Are diseases deliberately spread as experiments for the pharmaceutical industry?

This type of questions get asked a lot, aren’t they? Here’s my answer which I’d posted on Quora.

Yes. It is true.

As a matter of fact, it has happened in the past and we have 123 minutes video evidence of how the whole scheme was carried out.

It happened in 2000.

A Russian bio-chemical expert Vladimir Nekhorvich was forced by his employer Biocyte Pharmaceuticals to develop a biological epidemic. He did it – all by himself. The video evidence didn’t put too much emphasize on how he did it, but he looked smart, so he must have been capable.

Fortunately for the planet, he had a good conscious and a devil-may-care friend inside a US government agency with resources. Unfortunately though, instead of his friend, the antidote named Bellerophon ended up in the hands of Sean Ambrose, a guy with questionable morals and lot of ambitions.

Ambrose tried to release the virus on the population through a human carrier by letting her wander in Sydney. It’s never explained why Sydney though. I mean, it’s on an island which is cut off from most of the world. Not an ideal location to spread the virus, but he may be counting on the infected people spreading it around by flying to other parts of the world from the Sydney International Airport. Also, Sydney is a big touristy spot with good beaches. I mean, why not New York or Paris?

The video gets a bit boring and contrived in the middle, but after all said and done though, the friend working for the government agency finally contained the virus and made sure that the right people got the antidote. He had a good team, although his IT guy was a big, black guy but this was 2000. Today, if the IT guy is more likely to be an Indian guy whose kids are crushing it on Spelling Bee.

Anyway, the friend who saved the world was Tom Cruise and I just described the plot of Mission: Impossible 2. The movie length was 123 minutes.

By Source, Fair use, File:Mission Impossible II.jpg – Wikipedia

The movie had exactly the same plot line as the scenario in the question.

I’ll get to the serious part of my answer shortly, but shouldn’t it be a rule of thumb that any Mission: Impossible movie plot is extremely unlikely to occur in real life?

As for the reality of that happening today.

First of all, an evil genius has to be the CEO of a company for a long time. I mean, it takes 15 years to bring new type of cold medicine to market. Imagine that you’re the diabolical CEO and have ordered your minions (we’ll get to it in a minute) to develop a deadly virus or bacteria. And you have to leave halfway through development because your term is up or another ambitious guy is on your tail or the Board tossed you out or you got #metoo-ed. Not to mention he also has to be like really, really, Noble-prize level good at biology. Do you know any CEO who’s like that?

Then you need the company Chief Financial Officer in on your scheme as well since he’ll know where every single dollar went. So, if you have a secret facility with really smart people working on something, he’ll notice on the balance sheet.

Then your Supply Chain Manager. He’ll know about all the raw materials and consumables being used and for which project.

Then there is your Chief of Corporate Affairs guy.

What about the Head of R & D? He’s sure to know about this.

Human Resources – they’ll notice, right?

But mostly you need really smart people who can invent a new biological epidemic but are dumb or scared enough to do that. I mean, they won’t just do it for a paycheck and a good dental plan, right? How are you going to give them extra money without your HR, payroll and legal department noticing?

And about scaring them? Foggetaboutit. In modern times, you can’t even scare or threaten a summer intern. They all have access to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Before you can finish your threat, you’ll be taking the Fifth and saying things like, “I need to consult my lawyer for that question, Senator.”

It’s already hard as it is just to do old-fashioned R&D and come up with a cure for a disease that we understand well. But to come up with a totally new epidemic? It’s damn near impossible to do it in a controlled manner.

Do you know how difficult is it just to run a biochemical process that we fully understand? Very. Which is why everyone with a couple of years of experience adds “troubleshooting” as one of the skills. Which is why a pharma company has to recall a batch of drugs which it has been making for many years, because this particular batch didn’t run as intended.

I think we all can agree that if it happened in a Mission: Impossible movie, it’s extremely unlikely to happen in real life.

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