Prime universe
(Capcom's primary storyline)

Progenitor virus (始祖 (しそ)ウイルス shiso uirusu?) is a family of RNA viruses. Progenitor is immensely ancient, and is suspected of being hundreds of millions if not billions of years old, and is considered to have both aided and hindered evolution of Earth's ecology through the extremities of its resulting mutations. While otherwise behaving as a typical Group VI virus in the Baltimore classification, Progenitor is distinct from all other viruses by being able to reverse lysis in cells and revive organisms dead for considerably lengths of time. Whereas other retroviruses such Human Immunodeficiency Virus will target particular cells of a particular animal's body, Progenitor is capable of infecting the cells of any organism, whether animal, fungal, plant or bacterial. Considerable research on Progenitor has been undertaken since its discovery in the late 1960s, and a number of engineered strains have since come into existence primarily for bioweapons research.

History

Discovery by humans

Sonnentreppe, a flower known to express the virus in certain environmental conditions.

Progenitor has been tied to human history since the Neolithic, when the Progenitor viral disease was contracted by the West African Ndipaya tribe. Though Progenitor was in the genome of many organisms, it was almost universally inactive junk DNA. Within a series of caverns on the coastline, however, certain environmental conditions triggered viral expression within Sonnentreppe daisies.[1] In rare instances, men within the tribe would survive the extreme effects of the disease, and gain superhuman abilities ranging from enhanced strength to genius intellect to unnaturally long life. As a result of this viral disease, the Ndipaya flourished as a complex civilisation within the caverns long before the Pyramids, effectively millennia ahead of their time in terms of construction practices. Over time, the Ndipaya experimented with Bio Organic Weaponry, deliberately infecting animals with the virus through flower consumption, and are known to have performed sacrificial rituals to them, tossing people into a pit to be consumed.[2] Eventually, however, these mutant animals escaped their pit and devastated the city, killing their King.[2] Without any guidance, and unable to find any more among their tribe capable of surviving infection, the Ndipaya migrated out to the marshlands, though kept soldiers in the ruins to ward off any intruders who may consume the flowers.[1]

Ndipaya wall art found in the ruins depicts Progenitor-infected animals slaughtering the people.

Outside of the Ndipaya tribe, knowledge of the Progenitor viral disease was recorded in passing by 19th century British explorer Henry Travis, who learned of Ndipaya religion and folklore regarding magical flowers.[3] In the 1960s, Travis' work got the attention of a European eugenics circle consisting of acclaimed academics, of whom Dr. James Marcus, a palæovirologist teaching at a Swiss university,[4] put forward the hypothesis of a retrovirus being responsible for the flower's properties.[5] In 1966 a three month expedition consisting of Marcus, Dr. Oswell E. Spencer, Earl Spencer, and Dr. Brandon Bailey, discovered the Garden of the Sun and the Sonnentreppe flowers, and their hypothesis was confirmed with isolation of such a virus on 4 December.[5][6]

Early research

Soon after their return to Europe, Marcus' research on Progenitor uncovered its ability to repair dead cells. An e. coli cell underwent lysis after exposure to 0.1ppm of chlorine. After its death was confirmed, the virus was introduced to the petri dish, was seen to repair the cell's membrane, successfully mutate the nuclear genome and cause it to undergo cell division. Though this should have been the biggest discovery of palæobiology since the 1953 Miller-Urey experiment findings, Swiss research into the virus was quickly concluded in early 1967 owing to allegations of results tampering. With the government unwilling to fund the project, Marcus left for the Spencer Estate, where research continued privately with funding from the Spencer Foundation.[4]

Though Spencer's eugenics circle agreed on using Progenitor to create a new race of superhuman beings, concerns over the projected mortality rate led to the establishment of Umbrella Pharmaceuticals in March 1967, allowing private enterprise to expand Progenitor research so a genetically modified strain could eventually be created.[5][6] To both accumulate further money as well as data, it was decided that the circle members establish their own laboratories around the globe and work for the time being on Progenitor strains that could be sold as bioweapons to the US military. As CEO, Spencer tasked his own research to an employee running the Arklay Laboratory. Marcus would soon be pressured into running a private university nearby and use its own lab. Edward Ashford, 5th Earl Ashford and his son, Alexander, began work at their British estate before setting up a lab in the Antarctic. Lord Beardsley and Lord Henry, two members of the circle who did not initially take part in Umbrella's founding, also took part at their laboratories in Gadiwell and Loire, respectively.[7][8] While the level of research performed in the 1960s by the other circle members is unknown, Spencer is known to have immediately gone on to human testing with his "Type-A" and "Type-B" prototype strains, having abducted Jessica and Lisa Trevor in October 1967 for this purpose. Though Jessica was soon after murdered when results proved uninteresting, Lisa was seen to develop superhuman abilities and was kept for further study.[9][10]

