Jennifer Lake's Blog

May 11, 2011

The Minimal Genome Project

“Since the early days of molecular biology, the search for the minimal genome has been the ‘Holy Grail’..”
“The search for the ‘smallest autonomous self-replicating entity,’ which subsequently became the search for the smallest cell genome, was begun in the late 1950s by Harold Morowitz… This led to studies of the mycoplasmas, showing that these microorganisms have the smallest reported cell and genome sizes [as of 1996]. The DNA sequence of the smallest known mycoplasma genome, that of Mycoplasma genitalium, recently was determined… The nature of selective pressure for repeated genome reductions..is not known..[but] have been suggested to be due to selection for faster (hence, smaller) replicating genomes to produce greater progeny..yields, selection for smaller genomes to reduce the energy burden..in limiting nutrient environments, and loss..[due to] deleterious mutations… Since the early days of molecular biology, the search for the minimal genome has been the ‘Holy Grail’… subtracting the minimal gene set from an organism’s total gene inventory should reveal genes for the phenotype characters that make each organism unique.” http://www.sbs.utexas.edu/psaxena/bio226r/articles/minimum_cell_genome.pdf
Harold J. Morowitz:
Oral History Interview, March 16, 2005 — “This interview chronicles Morowitz’s scientific career in detail, beginning with his education in physics, his transition to biophysics, to his ongoing attempt to apply..information theory to..biological problems. His description..gives a valuable insight of how and why physicists after WWII came to be interested in..biological problems…[and] illustrates the reciprocal interaction between scientific projects..in Yales’s biophysics program..and the Atomic Energy Commission’s promotion of the peaceful use of atomic energy (e.g. nuclear fallout debate)..”
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Remember SARS in 2003? Looking back on SARS led me to something dubbed the Minimal Genome Project which I found a lot of experimental documentation for between 1998 and 2000, including the creation of completely new amino acids –until this, every biological entity that has ever existed used the same available 20 amino acids. SARS patients were found to be infected with a novel corona virus and, coincidently, a novel corona virus was created in a lab with a new amino acid in 2001. Since the original outbreak, the SARS creature seems to have disappeared. Was it part of an experiment to create a new “minimal genome organism” ?  Indirect evidence is tantalizingly suggestive that it could be the case.  First, consider this research news in the right time window, and I’ll add more to this post supporting a proof-of-concept. https://jenniferlake.wordpress.com/2009/12/01/sweating-the-small-stuff/ This link, http://jvi.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/74/22/10600 within Sweating the Small Stuff states that coronavirus is the largest known genome in nature –ripe for a take-away project, I suppose. Since the 2003 outbreak new information about coronavirus is being published, such as this statement from August 2004: “The coronavirus replicase-transcriptase was recently predicted to contain RNA-processing enzymes that are extremely rare or absent in other RNA viruses” –in other words, the researchers have made a novel discovery about their specimen. In this case, the studied coronavirus is generating a unique protein that has an ability to preferentially cleave double stranded RNA (dsRNA):  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC514660/ . This feature of the SARS virus is creating a handy new enzyme tool for genetic engineers.

Minimal genomes are a boon to living DNA computers:“Human cells and computers process and store information in much the same way… ‘If you look inside the cell, you find a bunch of amazing little tools,’ said Adelman, who made the first DNA-based computation in 1994. ‘The cell is a treasure chest.’ ” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/08/18/tech/main568893.shtml; Leonard Adelman is employed by George Mason University and the MITRE Corporation, producer of the JASON reports for the DoE, DoD, etc.; Leonard Adelman says “Late one evening, while lying in bed reading Watson’s text, I came to a description of DNA polymerase. This is the king of enzymes – the maker of life. Under appropriate conditions, given a strand of DNA, DNA polymerase produces a second “Watson-Crick” complementary strand, in which every C is replaced by a G, every G by a C, every A by a T and every T by an A. For example, given a molecule with the sequence CATGTC, DNA polymerase will produce a new molecule with the sequence GTACAG. The polymerase enables DNA to reproduce, which in turn allows cells to reproduce and ultimately allows you to reproduce. For a strict reductionist, the replication of DNA by DNA polymerase is what life is all about… DNA polymerase is an amazing little nanomachine, a single molecule that “hops” onto a strand of DNA and slides along it, “reading” each base it passes and “writing” its complement onto a new, growing DNA strand.  http://www-gap.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Biographies/Adleman.html; http://www.genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu/id.php?id=62298 ; simpler genomes are helping this process along. Adelman’s counterpart in Israel, Ehud Shapiro, works on a project at the Weizmann Institute called “The Human Cell Lineage Tree** Flagship Initiative” http://www.wisdom.weizmann.ac.il/~udi/ An accomplishment of Shapiro and colleagues in 2004 illustrates a DNA computer at work: “Recently, simple molecular-scale autonomous programmable computers were demonstrated..allowing both input and output…. Such computers, using biological molecues as input data and bilogically active molecules as outputs, could produce a system for ‘logical’ control of biological processes… As proof of principle we programmed the computer to identify and analyse mRNA of disease-related genes associated with models of..cancer, and to produce a single-stranded DNA molecule after an anticancer drug.” http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v429/n6990/abs/nature02551.html

