Jerry writes:

20 F and sunny in Arbutus, MD (Are-bu-tus)

I took your virology course plus a couple of courses on epidemiology and immunology some years ago on Coursera. Never imagined that I’d need the virology or epidemiology, took them because they looked interesting. Immunology I needed as I had developed an allergy to cats; read Janeway cover to cover several times as well.

Fast forward, and these are the subjects of greatest use to me in the last 2 years. I’m also old enough to remember polio epidemics. Until the 7th grade, there were kids in my school and sometimes classroom with leg braces and crutches. Anyway, I had a good idea of what was coming by early March 2020. However, talking to others about it was like talking to a wall except walls don’t talk back. I recognized early that the pushback was on the logical level of arguing about what color canaries you can grow if you plant birdseed. Focused instead on taking care of my health and started walking 8 miles a day for fitness; about the only risk variable I had control over. Having worked in biomedical research labs for 40+ years, contamination control was second nature.

I decided to refresh my understanding of virology and went looking for the course again and it wasn’t on Coursera any more. Not hard to discover where it had migrated to so pick up again from the start. A lot had changed and a lot was still the same. In the process I discovered Brianne’s immunology course and the weekly clinical updates with Daniel Griffin. The result was that last fall I suspended my streaming TV service temporarily because I didn’t have time to watch it.

@ Brianne. I know where Camden NY is. Been thru it many times on the way to Osceola via Florence for cross country skiing. Philatelists should know the location but have never been there. I now hang out in Lake Placid during winter.

Background. Ph.D. in Zoology and worked in wildlife research until financial issues dictated a career change to single-channel patch-clamp recording as post doc in Ithaca NY. The change came about because I had electronics training in the Army before college and was stood up for a lunch date in Carbondale, Illinois shortly before graduating. Story of another time.

Further down the career path I moved to a lab studying Cystic Fibrosis. Here we spent time studying a truncated form of the CFTR gene as a candidate for gene therapy. The issue was that the whole gene was too large to fit into the AAV5 vector.

Anyway, refreshing to be hanging out with the cutting edge again. Keep podcasting.


Glenn writes:

Hi Vincent and TWIV team,

I am one of those who started watching TWIV when SARS-CoV-2 first started circulating – precisely mid January 2020 when China shut down Wuhan. I looked for information on viruses and found Virology 2020. It was fascinating to watch your lectures as the virus was spreading across the world. That led to TWIV.

I have to say I understand maybe 40% and can make sense of another 30%.

Anyway, love your Q&A with Amy as well.

I debated over a week on whether to send an email.

First I thought TWIV 858 was very interesting, and the emails from listeners hit the spot – watching TWIV for facts and trusted people who have been on TWIV. I say to my friends I’d rather listen to someone with 40 years in virology than somebody with 40 years in politics.

This email about trusting TWIV guests was what triggered my email.

There was an article about a prominent scientist who secretly believed in the lab leak hypothesis. I was curious who it could be so I looked it up. Normally I don’t read any articles on lab leak theory. The person quoted in a “private email” was Robert Garry! I was shocked because he was the first virologist I found who disputed the lab theory a year ago. And I saw him on TWIV as well. By the end of the day, the article disappeared. I assume he challenged the news organization and they pulled the article. Anyway, I was wondering if you and/or TWIV team know anymore.

This lab leak theory is getting out of hand. I appreciate TWIV has already addressed it multiple times. But the media keeps saying “scientists are now talking about it” without naming any scientists – except for 1 in Australia.

I know you and the team don’t like covering this over and over again but I think it is important for scientists to speak out.

Then it triggered another thought – and again I don’t think you will cover it because it is tricky: Fort Detrick. There was a lab leak there in August 2019, and there is a line, a very thin line, to Wuhan. I looked it up in April of 2020 when rumour was that China was blaming the US for a lab leak that caused the out break in Wuhan, the thin line.

I won’t go over the details but I was interested if you and/or others on the TWIV team know anymore. Since you know about the work in Wuhan; how much do you know about the work at Fort Detrick? While they accuse Wuhan lab allegedly of having ties to the Chinese military, Fort Detrick is the US military. I believe much of the work there is classified. There is documented history that Fort Detrick did do bio-weapon research. I also found a list of viruses Fort Detrick worked on. The list does not confirm which is active because that is classified. Not to my surprise, coronavirus was on the list.

I suspect you can’t talk about it but I thought I would ask anyway; likely you will get kicked off Youtube. I am just curious.

I have become a fan. Thanks for your work and I really appreciate the conversation and discussion on virology.

I learned something that is related to Rich’s pick on the TWIV, the Zamboni. Alan may know this…I heard where the term hoser came from. It is one of the great Canadian terms. Hoser came from pick up hockey in areas where there are open rinks. I lived in Montreal for a short time so I know what they are like. Hosers are the losers who have to hose down the rink after the game – a human zamboni, it means loser.

Anyway, for me, I would like to hear about Fort Detrick and hope real scientists get together and speak out on this lab leak theory. I saw the TWIV 760 with the team from the WHO investigation team. It is sad because of the lab leak accusation, I think China’s door will be shut for further investigation. I think this pandemic can be called the political pandemic.

One other interesting thought. Last week $130 million was dumped into the South China Sea. What kind of research can you do for $135 million? That was 1 F35 that fell off an aircraft carrier. It is sad to see government’s priorities.

Anyway, sorry for the long winded email. Again, like many of your listeners, I really appreciate you, and the TWIV teams work.

All the best…maybe you can ask the government to donate a F35 for your research.



Adam writes:

I noticed several studies regarding a different version of an mRNA vaccine relative to the original one developed by Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech. One such study is here: 

Here is a relevant passage from this article: “CVnCoV is a chemically unmodified mRNA vaccine candidate based on the RNActive mRNA vaccine platform encoding the stabilised, full-length, native SARS-CoV-2 spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 wild-type strain. The mRNA is protected by lipid nanoparticles used for delivery.”

Given what was discussed from the Kariko and Weissman Immunity 2005 article in the last episode of TWiV, I am wondering how an unmodified mRNA platform can be used? It’s not clear to me. Wouldn’t this be toxic to the host animal because the RNA does not contain modified bases, such as pseudouridine. This very recent article is also relevant: 

Thanks and be well,

Adam Hersperger, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Biology
Albright College
Reading, PA