Scientists Against Time

Back in WWII, air defense was difficult. You were shooting at high altitude, fast-moving targets. Missing was the most natural thing in the world. One out of thousands of anti-aircraft shells hit. So, there was a need for better methods.

The solution was the proximity shell – a shell with a tiny radar inside that would make the shell explode when it got _close_ to a target. This was technically challenging: it’s not easy to cram a radar into an artillery shell, not easy to build one that still works after experiencing accelerations of thousands of gravities. Moreover, people needed an answer _soon_.

The British had made some progress, but lacked sufficient resources. The US picked up the project, starting a lab that eventually became APL (Applied Physics Lab, associated with Johns Hopkins, which still exists today) . Its leader was Merle Tuve, who understood what the wartime priorities were:

” I don’t want any damn fool in this laboratory to save money. I only want him to save time.”

The New York Times, written & edited by orcs, for orcs, is criticizing Emergent Biosolutions for screwing up covid vaccine production – and those criticisms may well be valid. But they are also criticizing the original decision to throw money at Emergent Biosolutions for vaccine production – and I doubt if that is valid. The right thing to do, which by some odd chance we actually did, was ( besides getting rid of procedural obstacles) to try several vaccine approaches, several manufacturers, and use whatever was shown to work and could be produced rapidly. We didn’t know which companies would succeed ( Merck didn’t), so a shotgun approach was the logical way forwards.

The cost of the whole vaccine effort was nothing compared to the other costs of covid, while an effective vaccine was by far the most likely way of getting us out of this crappy situation.

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27 Responses to Scientists Against Time

  1. DiogenesNYC says:

    Sometimes you have to move fast and break things when your opponent is doing the same.

  2. Gord Marsden says:

    Our old adage was. Fast cheap,good, you can only pick two, this was for oilfield well blowouts

  3. magusjanus says:

    The lack of human challenge trials boggles my mind. And it’s not just a US/Anglo issue. Even the freaking Chinese didn’t do it and they’re not exactly hung up on human ‘rights’. I genuinely don’t understand.

    I’d like to think if the pandemic was actually serious, as in, 50% fatality rate, that we’d take it seriously, but based on the clown show of the past year I somehow doubt it.

    • JayMan says:

      I really do wonder.

    • another fred says:

      I think that one reason for the high level of effort is to develop new vaccine technology for an expected, more deadly, virus. Without all the commotion about this virus they would not have been able to push the vaccines forward so rapidly and widely.

      If (when) there is a more serious disease, speed at deploying vaccines will be crucial.

      • Henry Scrope says:

        That might explain the way government and its tame media are getting very Soviet over forcing the vaccine; the Chinese accidentally released a virus sort of a bit deadly but not much however our brainy guys at Porton Down and Fort Dettrick could see an outline of something far worse to come when they analysed it?

        • Henry Scrope says:

          So rather than closing the borders they mass experiment on the population with novel vaccines, but these if they work can be made to work against any bioweapon like for instance battle strain smallpox.


    • ASR says:

      I agree with you. So to some degree do the 55,000 signatories to the The Greater Barrington Declaration

      The “vaccines” currently being used in the USA are (1) the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine [based on a manufactured piece of mRNA in suspension]; (2) the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine [also based on a manufactured piece of mRNA in suspension]; and (3) the Johnson & Johnson Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine [inactivated adenovirus carries a SARS-COV-2 gene into vaccinated person’s cells]. The first two are based on entirely novel theories of action and manufacturing procedures. The third uses a technique that has sometimes proven ineffective and/or dangerous.

      Usually new vaccines undergo at least four or five years of testing for efficacy and safety, particularly long term safety. These vaccines are, to coin a phrase, “much more novel” than past new vaccines and yet have been released with almost none of the usual testing that more typical vaccines, typically undergo.

      This is already proving to be a problem. As regards efficacy, the Pharma companies are already suggesting that annual inoculations may be necessary. There is also accumulating evidence that a significant percentage of vaccinated individuals are being infected with SARS-COV-2 despite their vaccinations. Concern is rising that the vaccines may exacerbate the very serious condition of Autoimmune Defense Enhancement. It’s utterly unknown what the long term effects of these vaccines may be.