There it is: cell surveillance and cancer ‘self’ control.

With DNA polymerase to “process”, restriction enzymes to “cut” and ribozymes to “paste”, the working parts of DNA computers look to be on hand with the exception maybe of genetically stable, high-fidelity replicators. http://www.jci.org/articles/view/19386
I speculate that cancer cells are very useful for this purpose with their immortal qualities, and in so many cases, engineered recombinant microbes (i.e. viruses) in current therapy use end up causing cancers, that the cancer cells, and controlling the cells, in the first place is the most useful approach. Minimal genomes, real and artificial, look like other lines of pursuit running apace for the ultimate creation of DNA computer life. This general field of study is called bioinformatics http://www.med.nyu.edu/rcr/Fordham/ and another of its Holy Grails is finding perfect cell-based delivery systems. The DNA computer ‘proof of principle’ by the Israelis (above) used a “stochastic molecular automaton” to provide the computer input, meaning a precise-targeting agent –I’m perusing the literature to find the exact agents– but this fundamentally defines the action of viruses. And the genetically small ones, like SV40 monkey virus and polioviruses are already human-adapted and under intense ‘quantitative’ experimentation to see how well they deliver genetic information.
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**Human Cell Lineage Tree Project collaborators in the U.S. are Shimon Weiss of UCLA http://www.chem.ucla.edu/dept/Faculty/sweiss/  and Stephen Quake at *Stanford http://www.hhmi.org/news/quake.html; for more ‘flagship’ programs see this http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/ict/programme/fet/flagship/doc/pilot-papers-01_en.pdf
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Chalk this up to spooky things scientists say.
November 22, 2002 — “Craig Venter’s ‘minimal genome’ project announced Wednesday is not about creating a new life form…[that comes later with Synthia]. The high profile project was just funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) with $3 million going to the Institute for Biological Energy Alternatives (IBEA), one of the nonprofit research institutes Venter founded after leaving..Celera Genomics early this year.
   “The question of the minimal genome for an organism [–the base gene set required for life–] is always ‘minimal in which environment,’ said Francisco J. Silva of the University of Valencia in Spain. Silva and colleagues..are studying the genome of the insect endosymbiont Buchnera aphidicola, which appears to have an even smaller genome than that of the parasite Mycoplasma genitalium, Venter’s organism of choice.
   “..pathogenic bacteria usually have more genes than their harmless relatives do..but the disease-related genes are not essential to life, so they could be the first catagory of genes a scientist would jettison from a minimal genome organism… ‘A minimal genome organism’ [Silva] said, ‘will be a prisoner of the laboratory dish where it lives, and will be unable to compete with the outer world.’
   “The minimal genome organism now being planned..will be further crippled so that it cannot survive wihout laboratory coddling. The strategy is to synthesize an artificial chromosome containing the presumptive minimal gene set, remove all existing genetic material.. and then insert the synthetic chromosome into the vacant cell… The long-term goal..will be to help the world solve some of its environmental problems. That’s why the funding is coming from DoE, where recent genetics projects have focused on bioremediation…” http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/20885/
>>>In June 2010, Venter announced “Synthia” –“a synthetic cell from scratch” and “a hitherto unseen lifeform…To do this, he read the DNA of Mycoplasma mycoides, a bug that infects goats, and recreated it piece by piece. The fragments were then ‘stitched together’ and inserted into a bacterium of a different species… he claimed the breakthrough had changed his views on the definition of life. ‘We have..the first synthetic cell powered and controlled by a synthetic chromosome and made from four bottles of chemicals,’ he said..” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1279988/Artificial-life-created-Craig-Venter–wipe-humanity.html
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“The constraints of the genetic code are history”
Feb. 14, 2002 – ” ‘The constraints of the genetic code are history,’ proclaims Peter Schultz of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California…’At least in bacteria, the genetic constraints..are gone.’ Dr. Schultz’s statement is no idle boast…[His] laboratory, along with another team of chemists based in Japan, are introducing completely new strands [of DNA]…If successful, they will fabricate..a new sort of living thing… [C]olleagues..in..Japan..have developed unnatural versions of all the ingredients in this process: the bases, the DNA, the RNAs and the amino acids. The result is a protein that could never have existed in nature… By exposing..unnatural bacteria to the sort of conditions believed to have prevailed on the early earth..it might be possible to observe whether bacteria with 21, 22, or even more amino acids might win out over those with the standard complement… Back in the present, the next order of business is to apply the research to mammals. Dr. Wang says that a certain strain of monkey cells has shown a promising tendency to incorporate unnatural amino acids. Within a year, he thinks, the group should have made mammalian cells equipped with 21 amino acids.” http://www.economist.com/node/987697?story_id=987697
