cruise ship of 2000 zombies by herself, correct?