Doing Gain-of-Function (GoF) Safely
If a strong enough argument is made, we can do GoF and minimize risk. Here’s a start on how this might be accomplished.
- Antarctica only. Build a lovely facility there. Power it with a fission reactor of the type used by Navy ships. Domes with gardens and all. It doesn’t have to suck.
- Five Navy quarantine ships are required. Three in use at any given time. One headed South, two headed North. Each Southbound passenger spends 20 days quarantining. Northbound passengers do 20 days on the first ship and then do an isolated transfer for 20 days to the second ship before returning to society. Each physical ship gets sanitized and then sits for 20-days afer handling facility staff before being ready for the next batch. Might as well install UV bulbs in each room while building the ships and leave them on for the 20 days.
- Sailors don’t interact with the facility staff and the isolated Sailors who interact with their food, air, and waste (incinerated) are also subject to the same quarantine procedures. Any medical emergencies will require involved medical staff to become part of the quarantine cohort and the clock restarted.
- Anybody breaking quarantine is shot. If there’s any kind of quarantine break (even fire/emergency), the entire ship is quarantined for the full 40 days.
- Deliveries by drones, airdrops, or distanced cargo unloading only. No human-to-human contact.
- No outbound material. Humans only – wear a paper suit to embark when leaving. It will be incinerated.
- Personality profiles for all participants. Nobody low in conscientiousness can go. High agreeableness may be contraindicated.
- Accidents automatically start an onsite quarantine clock that preempts any other schedule and doesn’t start until remediation is complete.
- GoF is banned on the other six continents. Violating the protocols must be treated as a presumptive War Crime.
This is a better tour than War duty for the Sailors. Scientists who feel strongly enough about doing the work can put up with it. If they won’t put up with it they can find a different job.
It’s not cheap but the expense is manageable (if GoF is deemed worth it). Five million dead is more expensive by any measure and that is unaffordable.
It’ll be a nicer trip than Mars, so it’s a matter of finding the right personnel.