“281.” A voice called out.
There was silence.
“Participant number 281.” The voice called out again.
A man stood up from his seat in the laboratory waiting room and walked toward the scientist waiting for him at the counter.
“Thank you.” The scientist replied. “You can follow me.”
She continued, “I know the informed consent form explained the procedure of this study, but I also need to make sure you are informed verbally so that you can withdraw if you choose. My name is Dr. Amelia Drexler. I am a geneticist who specializes in biomedical nano technology. I am currently operating the world’s largest clinical trial, which is why you are here today. Gene therapy is the process by which a small portion of damaged DNA is extracted, corrected, and then reinserted back into an individual. It does not hurt; you won’t even realize I’m doing it. Gene therapy is used to cure genetic disease. I have developed nano technology that so far has showed full healings from every single genetic disorder or mutation you can think of. It is called NC-300iX. Your form indicates that you suffer from a genetic disease?
“Yes, that is correct. Which I never understood, considering I am a bot.” 281 replied.
“Bots have simply been reconstructed to contain some programmable robotic organs that are designed to never fail; however, you still contain the human mutated DNA that you were born with.” Dr. Drexler replied.
She continued, “What I am going to do, upon your consent, is extract a small sample of blood from your arm, combine it with my nanochip ‘NC-300iX’ in our CRISPR, and then readminister it back into you through your other arm. It will take a total of 5 minutes. You then will return for follow up appointment every six months for two years, and then every year for 10 years. This will be to ensure the nano chip is functioning properly. All I need is your consent or lack of consent.”
“I consent.” he said.
Dr. Drexler executed the process successfully and subject 281 was told he can leave the lab. Once completely off the premises, he pressed down on his left wrist and a holographic projection omitted from his left forearm. A man in holographic form displayed mid-air.
“Mission accomplished.” subject 281 said.
“Excellent. We expect you back in Russia in less than a day. Good work, Gregor.” The man said.
Back at CERN, Dr. Drexler was closing the lab for the night. She locked the lab rooms and walked out to the front desk to send her lab tech home. Before leaving, the lab tech said, “Before I forget, there is a message for you on the holographer. I tried to open it but for some reason was unable to. Which is odd because I usually have no problem opening them.”
“Strange” Dr. Drexler replied, “I will open it. Thank you, goodnight.”
She walked over to the holographer and pressed the blinking light. An image of a man was projected.
“Hello, Dr. Drexler.” The man said with a Russian accent. “You don’t know me, but I most certainly know you. You met my colleague today, Gregor. He was your last patient to receive your precious nano chip. Unfortunately for you, he is on his way back to our lab in Moscow, where we plan on harvesting your technology to use for global destruction.”
Dr. Drexler dropped her coffee mug onto the ground, and it shattered.
He continued, “But don’t worry, if you sign over the rights to the nanochip’s patent, we won’t use it against the entire world. You have 24 hours to decide.”
The holograph message ended. Immediately, she made a phone call.
“Hi, yes. We have a problem. Can you be here in an hour? Then find a faster jet. Thank you. See you soon.”
Dr. Montclair arrived about an hour later. They spoke briefly.
“Are you sure this is going to work?” Dr. Drexler asked.
“Not at all, but this is our only option. Call me when you land in Romania” Dr. Montclair replied.
Dr. Drexler agreed and quickly left.
As Gregor was a few hours into his journey back to Russia, he received a call on his holographer. It was his boss, who had called him as soon as he stole the nano chip from CERN.
“Everything is running according to the plan. I will be back to our lab in Moscow in a few hours.” Gregor said.
“Plans have changed, Gregor. There has been a breach in our lab databases. Instead, we are redirecting your coordinates to our covert sister-lab. Your coordinates will have been updated by the time I hang up the phone.” his boss said.
“Understood.” Gregor said.
Dr. Drexler arrived in Romania within the hour. She called Dr. Montclair as she said she would.
“The first part of the plan was successful. Now the rest is up to you. You are the only geneticist in Europe who has experience with the Anti-CRISPR. It was, after all, designed and built by your grandfather.” Dr. Montclair said.
She hadn’t been on the ground for five minutes before she was greeted by a landing helicopter. “CERN” was written in large white print on the side of the rear tail rotor. It was CERN’s private helicopter.
The helicopter pilot waved for her. She walked over to it and climbed in. The pilot handed her a headset. They took off and within a half hour arrived at CERN’s covert sister lab. They landed, and once Dr. Drexler exited, the helicopter left promptly.
She entered the lab and was meet by the lab tech.
“Dr. Drexler, it is an honor. I just got off the phone with Dr. Montclair and he told me everything. I powered up the Anti-CRISPR, so all you need to do is attain a sample of blood from this spy-bot, centrifuge it in the Anti-CRISPR, and diligently extract your nano chip from the blood sample. If your grandfather’s designs are correct, once the nano chip is removed from his cells, his DNA will return to normal. But you need to act fast, once the blood sample is taken, you only have 10 minutes before the sample becomes fully oxidized and will not be able to be processed by the Anti-CRISPR.” The lab tech said.