      And all of these unprecedented mass experiments are intended to deal with a pandemic that has ultimately proven to be not significantly worse, in terms of per capita mortality and morbidity, than the Hong Kong Flu Pandemic of 1968. I lived through that one and IIRC none of the excessive policies that we’ve experienced over the past year, were implemented back then. Despite that the world survived quite handily.

      Experience is now beginning to suggest that all the unique public policies of the last year have been destructive of the economy, social order, and even the political order. Yet these policies most likely have had little public health impact. In fact, they may have added a large mortality increase, e.g. from suicides, drug ODs, and delayed or denied critical medical care, to the mortality caused directly by the pandemic. Comparing the experiences of political entities foregoing drastic policy measures, e.g. Florida, Texas, South Dakota, and Sweden, with those adopting more extreme public health measures, e.g. California, New York, New Jersey, and most of the European Union suggests that drastic public health measures were a costly and destructive failure.

      I am a retired epidemiologist. Back in the beginning of 2020 I was extremely concerned about the reports I was hearing about SARS-COV-2/Covid-19. By late spring of that year I began to realize that the historically unique public policies that were supposed to deal with the pandemic were in fact causing more harm than good. This was just as the political class was doubling down on these policies. Many continue to double down. They have indeed proven to be clowns but also exceptionally lethal clowns.

      • Jacob says:

        “As regards efficacy, the Pharma companies are already suggesting that annual inoculations may be necessary.”

        The newest cardinal sin is to believe absolutely anything that absolutely anyone says about COVID-19. You have to just read the data published on this stuff & assume all else is either

        A ) politically and financially motivated hackery, or
        B) nonsensical conspiracy theories.

        Personally I’m optimistic about the vaccines — got the Pfizer one via my workplace — but if they don’t turn out to be all that great, it’ll be a pretty big oopsie on a lot of levels.

        The coolest thing about mRNA vaccines (IMO) is how quickly you can design them. For Moderna it was two days. I’d like to see a world where people use related tech for cancer immunotherapy. Doesn’t matter what kind of cancer you have; I’m willing to bet that it expresses at least one antigen that host tissue expresses far less/not at all. Cheaper genomics and proteomics are coming day by day, and the needed mRNA sequence for each aberrant surface protein should be very easy to come up with.

      • gcochran9 says:

        The 1968 Hong Kong flu killed > 30k people in the UK, which then had a population of about 55 million. 70% of the population was infected.

        fraction of the total population killed ( assume 40 k deaths, from an excess deaths calc) : 7.3 x 10-4. IFR about 1 x 10-3.

        As for the end of February, 2021:

        deaths ( from a registry): 106k. Population of UK: 66.6 million

        percent infected ( those unvaccinated, from serology): 9.8%.

        fraction of the total population killed: 1.6 x 10-3 IFR: 1.6 x 10-2

        without efforts on our part ( lockdowns, social distancing, vaccination) what fraction of the UK population would have become infected?
        well over 70%, since covid-19 is considerably more contagious than influenza ( influenza R0 1.5-2.5, covid-19 R0 > 4). Say 80%.

        So, unresisted, population adjusted, covid-19 would be something like 20 times worse than the 1968 flu.

        Public health efforts ( and individual actions) have resulted in a death toll 4-6 times smaller than would otherwise have occurred. Prompt and more decisive action, as in Taiwan or South Korea or Australaia, would likely reduced it to near zero.

        By the way, you claims about suicide are also wrong, as your claims of about vaccine risk, efficacy, etc.

        Do you like being wrong?

        • Vishal Mehra says:

          This calculation assumes that everyone is equally susceptible and likely to die of covid-19. Which is not correct. Most people have varying degrees of natural immunity to covid-19 and and in particular to severe illness.

          • gcochran9 says:

            The calculation assumes that everyone that had not already had it was vulnerable: which was everybody. And that is correct.

            • Gkai says:

              If by correct you mean this hypothesis is used in most (all?) model for covid epidemiology, i fully agree. If by correct you mean it reflect reality, which data support this? The diamond princess ship? This hypothesis just don’t fly when among people sharing the same home, some get it while others don’t…

              • gcochran9 says:

                Is there evidence that people that happen not to contract it in such a home are henceforth protected against it? No.

