Ralph Baric: JS Bach of Viral Genetic Engineering
SARS-CoV-2 is the culmination of UNC professor's lifetime of study and work.
Between 1723 and his death in 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach was cantor of the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany. His primary duty was composing music for Sunday services, and he did not disappoint. During this period he composed 265 cantatas, the St. Matthew Passion, and Mass in B Minor.
Over the years I’ve known a few professional (classical) musicians, and they all expressed the opinion that, within the western classical tradition, Bach remains the most important and influential composer. Much of his understanding and creativity naturally followed from his extraordinary diligence. He was an extremely focused and hardworking man, even though he also managed to father 20 children with two different wives (though only 10 grew to adulthood).
I thought of Bach this morning while perusing the papers and recorded lectures of Ralph Baric— UNC Professor of Epidemiology, Microbiology, and Immunology at UNC Chapel Hill. For over thirty years, Baric has been studying and tinkering with coronaviruses in his lab, seeking ways to make them infectious and pathogenic to humans with the purported goal of ALSO developing vaccines to counter them. I suspect there are very few people in the world who can sustain such laser focus on a subject over such a long period of time.
Just one sample of his work is the following lecture that he apparently gave in 2007 titled The Synthetic Creation & Genetic Engineering of SARS. I found it fascinating, and I’d love to hear what people who have trained in virology think about it.