FORT DETRICK, Md. — By the time word reached the U.S. Navy, the situation was dire. A man was dying. At most, he had a few weeks left. There was an experimental treatment that might help — and one of the biggest stashes in the country was kept here, behind the checkpoints of a military base, in a lab directed by Lt. Commander Theron Hamilton. The patient’s family desperately wanted a few vials, but the Navy had never tested the stuff on people. What if it caused more harm than good? Would the Navy be liable? But what was a little liability when weighed against a human life?

Just thinking about it made Hamilton’s adrenaline surge. He was both an officer and a researcher — a chemist in camouflage and boots — and one of his duties at the Biological Defense Research Directorate was to oversee incremental lab work, preparing the country for disasters to come. Now, on that day in March of 2016, he found himself confronting an emergency so immediate that even the briefest of delays could prove lethal.

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  • Dr. Carl Merril and I were classmates at Georgetown Medical School in the Class of 1962.
    I forwarded the article to several other classmates and several of those are seeking contact info for Carl in order to rekindle what has been lost in the intervening 56 years. Are you willing/able to help?

    Dick Shea

  • Artificial Inteligence(AI) may make this practical and cost effective.

    This could be operated like an Amazon warehouse with the phages stored randomly and a robot picking them and sending them to the shipping station.

  • What a fascinating subject, history, and article with heartening but intricately complicated prospects! Congratulations on the research, time, and effort you put in to produce such intriguing and readable science.
    I’m left imagining potential interactions between phage science and many discrete fields (such as cancer treatment) that might be combined to find breakthroughs!

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