During the early years of the company, their research on Progenitor was affected by the limits of the Sonnentreppe itself. As production of the virus was triggered by the extremely precise environmental conditions of the Garden of the Sun, cultivation of recovered seeds proved to be a dead-end.[5] In 1968, a laboratory was set up in the Garden of the Sun itself and within a year samples of the virus were being collected and transported to the other labs. Marcus was kept in the United States to take charge of the completed university while Bailey took over the African lab.[6][11]

t-Virus Project

Main article: t-Virus

Though the t-Virus Project was undertaken by increasing numbers of laboratories exploring their own research, several significant discoveries can be noted. The first was in 1977,[6] when Marcus' t-Virus prototype was altered with genes taken from a leech, resulting in the increased likelihood of a human test subject developing the less fatal Cannibal Disease, keeping the host alive as a brain-damaged mutant suffering from gangrene. The following year, Spencer had the university shut down and Marcus' two starred pupils, Dr. Albert Wesker and Dr. William Birkin, handed senior research and managerial roles at the Arklay Laboratory in exchange for stealing Marcus' research. They continued upon Marcus' work with the splicing of genes taken from Ebola Virus, which was found to lower the mortality rate further.[12]

Over the course of the 1980s, the t-Virus Project moved on to creating mutants that would not suffer from such extreme brain damage so they could be taught commands. The first breakthrough was in 1983 with the t-Veronica Virus, created through splicing in the genome of Veronica Virus as well as plant genes.[13] This project spiralled into obscurity for over a decade with the apparent disappearance of its creator, Dr. Alexia Ashford, though samples were stolen by one of Umbrella's rival companies. Three people, namely Ashford herself, Steve Burnside and Manuela Hidalgo, have been identified as successfully adapting to the virus to varying degrees, which was observed to be triggered by brain chemistry, allowing them to essentially will their mutations. As of 2002, only Hidalgo survives.[14]

In the absence of t-Veronica, the Arklay Laboratory team was able to make their own breakthrough in the early 1990s with ε strain, which sled to more beneficial mutations in humans with certain intelligence-related genes such as enhanced strength, though still resulting in a mild reduction of intelligence. Those suffering from Cannibal Disease resulting from "ε" and variant strains were known to think and feel to a limited capacity and even talk. With the 1998 Raccoon City Destruction Incident, a number of people are known to have suffered from Cannibal Disease but been vaccinated before brain damage and gangrene could take hold, with such survivors being Jill Valentine, Kevin Ryman, Mark Wilkins, Jim Chapman, Dr. George Hamilton, David King, Alyssa Ashcroft, Yoko Suzuki and Cindy Lennox.

By the late 1990s, enough data had been accumulated that the t-Virus Project was deemed to be completed. The data was utilised in creating a new t-Virus strain for use in Spencer's eugenics project. Having already selected some thirteen able-bodied and mentally-prepared hosts to bestow enhanced abilities to as part of the Wesker Project, Spencer gave the orders to create his new race. In spite of their accomplishments, however, only two of the candidates - Albert and Alex Wesker - survived.[15] A side-effect of this strain was that Albert became dependent on medication to prevent further mutations.[16]

G-Virus Project

Main article: G-Virus

Following the discovery of a novel retrovirus in the body of Lisa Trevor in 1988,[17] Spencer secured funding to a parallel bioweapons project for what became known as Golgotha Virus, with research taking place from 1998-1991 at Henry's laboratory complex in Loire while the dedicated NEST facility was under construction.[8] While it was officially a rival project to t-Virus, it was deemed worthless as a bioweapon by other virologists;[18] in reality, the virus was being studied as a potential alternative eugenics tool for realising Spencer's superhuman project. G-Virus was likely a mutant strain of Type-B, owing to characteristics more in keeping with Progenitor than t-Virus strains. It was observed to bring the dead back to life through cell repair,[19] as Progenitor could do, but was also observed to possess rapid division with each daughter cell being an incomplete copy of its parent. A common trait seen in mutants after Trevor was the spontaneous development of reproductive organs and the asexual characteristic of being self-fertile.[19] The consequence of this was that until these characteristics could be properly controlled, G-Virus was totally unpredictable, and mutants infected with it were not only prone to further mutation in response to injury but liable to populate out of control.

