Friday, January 25, 2008

Craig Venter is an evil supergenius.

Okay, I know that I said that before, in this post, but it remains true. Or rather, I have discovered new information that confirms my belief. Namely, that he "informed" the Department of Homeland Security that, should be want to, he would be able to manufacture a virus in a week, and a devastating killer virus like Ebola in a month. Just, you know, so they would be more aware of the dangers of biological terrorism.

Because everyone knows that Osama Bin Laden has all these state-of-the-art genetic research laboratories. Such as the one that tied the NHGRI for sequencing the human genome. Oh, wait, no, that's Venter.

Honestly, why would any real terrorist (i.e. one who was not also a mad scientist) make a virus when there are perfectly good ones lying around? Why manufacture Ebola when you can get a sample from a dying village instead? Seriously... There is an easy option here and a hard option, and only one of them requires synthesizing a genome from its component bases. And, I mean, you don't even have to use Ebola (although that does kill people quickly, efficiently, and in ghastly ways). There are a myriad of diseases and chemical compounds which should strike terror into our hearts at least as much as Al Qaeda making a killer virus -- such as Plutonium 209, Ricin, drug resistant TB, Bird Flu, nuclear dirty bombs, and so on and so forth. Seriously.

In fact, the only kind of person I can imagine making a designer virus, for world conquest or otherwise, is someone who honestly derives a great amount of pleasure from the designing of virii. Such as, oh, I don't know, J. Craig Venter.

Watch out -- he's working on bacteria from the family that Tuberculosis belongs to next.

On a completely unrelated note (honest, I swear), I know that I have not posted hardly anything in, well, quite some time. The reason for this is that I have 7 graduate school interviews scheduled for the next 5 weekends (not counting this one). But! I think I will post about my trips, maybe, so that means I'll be posting once a week for a while. Right. Or maybe I'll just... not. Either way.


Abby said...

i think you should be an evil supergenius! that would be awesome. i could be your bumbling sidekick.

John said...

While I agree with you in general, you could make a pretty good argument that none of the bugs out there right now is quite right for the aims of bioterrorism. Ebola, etc. kill people very efficiently and in nasty ways, but have a bad habit of being so nasty they don't spread human-to-human. Ricin is effective in individual assassinations, and is scarily easy to get a hold of, but it is less stable than things like anthrax spores, and if it comes to it, there is a vaccine in the pipeline. MDR-TB is an interesting point, and a scary thing, but it tends to be difficult (I believe) to start a chain of transmission among people with healthy immune systems. So while yes, it is hard to do these things, there would be a market for a superbug. The scary thing is not so much that, because I do agree with your thesis that there are too many other options for terrorists to try to manufacture a virus in the immediate future, but the possibility that suddenly the US decides that it is dangerous for unfriendly countries to have biomedical labs and the like.