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Biotech Thrillers by Charles Vrooman
Could a DNA base computer be programs to produce a real live true virus?
This story takes place during the last Gaza/Israeli war. It starts out with a hacking incident involving the main CIA computer. After this breach in security, John Brookfield a CIA computer specialist, travels to Israel to work with Sarah Stein the Co-developer of DNA computer technology to find out if the DNA component of the CIA system has been compromised. John is shocked when the cell phone of a fellow CIA agent in Israel is hit by a bullet and explodes in his hand. Soon after an epidemic breaks out and the agent dies. With Sarah’s help, John discovers that a Hamas bioterrorist is the hacker who programmed the CIA’s system to produce the real live virus that caused the epidemic.
June 4, 2005
The bright summer sun illuminating the biochemistry laboratory at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel went unnoticed as both Dr. Abraham Stein and his daughter Sarah, glared at the extra long DNA molecule displayed on their computer monitor. Something had gone wrong. They had never seen results like this before from their experimental DNA computer. Pointing at the analyzing computer’s screen, Dr. Stein asked, "Sarah, what the hell is this?"
"I haven't any idea." Sarah was momentarily baffled but finally thought of one possibility. "It must be contamination."
Dr, Stein knew that their DNA computer only produced short DNA molecules as an end result for deciphering the binary coded data it received. Being a biochemist specializing in molecular biology, he was knowledgeable of the molecular structure of a virus. Shrugging his shoulders in disgust, he said, "Yes, I agree. This test sample appears to be corrupted with a live virus."
Before Sarah could respond, Ahmed Mohanna, a computer graduate student assigned to their project, entered the lab. Looking back and forth at the worried looks on both Sarah and her father's faces, he asked, "What's going on?"
Sarah looked up. "Ahmed, I’m glad you’re here. We need another opinion. It looks like our latest DNA data is ruined. It appears to be contaminated with a virus."
Stroking his bushy mustache with his right index finger, Ahmed asked, "How could this have happened? I thought we took every precaution to avoid any contamination."
Dr. Stein didn’t need to hear this as he flung his hands into the air. “I know. The last thing we needed was to have a virus get in and screw things up.”
It was true that they used the most up to date aseptic techniques within their enclosed biological hood. The test tubes were sealed with air tight caps. Sarah had to agree with Ahmed that it was next to impossible to think that their experiment was tainted with a virus. So Sarah stood aside and watched Ahmed intently as he commented, "You can’t even be sure that the long DNA molecule is a virus. Maybe the DNA computer has produced this anomaly all on its own."
Sarah eyed her father. "Ahmed could be right. Maybe our computer just mixed up a bunch of DNA and produced what we see here. It only looks like a virus."
Dr. Stein shook his head indicating the negative. "Nonsense, that's not how we set up our controlled experiment."
They all knew that the probability of a DNA word code being changed into something that resembled a virus was next to impossible. They were trying to set up a means where their bio-molecular computer could be used to decipher encrypted messages. Both Sarah and Ahmed had written a program that allowed the nanocomputer to search all the possible arrangements of DNA base pairs in their test tube so it could translate the binary coded word used for testing. However, Sarah was aware that what they had here defied experimental logic. "Dad, we have to be open minded here. We are still only at the early experimental stage of trying to control how our coded input ends up as DNA output.”
Dr. Stein wouldn’t give up. “It still looks like a virus to me”
Ahmed tried to be objective. "Does it really matter if this is a virus or just a strange looking DNA molecule which might have been produced by our nanocomputer? We all know that if we can't make this work, the institute will lose the grant money for this project.”
Dr. Stein was well aware that the CIA was banking on this venture to be successful, as he said, “At this point we have to conclude that it must be accidental contamination. We must review our procedures and make sure this never occurs again. There is no need to document this in our official work up. After all, it’s the first time we've seen any evidence of contamination. We've already had some success. So, let’s just forget this and start over."
Sarah couldn’t accept this. “Dad, we can’t forget it. This is the CIA we’re working with. Our system has to be foolproof.”
Sarah knew there was nothing more to say as her father sternly looked her in the eye. “Sarah, let it go.”