BeneVir is a group project, in collaboration with Tzu-ching Lin, André Orta, and Hannah Rudin, created for a systems based class. The goal of the project was to create a solution for a projected future based on past and present events. This was accomplished by looking into history and current events and forward-casting a world trajectory in order to design for tomorrow.
Studying the System
Past & Present
A large portion of the initial work was focused on getting to know the environment in which we were working and studying. This involved a deep dive into BioDefense and BioSecurity. Above is a graphic of some of our findings from the past and present.
An interesting historical piece to expand upon is the fact that the government and world has been and is keenly aware of biological threats. Since 1972 there have been global restrictions and agreements on the use of bio-agents and bioweapons as tools of war. It is clear that threat of biological attack is a huge and frightening issue. However, a current opportunity in understanding the human genome lends to greater ways of trying to prevent biological attacks.
With the introduction of tools such as CRISPR and faster computers humans are closer than ever to being able to map the genome. If we can learn to understand the genome that will allow for the ability to enhance immune systems, identify bio-agents, and develop better treatments and vaccines.
When looking at the benefits of gene editing and the understanding of the genome one is presented with the other side of the coin; if a tool can be used to do good it can just as easily be transformed into a machine for evil. The future map shows a perceived future of how biosecurity will operate in a world where gene editing is more easily accessible to a larger percentage of the global population. It specifically focuses on the idea that people with malicious intentions are now able get there hands on the technology.
This thought than bases an assumption around the fact that it is in the best interest of both the government and the individuals to protect themselves from possible attacks. Since bio-attacks are invisible to the eye, can pass rather undetected through carrying agents, spread quickly, and can exhibit symptoms the target may not notice they can be rapidly destabilizing. This is where the idea of gene vaults come into play as a way to save hardcopies of unaltered DNA and develop antidotes for biological viruses and pathogens.
Creating the solution
The answer to the future problem of bio-attacks is a company like BeneVir. BeneVir's goal is to combat the rapid speed with which CRISPR and the capabilities of gene editing will become available on a wider scale, and prevent an issue we liken to computer viruses. Just as hackers exist in the digital world, they will exist in the genetic world. Scientists have proven that genetic code is a more complicated version of the binary language of computers, but it can be written all the same.
The exact way that BeneVir hopes to strengthen biosecurity is through taking and storing hardcopies of your DNA in multiple locations, developing genetic updates, and delivering you a product through which you receive the update. In this case, our genetic bath oils would deliver this updated genetic material via a "benevolent" virus. This good virus will then alter your cells to be immune to various bio agents that have been detected in people with similar genetic makeup.