>>>Dr. Lei Wang is on the faculty of the Salk Institute http://www.salk.edu/faculty/wang.html; it certainly seems like the Schultz team was eager to know if their creations would ‘compete’ outside the lab.
   In July 2002, Eckard Wimmer of SUNY, in conjunction with the Pentagon, announced the result of his DARPA-funded project to create viruses from scratch:
“This is the first time that a working biological entity has been made using chemicals alone…But poliovirus is easier to build than many others. It has a short and simple genome and assembles itself directly from a DNA template… More complex viruses could be synthesized, Wimmer believes, by additional chemical steps or by putting synthetic genes into living cells..” http://www.nature.com/news/1998/020708/full/news020708-17.html
Commenting on Wimmer’s achievement: ” ‘This work should never have been done, funded, or published,’ said J.Craig Venter…’Somehow the whole system broke down here.’ ..The work, [Wimmer] said, was intended to serve as a warning of what is now possible.”
2004— “Several attempts have been made to identify the minimal set of genes that is required for life using computational approaches… These experiments resemble those already performed by nature; a few hundred million years ago an ancestor of E. coli was domesticated by aphids which resulted in the elimination of 70-75% of the original bacterial genome. Amazingly, the small genomes of the imprisoned bacteria are more stable than those of their free-living relatives.
   ..”Obligate host-associated bacteria have among the smallest genomes known in nature… Two different scenarios have been proposed to explain the process of genome shrinkage in B. aphidicola… that the minimization..was continuous, with genes being lost individually through a large number of small deletion events..[or] that many genes were lost simultaneously at an early stage of the internalization process..through the elimination of large blocks of DNA spanning multiple genes…
 …”as computational analysis becomes more refined and the data sets grow larger, fewer genes remain that are conserved among all taxa…[and] the few remaining genes are organized in a surprisingly similar manner… The lack of..sequences..reduces rearrangement possibilities…
   “The next few years will tell whether..the..endosymbiont genomes are self-sustainable… An interesting question for the future is to determine whether the dependent partner will be ‘allowed’ to stay as a ‘silent parasite’ if the need for its functions is lost during evolution, or if such a loss will cause it to deteriorate and collapse.”
Error Catastrophe
Too many mutations, too rapid a pace and/or too few genes leads to a potential species collapse in a  nose-diving degenerative process that microbe researchers in the lab call “error catastrophe”; virus experimenters document the fundamental principle, noting, “There is an intrinsic limit to the maximum variability of viral genetic information before it loses meaning and if an RNA virus quasispecies goes beyond that mutation limit, the population will no longer be viable. The phenomenon that occurs when the loss of genetic fidelity results in a lethal accumulation of errors has been termed ‘error catastrophe’. Most cellular organisms have evolved a number of sophisticated processes to maintain their genetic information with high fidelity and stay far away from the threshold of error catastrophe. In contrast, it has been predicted that RNA viruses with high mutation frequencies exist close to the edge of error catastrophe and can be forced into error catastrophe by a moderate increase in mutation rate… We also describe direct evidence that the error catastrophe theory applies to poliovirus.” http://www.pnas.org/content/98/12/6895.full
“One very important fact to remember is that radiation increases the spontaneous mutation rate” — Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) power plant training manual on the effects of ionizing radiation
   Another important fact is that viruses are not organisms or cells and have no strategies for survival! The authors of the ‘error catastrophe’ paper are really telling us that the “edge of viability” on which polioviruses (and others) exist needs maintenance to prevent their extinction. Circulating polioviruses were determined in 2000 to be all vaccine-derived, and the buzz around the conference tables of the WHO and other agencies brought up the issue of stopping the inoculation programs. Very soon thereafter
a complete scratch poliovirus made from mail-order chemicals blitzed the science headlines invoking a new threat from terrorists. As a mode of comparison, organisms do have an array of survival strategies.
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December 1, 2009

