It’s a Brave New World out there. For those looking for a review of the classic novel by Aldous Huxley, this isn’t a critique. But you might, just might, find my ramblings interesting. The technological revolution is profound, exciting and more than a little bit concerning. Quite the dichotomy, but not surprising in the year 2020.
Brave New World of Science
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in some people. The Great Mask Debate and the Virus Hoaxers continue weeks after Election 2020 when the illness was magically scheduled to disappear. Unfortunately, in my part of the world the virus is spreading like wildfire.
On the bright side, across the world scientists are working to find both effective treatments as well as a vaccine. Perhaps with the passage of time the efforts will appear concerted. But at present, the work reminds me of the Race to the Moon.
Two of the vaccines closest to distribution are using a new technology. Instead of using the virus itself to develop immunity, the vaccines are taking a genetic approach. Ironically, I first wrote about CRISPR in my review of Robin Cook’s Pandemic back in February 2019. This cutting edge technology is currently treating genetic defects such as Cystic Fibrosis (CF).
Scientists responding to the Covid-19 crisis have taken two approaches. The tried and true use of either small amounts of live virus or the mRNA genetic approach linked to the CRISPR technology. Small groups such as individuals with CF have been treated with medicines based on this bioscience for about a year. There are known side effects. But the individual I personally know taking treatment based on this new science has so greatly benefitted by improved health, he has no qualms about a vaccine developed using similar techniques.
Genetics has elicited ethical questions throughout the years. Both those who lived through the era of World War II and those who studied the history are familiar with Hitler’s desire to create a master race. The Holocaust must never be forgotten.
Fortunately genetic sequencing was not possible in the 1930s. It is now. If a Covid-19 vaccine using mRNA is a success we will have embarked on a path for a brave new world. The possibilities for good may be endless. But the same is true for evil.
Key Questions for a Brave New World
Aside from moral questions, the biotech revolution raises a host of questions. How are new products tested and regulated? What is the cost of development? How are the costs recouped? Will drugs be affordable? Who makes sure only “good” or beneficial drugs are created?
Of course those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the case of Covid-19, millions, nay billions of individuals will benefit from a vaccine. So who is first in line? Again, who pays? Lots of old adages come to mind. Money doesn’t grow on trees. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Those apply. There is a cost to be born, yet obviously the ability to pay varies. Perhaps in the end all questions are truly moral in scope.
Science is truly not my strong suit. So I am sharing some of the many articles I have been reading. I am a late adopter. But I am related to many early adopters as well as trend setters. I hope Covid-19 is but the latest in a long line of once in a hundred year pandemics. Once in a lifetime is plenty!