Conspiracy - Part 3
“Have you received the progress report from each of the directors? We need to launch soon, maybe as early as Wednesday.”
“Yes, you should have them any second — the files are large and will take a minute to decrypt.”
William Jacobs refreshed his email, and the reports were there. He opened the file, put in his password and waited for the summary to load on his screen. There were five separate projects, directed by senior members, and they all seemed to be right on track, except one.
“Why is the CEO of FutureGenomic, what’s his name, asking for a second report from the other researchers? You think he knows?”
“No, we’re pretty sure it’s a personality clash with Ludlow. He doesn’t want Ludlow getting too much credit, and he’s worried the board will see it the wrong way.”
“Okay… send someone down to discuss a contract extension. We just need him to be good for a couple more weeks.”
Jacobs was relieved. The worst thing that could happen were if one of key players got a sense something was off. A small misgiving about how quickly the sequencing happened, or maybe just sensing a false note from Ludlow. The people he had were good, but none of them were Daniel Day Lewis.
As usual, though, it was interpersonal pettiness and careerism, and that was always an easy fix. In fact, pettiness and careerism is what made the operation possible in the first place.
The other four projects were going smoothly. Probably more smoothly than Jacobs could ever have dreamed when he was tasked to run it eight years ago. Recruiting the research scientists was the easiest part — most had been so frustrated with the grant-selection process and gatekeeping they jumped at the chance.
It was also trivial to get the academic journals on board. A few grants from the Smith Foundation comprising 60 percent of their annual budgets, and Jacobs felt he could get them to publish a study showing men could get pregnant. (He wondered quietly whether there wasn’t some other operation, of which he was unaware, where they were purposely pushing absurd research as a test to see how far they could take it.)
Getting FutureGenomic and PhenoGenesis to hire the Harvard PhDs took a little more ingenuity, but Harris knew which buttons to push. Once hired, it seemed incredible how quickly Ludlow sequenced the novel virus’ genome and had a working prototype on mice.
The beauty of the operation was how lean it was. They had only five directors: (1) For the research scientists and creation of the messenger RNA delivery system; (2) For the medical journals and editors who touted the findings and pushed them out to universities and doctors; (3) For the board of directors of the biotech companies themselves, thanks to the Smith foundation; (4) Corporate media; and (5) Government lobbyists. Even better, only the first two directors (and the field PhDs and journal editors) knew the truth. The media and government people really believed they were on the side of science and public health. And if they didn’t, the Smith Foundation reminded them by lavishing their colleagues who did with awards and opportunities, something of which their bosses were undoubtedly aware.
Jacobs caught himself. He didn’t want to jinx the operation by overly admiring his handiwork before it launched. They still needed the FDA to grant the EUA approval and the CDC to recommend it, and they didn’t have anyone on the inside in either place. It was a risk counting on industry capture — Future Genomic and PhenoGenesis had several former employees in both places — but Jacobs felt fairly certain those companies would see to it their product would be greenlit, especially as the Smith Foundation, a large investor in both, had already convinced state and federal officials to pre-purchase the medicine in bulk.
Who knows, maybe something could go wrong yet, he thought. Maybe independent scientists with the stomach to endure vitriol would take issue with the too-good-to-be-true findings. He figured there would be pushback, but was pretty sure the stakeholders at Smith, and the recipients of their generosity, would marginalize dissenters quickly.
He had seen this dynamic play out before in the lead-up to the Iraq War. If the incentives were aligned, Jacobs knew most would go along, even when things didn’t entirely add up. No one wants to be considered a traitor, an anti-vaxxer or a science-denier. People would believe what they needed to believe in order to fit in socially and professionally. The rare scientists and policymakers who pushed back would be excommunicated and destroyed. He wouldn’t even need to lift a finger. Their colleagues and funders would do it all by themselves.
Conspiracy Theory - Part 1
Conspiracy Theory - Part 2
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