Sweating The Small Stuff

In the course of reading up on RNA and genetic engineering, I happened across an article that proves SARS was potentially the result of an engineered virus. This abstract from the Journal of Virology, entitled “Strategy for Systematic Assembly of Large RNA and DNA Genomes: Transmissable Gastroenteritis Virus Model” or the TGEV (a common intestinal swine virus) shows how the researchers made a synthetic infectious and transmissable virus and published their success in the spring of 2000. “Full-length infectious constructs of TGEV will permit the precise genetic modification of the coronavirus genome” –the virus identified in SARS and the ‘common cold’. http://jvi.asm.org/cgi/content/abstract/74/22/10600  More on the subject of SARS as the forerunning event for pandemic management is in an article here called “Quarantine”. I found this abstract on a tangent, searching for material to pad out a review of a Nature magazine article that struck me as a classic bit of scientific spin. Here’s a link to that piece, called “A New Code For Life”,   and I’ll be back to share some thoughts about it and see if I can update the state of the research… Btw, Nature’s piece treats bioengineering as if it’s breakthrough technology in this decade and mentions only two ‘lifeforms’ developed by its (then 2004) publication. If you read the piece, know that “minimal genome” experiments were very successful in the 1970s….. http://www.nature.com/embor/journal/v5/n4/full/7400131.html    

The Spin

Big Science is a Big Game like Poker and the propagandists always play from the same deck no matter how dog-earred the cards. They’ve been at it for over a century since the chemical giants took their seats at the table, all vying for the public purse. The public never got dealt a hand but betting was encouraged and as the Game progressed with new players coming and going, demand for fairness in the public-eye saw to it that ‘neutral dealers’ were installed to shuffle and manage the rules –welcome the Ethicists, those professional dealers who ‘call the game’ and distribute the deck. Like casino dealers, the ethicists are experts at how to play. They know about the odds as initiates of the casino that hired them. They know the House always wins, and no matter the outcome of one game or another, they get paid and their job is to make the players feel good and keep them interested. For the sake of the Ruse they get to hold all the cards at the start of every play. This is the Ethical approach and every player today needs to know how to also deal and be versatile. At any time, the roles may shift and players/dealers have to be ready to take on a multitude of jobs –most especially for the ‘educating’ of the public to keep them interested –otherwise the chips might dry up.
 
Amazing, isn’t it, that we can play so many games with the same deck. The main difference between now and then, as I see it, is that players want to win with All Four Aces all of the time and eliminate any equivocation . This is how you know its rigged. Not clever –not like it used to be when one could easily win a hand with a pair of face cards. The Aces didn’t actually exist until WWII and our entree into the Atomic Age. Before that, science wasn’t playing with a full deck.
 
The Aces of Big Science game propaganda, complete with ‘suit’ assignments:
(Diamonds) –“solve environmental problems”, or the Ace of Sustainability
(Hearts) –“treat human diseases”, or the Ace of Humanism
(Clubs) — “create useful products”, or the Ace of Prosperity
(Spades) –“cooperate with international agencies”, or the Ace of the Great Society
The rest of the deck is face cards (governments, banks, churches, agencies, and institutions that serve up big ideas) and numbered cards (officials and experts by rank, including our families and the ‘pre-set’ buttons we filter reality with).
 
Nature magazine plays All Four Aces in the article “A New Code For Life”, which makes it such a good example of the rigged game and comparable to current propaganda from Big Science’s other game: Climate Change –in fact Climate Change is in there, so its all really the same game.
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The Article
 
The salient points of  “A New Code For Life” are that biologists have learned to use artificial amino acids to create new lifeforms and while they were perfecting their techniques, a team of bioethicists was hired (by the biologists themselves) to concurrently construct an approval platform. The ethicists spent more than a year drawing up a report on this “Godlike activity” and “concluded that manipulating organisms has long been a part of human tradition” and therefore “not violat[ing] any fundamental moral precepts or boundaries”. They gave the project a “green flashing light” and it’s up to the readers to decide if the long tradition of manipulating organisms equates to the practice of breeding, or if this is the research community giving itself permission to carry on in the manner to which it’s grown accustomed. As for the non-violations of fundamental morals, we’ll have to suspend the present doctrine that altering nature is causing climate change and species die-off rooted in the immoral activities of humans. As the opening lines indicate, nature is only known to use 20 amino acids in the synthesis of the entire spectrum of genomes and the scientists admit that “the origin of the genetic code..remains an enigma”.
 