Research was put to a halt in 1998 due to Birkin's decision to sell the virus to the US military in exchange for protection. Still at an incomplete state of development, a high Viral Load injected into Birkin's arm after being shot by Umbrella's security personnel led to him growing into the same unpredictable monster feared about. Having been implanted with a parasitic embryo by her own father, Sherry Birkin was however successfully treated with the DEVIL retrovirus, being infected with a comparatively low Viral Load and thus able to retain her human form while possessing enhanced regenerative abilities.

Uroboros Project

In 2006, Albert Wesker gained important information pertaining to Progenitor from Umbrella board member Carlos M. and Spencer before killing both. Having stolen Umbrella's research data in 2003 and handed it to Tricell, sufficient funding and laboratory resources were available for Progenitor research to take place in the Ndipaya caverns. Over the next two years, a modified Progenitor strain was engineered with the aid of Jill Valentine's t-Virus antibodies.[20] The ultimate result was a virus similar to that of Progenitor's natural state, in that a human beings could either survive the viral disease and develop superhuman abilities, or suffer such extreme mutations the body would be torn apart.[15][21] Those lacking the appropriate genetic characteristics were witnessed to essentially be consumed into a black swirling mass of tentacles, which would itself kill and absorb any other biomatter in the vicinity. So far, no human being is known to have successfully mutated from Uroboros infection, as the only three people who were not destroyed by the viral disease - both Weskers and Neil Fisher - were already mutants to being with and so experienced anomalous results.

Further notes

  • During development of the original Resident Evil, the virus' name was actually "Clay Virus", the brainchild of planner Kenichi Iwao.[22] The concept already existed in this game that there were several generations of t-Virus derived from it, as detailed in INSIDE OF BIO-HAZARD. With this information largely left to guidebooks and not the game itself Flagship writer Noboru Sugimura re-developed it for Resident Evil CODE:Veronica, Resident Evil 0 and Resident Evil 4 as Progenitor. The 2001-2 prototype of Resident Evil 4, dubbed "Castle", would also place Progenitor's discovery in Europe, found in the remains of an ancient superhuman king. With the final version of Resident Evil 4 throwing out the Progenitor plot point, this was re-imagined for Resident Evil 5.

Sources

  1. 1.0 1.1 Resident Evil 5 (2009), file: "Ndipaya Tribe".
  2. 2.0 2.1 Resident Evil 5 Ndipaya murals.
  3. Resident Evil 5 (2009), file: "Tricell".
  4. 4.0 4.1 Makino, Umbrella Chronicles SIDE A, Chapter 1.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Resident Evil 5 (2009), file: "From Chief Researcher Brandon's Journal - No. 1".
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Resident Evil 0 (2003), file: "Marcus' Diary 1".
  7. Asakura, BIO HAZARD The Wicked North Sea (1998)
  8. 8.0 8.1 BIOHAZARD 2 Drama Album ~The Female Spy Ada Lives~ (1999).
  9. Resident Evil 5 (2009), file: "History of RESIDENT EVIL".
  10. Resident Evil (2002), file: "Family Picture & Notes".
  11. Resident Evil 5 (2009), file: "From Chief Researcher Brandon's Journal - No. 2".
  12. Wesker's Report II (2002), Chapter 1.
  13. BSAA Remote Desktop, "t-Veronica report".
  14. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles (2010), scene: "The Return".
  15. 15.0 15.1 Resident Evil: Revelations 2 (2014), file: "Stuart's Memo - The Wesker Project".
  16. Resident Evil 5 (2009), scene: "A Message from Jill".
  17. Wesker's Report II (2002), chapter: "Enter Nemesis".
  18. Wesker's Report II (2002), chapter: "Enter G-Virus".
  19. 19.0 19.1 BSAA Remote Desktop, "G-Virus report".
  20. Resident Evil 5 (2009), file: "Jill Valentine".
  21. Resident Evil 5 (2009), file: "Uroboros Plan".
  22. Hideki Kamiya Twitter post, 2011-06-22
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