SARS-CoV-2 – a black swan

… a pandemic simply resulting from selection pressure and chance …

It is part of human nature that many of us cannot imagine unpredictable things to happen – be it good or bad incidents.

A ‘black swan’ is a highly improbable but not impossible event. This event is unpredictable and might have momentous consequences in a good or bad way.

Most people do have a limited imagination when it comes to fortuity, that makes an impact in a good or bad way in our lives – you do not see it coming – it happens unanticipated.

It also is part of our nature to explain in hindsight why an incidence happened. Incidents are being connected in an absurd way just to have explanations. Self-proclaimed ‘experts’ way outside of their area of expertise, come up with the most preposterous correlations, and many people do believe them.

A severe case is found with the conspiracy believers, which are including a growing mob of rightwing extremists. These are people with a rigid world view, who are not able to learn and who are scared by the future.

The fact is that events such as the COVID-19 pandemic happen spontaneously. Through biological and manmade selection pressure, one virus was able to cross the species barrier. Starting with a first infected person, the virus was able to spread from person to person. It is so simple, yet so dangerous.

The virus is spreading through paths that are based on human social behavior. We all need proximity, a social network, friends, family, and parties just as well. That is the opportunity the virus is using to spread. This is easy to comprehend.

Many people do not understand why it is best to prevent a pandemic which is not foreseeable. This results in low numbers of infection and death. And this is when questions arise regarding the proportionality of protective measures. This is opening our question to you: Would you prefer high infection rates with many deaths and a wave of long-term damage? Don’t you think a long-term harm will have bigger consequences on society, probably reaching down one generation? It could negatively affect the German “intergenerational contract”.

The true heroes of today are those people who take preventive measures to interrupt the chains of infection, who adhere to the measures imposed. These are our true heroes of everyday life. They may not be flashy, rather invisible, just as the virus itself. It is a big challenge and it is contrary to human nature. Nobody is mentioning these heroes since nothing happens. That exactly is the best we can do, at the moment.

Don’t deceive yourself, random events and biological selection pressure will lead to other such incidents, to epidemics and pandemics. There will always be another virus that acquires the ability to spread in the human population and to stay for the time being. There will be other such random events. Every time, the pathogen will behave and spread DIFFERENTLY. This IS biology. We are in the midst of evolution, by selection pathogens may acquire new traits with possible advantages.

The question remaining is regarding the nature of the advantage and how this will affect other species.

In the next pandemic, be it triggered by virus, bacteria, or a parasite, there will be the question just how dangerous it might be. How is the pathogen being transmitted and what is its life cycle? The transmission pathway is easiest to interrupt (think of face masks and distancing for respiratory pathogens, or condoms for HIV a.s.o.), while the life cycle needs to be studied in order to interrupt it with drugs. A third option would be vaccination.

We will not be able to prepare for all possible kinds of pandemics since they tend to originate at an unknown time point from an unknown pathogen at an unknown place by ways of a mix of random events.

Do we contradict our SAJO business model? No.

SAJO is not in possession of a crystal ball to predict the future. However, we do have a deep enough understanding of biology and evolution to be aware of the fact that such events will happen again.

The SAJO key technology is making it possible to find new molecules with antiviral properties. The classically long developmental timelines SAJO can shorten with its advanced technology.

The antivirals will be developed in a way that they provide a broad spectrum of activity against several viruses.

These antivirals will be tested against all known pathogenic viruses. As of today, there are a limited number of treatment options against viral pathogens and diseases. Only a fraction can be treated, and against many viruses there are no vaccines available for several reasons.

The suspense is there already. Have some trust in research & development, this is where new things are found on a regular basis. The more options to combine in a playful way, the bigger the chance of success.

Have some trust in your capabilities! Stay alert, have trust in scientific progress, which is giving us the opportunity to get a grip on black swans. This, however, will only work in cooperation. Hop on, and become a hero of daily life, preventing the worst through proper behavior, to protect yourself, your family, and your environment.

Should you have difficulties to comprehend these aspects of randomness, we invite you to read the book “The Black Swan. The Impact of the Highly Improbable” by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It is showing – in a very entertaining and logical way – the reality of such uncontrollable random events and how to cope with them.

A heartfelt greeting to the German economists. You are doing the opposite: You are sticking to loads of illogical assumptions while requesting a crystal ball. Please be aware that biology is not predictable. You need to observe and to draw the right conclusions. Otherwise we have to refer you to the carnival or to astrologers. Believe and humanities are colliding with natural sciences. Horoscopes might be entertaining but please do not make the mistake to lead your life according to their advice – you might miss many good opportunities chance is offering to you.

A greeting to politicians in the U.S. and China, who are currently playing a mutual blame game to find a culprit who might have produced and released the virus on purpose. What a meaningless and dangerous game (belonging into the sandbox), based on rigid conservative thinking. None of the accused is guilty. Molecular biologists did analyze the viral genome and found NO artificial manipulation. Such a finding would have made waves in the scientific community in January, already.

Our appeal to the politicians involved in this blame game: STOP THIS NONSENSE! This game is out of place and dangerous. It was not “the other one”. Should you opt to do something, please support and protect your general public and take care of the environment – this is the real cause of our troubles: The destruction of the environment, the vanishing of habitats, with the climate change accelerating the whole process. This is where you can do something meaningful. It is about time!

In this spirit, we wish you trust and confidence for our future. Change is part of it, as in any biological process. This is nature. To some, the virus might bring humility and gratitude, most of all to those who up to now – in their cognitive rigidity – have taken things as self-evident .

Try to be more flexible, this will make things easier and will solve problems. Sometimes the solution is right in front of you. Open your eyes and see.

Lots of fun with your newfound perspective in life. It is worth it.

Yours, Sabine and Jörg

SAJO – for a healthier and better world and future!