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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

“Pandemic” – 2018 Novel from Robin Cook

In the novel “Pandemic,” the story centers about the 2012-wonder discovery – CRISPR/CAS9, a biologically active chimeric (visionary) molecule, ‘which had been engineered from a bacterial immune system that had evolved to counter viral invaders.’ This extraordinary molecule can be used easily to seek out and modify/alter/edit the genes in plants and animals. And, this molecule can be produced from a few inexpensive bacterial components and can be custom-made.

A unique thing about this CRISPR/CAS9 molecule is that ‘even a high school student armed with readily available low-cost reagents and a little instruction could learn to modify the genetic makeup of living cells, which can pass on the changes to daughter cells. With CRISPR/CAS9, any gene whose sequence is known can be removed, replaced, turned on, or turned off, and all this can be done in the equivalent of someone’s garage. It is that easy.’ This is what Robin Cook claims and is worried about.

I also did some research on CRISPR/CAS9 type of molecular technology, and I learn that it could be tremendously useful in treatment of hitherto untreated diseases, deformities, and illnesses. Yet, it could become a powerful tool in the hands of unscrupulous people, who can tend to irreversibly modify, living beings by tampering with their genes, and this can lead to some dangerous, unintended consequences and several ethical questions. The technology can lead to altering the design of the future generation itself, without our descendants willing it, which could cause dangerous consequences. “Pandemic is the story of such a danger.”


When an unidentified, seemingly healthy young woman collapses suddenly on the New York City subway and dies upon reaching the hospital, her case is an eerie reminder for veteran medical examiner Jack Stapleton of the 1918 flu pandemic. Fearful of a repeat on the one hundredth anniversary of the nightmarish contagion, Jack autopsies the woman within hours of her demise and discovers some striking anomalies: first, that she has had a heart transplant, and second that, against all odds, her DNA matches that of the transplanted heart.

Although the facts don’t add to influenza, Jack must race against the clock to identify the woman and determine what kind of virus could wreak such havoc – a task made more urgent when two other victims succumb to a similar rapid death. But nothing makes sense until his investigation leads him into the fascinating realm of CRISPR/CAS9, a gene-editing biotechnology that’s captured the imagination of the medical community … and the attention of its most unethical members. Drawn into the dark underbelly of the organ transplant market, Jack will come fact-to-face with megalomaniacal businessman willing to risk human lives in order to conquer a lucrative new frontier in medicine – and if Jack’s not careful, the next life lost might be his own.


                In contrast to his earlier “Charlatans”, the novel “Pandemic” moves quite fast to the climax, building up the incidents one after another. Though certain sections, where a number of technical medical terms are used, might not make sense to an ordinary reader, the overall novel is quite gripping. An worth reading crime story!

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