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Proximal Origins - Bat Lady (General)

by dulan drift, Monday, June 15, 2020, 17:45 (23 days ago) @ dulan drift

Chiang Zhou-wen works at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. As a woman it’s not easy carving out a career in science - not in China or the US or anywhere. For a woman to navigate through this old boys network to the top flight of academics in the world, you can safely deduce that that person is driven, tough, brilliant. Like Lindstrom, she made her mark with SARS, though their paths didn’t cross initially. At that time she was just a smart young scientist - not on Lindstrom’s level.

Later the race was on to identify the original host body. When all her colleagues were writing papers theorising that it could be this or that (Lindstrom had argued it was rats) - she decided to get out in the field. That doesn’t sound astounding but most scientists don’t do it. If it can’t be done in the lab then it’s not done. The popular theory had become bats to civets to humans at a wet market but there was no definitive proof. Chou-wen put on her hiking gear and went looking for the bat caves. She found them. She collected fecal samples, took them back to the lab - analysed them for viruses. She didn’t find SARS but she found similar ones. That was enough to set her off - she spent more time hiking in the mountains of Yunnan and Guangzhou than she did in Wuhan - a fact that was starting to concern the Institute's director. It was known that she loved nature and hiking already - it was starting to look like she’d crossed over to the other side. But then she did find it! Not a 100% match but 96.8% - enough to say for sure that it was derived from this strain - also enough where you wouldn’t need the civet - in fact she argued that it was most likely a direct infection from bats to humans.

This catapulted her into the public’s eye. International media were fascinated by her story - they nicknamed her Bat Lady. The minister of S&T was also impressed. As someone in charge of the budget he sees a lot of money get spent on research that leads no where. Here was someone who'd actually got results. She was already a lead scientist at WIV but now she could get funding for whatever she wanted. What she wanted was to predict the next SARS. To do that she started making hybrid viruses with the samples they’d collected and/or forced samples to mutate to see what would happen. Her lab was now her crystal ball. If she could make the perfect coronavirus then she could make the perfect cure. Chou-wen is into the pure science of her work - but she also knows that the person who has an antidote for a new SARS-like outbreak - which she’s sure will come one day - that person is going to be rich and celebrated.

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