                We have lots of evidence on viral infections, in humans and animals. If a new virus appears, one that doesn’t happen to be extremely similar ( in an immunological sense) to a pre-existing virus, everyone is susceptible.

                In order to have protective antibodies, you either need to have experienced the disease or vaccination.

              • Pincher Martin says:

                Look at Bergamo. A year ago the Italian city became infamous as Covid ran rampant through the northern part of the country. Hospitals were overwhelmed; Morgues couldn’t handle the bodies; the Italian army was called in to help. I think I read somewhere last year that as many as 60% of the city’s population contracted the virus.

                But today Bergamo’s ICUs are once again full as it goes through a third wave.

            • CatsMeow says:

              Overall, it seems like there is no good reason for a healthy person under age 40 to be a guinea pig for this novel mRNA vax.

  4. James Anthony Thompson says:

    The low fatality rate has allowed people to take a leisurely view. The European Union was concentrating on costs, and in contrast the UK on how quickly it could give money and production facilities to the best prospects, on which the venture capitalist, Kate Bingham, did very well.
    Furthermore, they should have dumped placebo arms (use baseline community figures, previous placebo data) and gone for challenge trials as quickly as possible. The should also have accepted volunteers of all ages, and turned that first extended trial into an actual vaccination roll-out.

  5. cameron232 says:

    On more modern weapons they’re often called TDD – target detection device. The trend is to move towards using the weapon’s radar itself to fuze rather than a separate proximity device – if you’ve got an radar onboard the weapon why add something else to the weapon. This doesn’t apply to cheap air defense artillery obviously which I think still use a cheap prox fuze. Or a timed fuze programmed at the gun barrel.

  6. Vishal Mehra says:

    It is odd that the only conventional type vaccine–containing inactivated virus– is developed and distributed in India.
    The novel RNA/DNA vaccines are experimental strictly speaking. Inducing one’s own cells to produce viral proteins and present them to immune system has potential to lead to auto-immune diseases of novel types.

  7. Coagulopath says:

    The cost of the whole vaccine effort was nothing compared to the other costs of covid

    Before a disaster strikes, all your preparation looks like waste. After a disaster strikes, it looks like you didn’t do enough. Every time.

  8. Rob says:

    SARS-CoV-2 was bad, but it is almost over, one hopes. What about next time? Did the establishment learn anything, or any right thing? It seems to me that mRNA vaccines are a game-changer, if one cannot have my faves, live-attenuated vaccines. The production would be nearly identical for a wide swathe of antigens. No need to find a animal or cell culture to grow the microbe in. No months or years of passaging for attenuation. Every vaccine can be given with the same adjuvants and carriers. Do not need to worry about either protein folding or toxicity in bacteria.

    Modena took 2 days from the genome being published to sequence to design, according to Jacob, and I have no reason to doubt him. That part of the process likely cannot get much faster, but how much ground work particular to COVID was required? SARS vaccines tended to cause severe lung disease in vaccinated animals given SARS. Was that solved with the proline residues preventing the post-fusion spike conformation? If yes, what had to be in place to know where to put the prolines? I assume that took a spike crystal structure, which could not have been generated in a couple days. Did it have to be the COVID spike, or did they just need some coronavirus spike?

    Do you think COVID scared the elite to such an extent that they’ll call for international or intra-national quarantines early enough? Will public health administrators Tweet out that people should go to Chinese New Year (or whatever) to show the virus they aren’t racists? Did manufacturers or government take to heart the weaknesses of just in time manufacturing, zero inventory, and outsourced production?

  9. Rich Rostrom says:

    “The cost of the whole vaccine effort was nothing compared to the other costs of covid…”

    The pharma companies will make billions of $ of profit on COVID vaccines.

    The cost of the COVID lockdown is billions of $ per day.

    If the vaccines end the need for the lockdown, the cost (including profits) will be well worth it.

  10. Dmon says:

    Just asking, what do you think of this? Relatively, East Asia pretty much skated on covid, even if, like Japan, they basically did nothing. As far as I can tell, East Asians in the west (such as the Chinese in No. Italy) had a noticeably lower death rate than other races. Having some degree of pre-existing immunity sounds like a better approach than robust contact tracing, but I’m out of my depth.

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