January 2022 letter from Gaia to Aurora Kepler

Our planet Earth, Gaia in Greek, considered as a living being, regularly corresponds with another planet in the universe, Aurora Kepler 452 B in the constellation of the Swan. Gilles Voydeville makes us discover this magnificent interstellar correspondence.

Dr Gilles Voydeville (DR)
Dr Gilles Voydeville (DR)

Letter of January 2022 on Gaia

Letter from the Fulminating Givres on Kepler

My Dear Aurora,

I have just read you and I like it when you reassure me, because here on my earth the variant Omicron makes ravages of contamination. Without, it is true, as its predecessors did, saturating the resuscitations. The unfortunate tenants of these high-tech lodgings belong to two categories: the immunocompromised and the others. These others are the recalcitrant, the rebels, the loudmouths, the rebels against themselves, the family, the nation, the rebellious people, the green vests of the medical power contestation; but also the networked, the unloved, the uninformed, the fearful of the elites, the unknowing and the penniless, the abandoned who find a status when they were ignored, in a word, the unvaccinated who suffer the end of the hegemony of the Delta variant.

Yet, when it faced my little darling Sars-Cov2, the lovely human race was probably saved by the messenger RNA vaccine. The small German laboratory BioNTech had understood before others the potential of this technology developed at the University of Pennsylvania by Katarina Kariko, a researcher of Hungarian origin. This university had finally discouraged her and relegated her to the production of mRNA to make EPO: a molecule that was often in the news during cycling races, used by the organism in the event of a lack of oxygen, and which was already being produced using conventional techniques. One can say that the discovery of mRNA was similar to the discovery of hot water and that the head of the researcher’s department used it to make him prepare tea… To the sound of the Ride of the Valkyries, the little Hungarian girl was thus enrolled, subjugated and returned to her native Europe to taste Moselle wine, even Tokai, rather than Earl Grey.

The small start-up still put 80 million dollars on the table to buy back from the University of Pennsylvania the rights to exploit the discovery of its new employee.

As for the big laboratories of globalization, American, Swiss, French, they had all been interested in this mRNA before. But for lack of nose, vista or simply audacity, they had dropped this porcelain treasure without even hearing the shattering sound of its fall. These giants had not known how to consider the Messenger, such as the one in Joseph Losey’s film that only allows the beginnings of a passion to explode and bring two worlds together. Big Pharma had not understood the necessary intercession of another messenger, that of Olympus, so that my world continues its way and had forgotten that only Hermes warned, enlightened and protected the people of the Charmings to spare them from the dangers they were running. This cunning son of Zeus and Maia, descended by her from the titan Atlas, used the celerity of his helmet’s wings to get where he needed to go with the ardor of the righteous and the efficiency of the gentleman of the sky.

Hermes had an immense quality which challenged and astonished the naïve: he covered both merchants and thieves, that is to say that he did not judge. Ah, who nowadays does not judge? Everyone knows, decides and condemns.

My dear Aurore, after this digression, I return to my little Omicron. Recently, BioNTech researchers examined the sera of doubly vaccinated patients. With Omicron, they found that the immune system of Charmant produced 35 times less neutralizing antibodies than the first Wuhan virus, 24 times less than Delta and 5 times less than Beta. On the other hand, in triple-vaccinated patients, the decrease in the number of antibodies is only half. This should generate terribly deadly epidemics but it does not. This is probably due to the T-cells which are not investigated by the antibody research.

However, I have it on good authority that, just in case, BioNTech is developing a vaccine that is suitable for it. It is in Phase II testing.

The bad news for me and the good news for Charming is that my Omicron still uses the ACE receptor to get into the cell, which does not allow it to completely escape the immune system and saves the researchers from having to re-sequence the whole beast. But its circulation is not hindered either by post-infection immunity or by vaccinations, and this augurs huge contamination rates that will make politicians and their Medical Defense Councils have nightmares.

As you explain it to me, the very contagious and not very aggressive Omicron variant is probably the end of the hegemony of my little diadem-crowned virus. Ah, I will miss its massive campaigns, its plasticity, its brilliance, its panache. Without the anti-fatal weapon of the mRNA vaccine, the resuscitations would have been saturated long ago. The gymnasiums would have been transformed into wards whimpering with a thousand complaints amplified by their sheet metal walls, the stadiums into cemeteries without marble or crowns and the nations into cloistered ghosts seeking to be reborn in another world.

The funniest thing for the observer that I am is that as the danger of the pandemic recedes, the anti-vaxers will end up triumphing.

They will forget to understand that without the vaccines that have allowed them to pass a dangerous course under the roaring forties while fighting against the unleashed and uncontrollable elements, they would probably not be here to parade, to attribute to themselves a success of which they were the enemy and to comfort themselves in their prescience with the fatuity of the ignorant. But I do not blame these light heads which are always an asset when they handicap the charming race in its fight against my regulators.

mRNA will undoubtedly revolutionize the control of diseases and cancers, and I am worried about the imminent advent of overpopulation that will inevitably follow. Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, has just given an interview to a newspaper that, although excellent, has the mild pretension of being Le Monde.