The article never raises the moral questions –no need, by gosh, the ethicists settled it– nor does it address the question it poses, “What is life?”, but it does touch on the subject of “misuse”, principally in the words of Eckard Wimmer, the team leader at Univ. of NY at Stony Brook, who used these methods to make infectious poliovirus, accomplished in 2002. Wimmer said,”The reason we did it was to prove it can be done…Now people have to take it seriously”. Wimmer didn’t stop there; he played a major face card for the establishment, “Any threat from bioterrorism will arise only if mass vaccination stops…The potential of virus synthesis is an important factor for consideration in..the poliovirus eradication campaign”. In other words, if we stop vaccinating, someone will whip up the pathogen anew and release it. Wimmer made a point with other interviewers during his moments in the spotlight to name off a list of scourges he thought were easy to make, influenza among them. Nature magazine adds that others have said the chances were “remote, as few people in the world would have the skills to achieve this”. That was also true of the A-bomb in 1943 and yet those ‘few people’, 40 or 50 of them, were ensconced within the heart of their various governments’ programs with virtually unlimited funding to experiment. Logistically, this doesn’t even compare, though today there are thousands of people who could devise working nuclear weapons. Nature magazine is thumbing it’s nose at us –this article, though not the first word on artificial biology by a longshot, was published years after the fact, and it doesn’t take long for international scientists to all catch on with active technology transfer programs in education and business –the “thorny” contractual issues of intellectual property rights that the ethicists spent their time on. That’s their game, as long as the House wins. A “few” competent people would comprise merely one team on one project, and as the coronavirus construct mentioned above illustrates, there are and were teams working on this science that the public never heard about.
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The Bioethicists
These are the people who gave the green light to J. Craig Venter’s team, hired in advance to give the researchers a stamp of approval, which appears to have green-lighted their careers as well:
 
On the ethics of creating artificial genomes, called their report “Ethical Considerations in Synthesizing a Minimal Genome”. (Dec.1999) http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/286/5447/2087  
Mildred K. Cho – Stanford, (1999) http://www.niehs.nih.gov/news/events/pastmgt/2005/twin/docs/Cho-bio.pdf,  Assoc. Director of Center for Biomedical Ehtics; currently (NIH) National Advisory Board for the Human Genome Research Institute (the org. that employed her for the study in 1999)
David Magnus – U Penn (1999) http://kepplerspeakers.com/speakers.aspx?name=David+Magnus ; current Director of Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics; assoc. editor of the American Journal of Bioethics; Advisor California Human Stem Cell Research; Advisor to US Sec. of Agriculture’s Committee on Biotechnology in the 21st Century
Arthur L. Caplan – U Penn, Director http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Caplan, author of 25 books, chair of the UN Committee on Human Cloning and co-director on UN Study group on organ trafficking; chair of bioethics for Glaxo pharmaceuticals 2005-2008; Advisory member Nat’l Institute of Mental Health on human experimentation, President’s Committee on Gulf War Syndrome, Dept. of HHS on Blood Safety and Availability
Daniel B. McGee – Baylor (Waco, TX), affliliated with the School of Religion
 
-team members from the Ethics of Genomics Group-
Charles L. Bosk -author
Mary Lynn Dell – http://www.vitals.com/doctors/Dr_Mary_Dell.html , psychiatrist for Syngenta
Glenn McGee – http://www.practicalbioethics.org/cpd.aspx?pgID=1105 founder of the American Journal of Bioethics
Jon F. Merz – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_F._Merz  sci-fi novelist, US govt security and USAF
Michael Orsi – http://www.opusbono.org/advisors/fr_michael_orsi.asp Catholic priest 
Gerald I. Wolpe – rabbi, deceased http://www.jewishexponent.com/article/18887
Paul R. Wolpe – rabbi’s son
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The Research
 
Nature magazine points out that Richard Chamberlin (UC Irvine) and Peter Schultz (Scripps) paved the way for synthesizing new amino acids. Both men are University of California indoctrinaires working for the US Dept. of Energy. The Human Genome Project is the DoE –mid-wife of Big Science– that started as the Manhattan Project.
Richard Chamberlin http://www.faculty.uci.edu/profile.cfm?faculty_id=4902 , a noted “Eli Lilly” grantee
Peter Schultz http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_G._Schultz , directs The Schultz Lab at Scripps and has founded not less than 8 pharmacology laboratories. Lei Wang is Schultz’s student. Schulz directs the Genome Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation in San Diego.
 