“I understand. You know what to do.” Dr. Drexler replied, and quickly left the lobby.
Gregor arrived at the lab shortly after.
He walked through the lobby to the front desk, where he was greeted by the lab tech, who happened to be fluent in Russian.
“We were expecting you. Follow the hallway to complete your mission.” The lab tech spoke in Russian.
Gregor started to walk toward the hallway.
“Wait! Did you sign in, associate?” she asked.
“Sign in?” Gregor asked hastily.
“We have had several security breaches over the last year. The boss now requires all entrees to sign their name upon entrance. It is standard protocol.” The tech said.
She handed Gregor a pen and the sign in sheet.
“Ouch!” Gregor exclaimed. “Your pen has a protrusion of metal, it cut my finger!”
“My apologies! You would think a lab such as this could afford better quality pens. Here, use this one instead.” The tech replied.
Gregor signed the sheet and promptly walked away from the desk and down the hallway.
Dr. Drexler opened the hidden doorway next to the desk where she had been hiding.
“Here, it worked! I got the blood sample. You just need to put a smaller sample into the Anti-CRISPR and the rest should be handled. Hurry! You need to get there before he does!” The tech said.
Dr. Drexler hurried back into the hidden doorway and ran down the secret hallway into the back entrance to the lab. She had to insert the sample into the Anti-CRISPR before Gregor reached the lab room for this plan to work. She ran as fast as she could.
Dr. Drexler reached the machine before Gregor found the room. She had been watching the lab’s security cameras on her holographer for his exact location. He would arrive at the lab room in 4 minutes.
Then, she functioned like clockwork. She carefully extracted a sample of the spy-bot’s blood from the pen and inserted it into the Anti-CRISPR. She intuitively programmed the machine, praying for her nano chip to be successfully extracted.
Gregor was 2 minutes away. She examined the exported sample under microscope and found that her nano chip was successfully removed from the blood cells, so she skillfully removed and contained it. Now all that was left was to readminister the blood sample back into Gregor for his DNA to return to normal and the world spared from mass destruction.
She swiftly left the room as Gregor entered. A voice came through over the room’s intercom.
“Please, sit. The boss will be in shortly.”
Gregor did as the voice over the intercom said and sat in the chair.
Dr. Drexler walked in.
Gregor’s expression was that of rage but was perplexed as he was unable to move or speak.
“Participant 281. Or should I call you Gregor?” Dr. Drexler said.
She continued, “The specialized chair you are sitting in is currently interacting with the metal components in your system, so you are temporarily paralyzed. Once I readminister this sample, your DNA will return to normal, and your system will no longer contain my nano chip. Your coordinates will then be programmed back to your Moscow lab, mission failed.”
She did just that, and then erased Gregor’s memory from the past 24 hours. He left the lab with no recollection of what had happened.
Dr. Drexler left the lab with her nanochip and was greeted by the helicopter that had dropped her off. This time, she entered the helicopter to find Dr. Montclair sitting in the passenger seat. She was handed her headset.
“Mission complete, Dr. Drexler.” Dr. Montclair said with a smile over the headset.
TEDtalksDirector. “HOW CRISPR Lets Us Edit Our DNA | Jennifer Doudna.” YouTube, YouTube, 12 Nov. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdBAHexVYzc.
My story is based on the advancement of gene therapy, a field of science that focuses on the repair and reconstruction of maladaptive genes. CRISPR is the technology used to initiate this genetic “surgery” and Cas9 and Cpf1 are proteins that have shown success in gene reconstruction. The main character in my story develops nano technology based off CRISPR-Cpf1 and demonstrated enough successful trials to receive the green light for clinical trials from the European Union.
Future of Humanity Institute – FHI. “Future of Humanity Institute.” The Future of Humanity Institute, 31 Mar. 2019, https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/team/eric-drexler/.
K. Eric Drexler is a visionary scientist and engineer thought of as one of the “Founding fathers of nanotechnology”, the science of engineering on a molecular level. He is most known for being the driving force behind the concept of molecular nanotechnology (MNT) and its potential benefits for humans. My character, Amelia Drexler, is the fictional granddaughter of Eric Drexler, who earned her PhD in Nanoscience and Genetics from MIT, the same school Eric Drexler graduated from.
“Angels & Demons CERN Scene [Edited].” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Sept. 2014, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs-YMoVKne0.
My story takes place largely at CERN, one of the biggest physics centers of the world, located in Geneva, Switzerland. My inspiration for this setting came from the book Angels and Demons, where the CERN lab was used to study the collision of matter and anti-matter. My story will take place in the fictional genetics department of CERN but has similar systematics as the linked video clip.