He claims that future mRNA-based flu vaccines will be much more effective than previous antigen-based vaccines, by enhancing the cellular immunity of CD4 and CD8 T cells, which have a huge controlling effect in severe forms of influenza. Moreover, the speed of production of this new vaccine will not be based on presumed future strains but on actual analysis and adaptation to the current epidemic.
For AIDS, it is the heterogeneity of the virus sequences that poses a problem, from one patient to another as well as within each Charmant. The production of broad-spectrum antibodies that attack multiple strains is finding a solution. By examining the “elite controllers,” as Sahin calls them, those who maintain a very low viral load without treatment, his team is looking to replicate the CD8 T cells of these champions. The days of tuberculosis and malaria may already be numbered.

Of course, germs such as pneumococcus, whose vaccine targets bacterial polysaccharides, will remain inaccessible to this technology. On the other hand, cytomegalovirus and hepatitis C will probably falter under the orders of the messenger.

As for cancers, they will benefit from individualized mRNA-based immunotherapies that have the merit of being flexible and vivid. Cancer vaccines that induce CD8 T cells will be therapeutic by helping the immune system target its enemies. All this with speed and at a tenfold lower cost. Thanks to the combination of Genentech and BioNTech, Phase II has just been completed for colorectal cancer with a personalized mRNA vaccine, based on sequencing the tumor’s DNA and creating the messenger that will command the immune system to mount the appropriate defense.

Progress in understanding inflammatory autoimmune diseases, rectocolitis and Crohn’s, multiple sclerosis, myocardial infarction, 90% of whose damage is due to the inflammatory response, is ongoing.

The mRNA will probably be able to reprogram fibroblasts or red blood cells into stem cells. What am I going to do when my lovely population no longer dies from my cancers or infectious diseases and the old people have the skin of the young?

Note that I already know the outcome of these problems. When the number of guests increases but the buffet has not been planned accordingly, the guests fight and grab each other for a Jerusalem artichoke reduction or a mignardise sprinkled with ginger. I think that all this will be solved by a third world war that will kill a few hundred million people and set the atomic clock back.

Unless by then, the understanding of space-time and entrepreneurship allow an express colonization on a distant neighbor – I think of you but Charming would not be a gift.

By the way, the magazine Science has just published the discovery by TESS, NASA’s satellite, of a 4879th extra-solar planet. They have named it with the obscure name GJ 367 b. It revolves around a red dwarf which, as you reminded me, emits little light and that is why it was not visible from my ground. So this newborn turns like a Smurf around its mother dwarf GJ 367. It is only 30.4 light years away from me… which makes it an almost accessible neighbor. It is 70% of my waist size, but it seems quite uninhabitable for my creatures. Too close to its rather hot semi-star for a dwarf, its surface temperature suffers with 1500 degrees Celsius. Like a famous lady from the UK, it has an iron core surrounded not by decaying flesh but by a mantle of magma…

Brrr, not too far away, but it is not certain that Charmant will find a resort adapted to his standards.

Charmant is also interested in wandering planets, i.e. those which do not revolve around a star but move forward alone in the universe, solitary, without goal and without ellipse. Planets of the journey, without place of attachment, without resting place, that Charmant considers with a certain anxiety as the one that attaches itself to the travelling gentleman of my earth, because we don’t know from where they come, nor where they go. As these planets emit light only at their birth and their trajectories are wandering, they are very difficult to locate: only the youngest are detectable. Well, the surprise comes from their number. They would be two to three billion in our beautiful Milky Way galaxy.

Sometimes I feel anxious to know that I am a tiny thing in the middle of countless sisters and I am a little angry at our father Ether and our mother Hemera for having given birth to so many.

So much so that I feel like a microscopic droplet in an immense cosmic fog wandering with its billions of sisters at random in an infinite space. A droplet whose disappearance will not really change the order of the Universe and will leave neither trace nor memory. To paraphrase a Charming named Châteaubriant whose epistolary style will remain a model: when I look at my past life, I believe to see in the immense space the trace of a ship which disappeared; and when I listen to the murmurs of the sky, I believe to hear the knell of a bell of which I do not see the old bell tower.

Ah, my dear Aurora, this sadness that sometimes invades me grieves me and I am afraid to transmit this sad passion to you instead of distracting you and brightening you up with letters full of joy and future. Only action makes me forget all this worry. So I’ll leave you to occupy my mind in devising some ripostes to Charmant’s inventions.
Turn, turn and twirl like a ballet dancer, make me entrechats and whirlwinds, draw from the infinite ether of our ancestry the resources and the joy to live, to love, to entertain you in spite of the fatality of our finitude and the uncertainty of our function.

Your sister, Gaia