This article has instructive information on the science http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20011029/schultz1.html indicating the researchers initial interest in creating “fluorescent probes” to tag DNA/RNA which allows them to track the chemical interactions in protein synthesis and allow them to master the processes of artificial life.
…”Every organism in nature has been using the same 20 amino acids since the primordial soup. Organisms have to maintain fidelity in replication, and so life has evolved myriad mechanical ways of making sure only those 20 amino acids get incorporated into proteins”…”When a protein is expressed, an enzyme reads the DNA bases of a gene (A,G,C,and T) and transcribes them into RNA (A,G,C,and U). This so-called “messenger RNA” [mRNA] is translated by another protein-RNA complex, called the ribozome, into a protein. The ribozome requires the help of transferRNA molecules (tRNA) that have been “loaded” with an amino acid. Protein specificity comes from the fact that the tRNA recognizes only one codon and gets loaded with only the one amino acid that is specific for that codon”…
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RNA is the key to fabricating life –and the function of the infectious viruses that concern us. The eugenicists can not only infect us with new pathogens, but they can break down the whole existing order of nature (and it WILL) in time from the bottom up, and perhaps not very much time at that, busy as they are.
If the authors of Forbidden Archeology are right, “nature” has preserved our RNA transcription mechanism for many millions of years –check them out!– we humans have existed in our modern form for AEONS, subject only to the variability of a shifting environment and regional differentiation.  Something should tell us that the ‘evolutionary advantage’ has always favored us on this planet and that this is a Sacred heritage encoded in our genes –our original covenant. Nature magazine has raised a Grand Spector to frighten us –yes, it frightens me!– to announce the impunity of Science and scientists to break our sacred bonds and there is nothing more immoral than that!! No one in this world can predict the consequences of the new primordial soup, only that “you” won’t be “you” and neither will I.
 
more on RNA:
The word “moral” from my Webster’s dictionary, preferred meaning: conforming to a standard of right behavior  (as in ethical, virtuous, noble, etc.) –for this purpose applied to cellular automata in the same way that the word ‘noble’ is applied to metals
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more on SARS:
“Albert Osterhaus is no small fish. He stands at the global nexus of every major virus panic of the past two decades from the mysterious SARS deaths in HongKong, where current WHO Director Margaret Chan got her start in her career as a local health official. According to his official bio at the European Commission, Osterhaus was engaged in April 2003, at the height of the panic over SARS (Severe Acquired Respiratory Syndrome) in Hong Kong. The EU report states, “he again showed his skill at moving fast to tackle a serious problem. Within three weeks he had proved that the disease was caused by a newly discovered coronavirus that resides in civet cats, other carnivorous animals or bats.” 5
The official U.S. response to SARS in May 2003:
…”Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am Jerome M. Hauer, Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness. I appreciate this opportunity to share our Department’s response to the SARS virus within the context of public health emergency preparedness… we have reason to be encouraged by the response to SARS for several reasons. First, the identification of the agent that causes the disease was completed in record time. CDC identified the coronavirus within a few short weeks of receiving the first specimens… We are partnering with industry to organize a full-court press on vaccine development… The Command Center maps the distribution of SARS cases across the globe with geographic information system software for use during our planning discussions. The Command Center did not exist a year ago – it became operational last November… I recently co-chaired a meeting of the Council of Governments with Mike Byrne of the Department of Homeland Security to bring together health professionals from across the national capital region to aggressively prepare for an outbreak of the SARS virus here… the Department is implementing an aggressive research and development program to develop and acquire biological, chemical, nuclear and radiological countermeasures… The most exciting news in the R&D arena is, of course, Project BioShield, announced by the President on February 3, 2003.” http://republicans.energycommerce.house.gov/108/Hearings/05072003hearing917/Hauer1433.htm
 
 
 

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