Systems Biologist Speaks Out About COVID-19 Response
Today, we continue to provide you information about the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of this recording, April 6, 2020, there are more than 1.4 million cases worldwide and 370,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., with New York City being one of the hotspots. Here, I interview Shiva Ayyadurai, who has a Ph.D. in systems biology from MIT.
What Is Systems Biology?
His academic background gives Ayyadurai a slightly different perspective on this outbreak, as it focuses on the foundational causes of disease rather than the conventional medical paradigm that tends to focus on pharmaceutical remedies. Ayyadurai explains:
“The MIT department of biological engineering was created in 2003. The notion was … that you needed an engineering approach to biology as new advances or new discoveries were coming out in biology. That created the department of biological engineering …
One of the big things that took place in 2003 that led to the formation of that department was, in an ironic way, what occurred with the human genome project starting in 1993. We went into the genome project with a reductionist view of biology.
Biologists essentially thought that the number of parts meant complexity. We knew in 1993, a worm had around 20,000 genes. So, we said, OK, we’re going to start mapping out the human genome. We were at least 25 times more complex. The notion was we had about a half a million genes.
By 2003, they only found 20,000 protein coding genes. That flipped biology on its head because it said, wait a minute, we have the same number of parts, and they thought genes were a reflection of complexity. That led to systems biology starting around 2003, which said, look, genes create proteins and these proteins interact. So, it’s about all these interactions …
Today, that has led to this field called epigenetics, in which we know that the external environment, what we interact with, can turn on and turn off genes. I came back to MIT in 2003. I did four degrees at MIT in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering. My Master’s was in design, but I always was fascinated with medicine.”
The Cytosol Platform
The project Ayyadurai took on for his Ph.D. thesis was to mathematically model the whole human cell. His work led to the creation of a platform called CytoSolve “cyto” standing for “cell.” This approach is different from biology, computer science and chemistry.
“Biologists are essentially distributed knowledge engineers,” he says, “and the thing they’re trying to understand is this thing called the body. No different than aeronautical engineers trying to build the airplane. The difference is when we build an airplane, we actually know what we want to build. And we know the parts in biology, we’re finding the parts, that’s what they’re doing.
Some biologists can win a Nobel prize just for looking at how two proteins interact. So, they’re very focused on understanding these parts. So, imagine if we could create a technology where we could take those parts, integrate them, and then essentially let them be sort of focused in their silos.
But there wouldn’t be this framework that you could integrate, where you could integrate these molecular pathways. And that really created cytosol. To me, it was a big circling back because I grew up in India where my grandmother practiced traditional systems of medicine.
In that system of medicine, they had diagnosis methods, they looked at you, they figured out your body type and they would figure out the right types of foods and medicines, herbs or even body work to get you back into balance. That was always seen as a ‘black art’ from a Western medicine [perspective].
[CytoSolve] lets us decipher what they were doing and actually understand these synergies. So that’s what systems biology is about. It’s taking an engineering systems approach to the body … It’s literally understanding how to diagnose and assess and identify what the problem is, and then how to administer a prescription within a few minutes. It’s essentially an ‘AI’-type model.”
COVID-19 — Health and Economic Perspectives
As noted by Ayyadurai, the COVID-19 pandemic is not only highlighting our immune health but also our economic health. We’re seeing the integration of medical policy and economic policy.
“I had a very interesting discussion with a leading economist,” Ayyadurai says, “and he had a serious concern about the fact that economists are being forced to backfill in a misguided health policy, which is occurring. What he meant by that is, [they’re being told to] just use quantitative easing, which is basically printing money, and that will solve the problem.
Now that entire process does two things. First of all, we have I think 10 million unemployment claims in March alone. In addition to that, you have the fact that we’re going to print money, which … if you look, since 2008 and 2009, when quantitative easing started … that has essentially been the biggest transfer of wealth — to the 0.01%, again.
It is essentially a weakened earning power and the [weakened value] of the dollar. So that’s what’s occurred. Now we have this COVID-19, and we have this economic overreaction, in my opinion, from the fear-mongering. In many ways, it reflects the immune system.
The immune system fundamentally wants to operate well for you and maintain homeostasis, and it’s the overreaction of a weakened and dysfunctional immune system that causes harm. Similarly, when you look at it from the economic standpoint, we have this unbridled overreaction, in my view. [We’re] not looking at what modern medicine is saying — that we should take a personalized medicine approach, right?
One size doesn’t fit all. This is basically flatten the curve: Kick the can down the street. We’re just going to wait until, when? Until the vaccine is produced or until a drug comes out. The assumption is that the immune system of all of us is equally weak. That’s what this is based on. The assumption is that all of us are going to get it and all of us will suffer from it.
It’s a very interesting model. Look at the person leading this health policy, Dr. Fauci. His background is from the pharmaceutical world … [and] when you look at the NIH and the CDC, these organizations are heavily, heavily influenced by pharmaceutical companies.
In that environment, the model has always been never to discuss immune health, what we can do to support the immune system. It’s always under the assumption that there’s this big boogeyman, that the virus harms your body. Most medical doctors, again, they’re victims of this education.
Many of them are taught the virus literally comes and attacks your body, and that a vaccine or a pharmaceutical intervention blocks it. It’s not taught broadly that [the problem is that] the dysfunctional, weakened immune system is not running on all cylinders.
One part of it can overreact, and that overreaction is what goes in and attacks your own tissues. So, the issue is, we’re not having a discussion at all in the media about ‘How do you modulate that overreaction and support people’s immune health?’”
Similarly, Ayyadurai notes, the economic collapse is “a result of precisely engineered governmental policies,” even though those policies, superficially, appear to be in the public’s best interest.
Is COVID-19 a Real Pandemic?
COVID-19 meets the technical definition of a pandemic, and the World Health Organization did declare it a pandemic. However, the death toll is nowhere near that of earlier serious pandemics that would legitimately justify the extraordinary measures being deployed by the U.S. government.
The Spanish flu in 1918 infected 500 million people worldwide, killing between 20 million and 50 million. The bubonic plague also killed 50 million people, wiping out a shocking 60% of the European population. This is typically what people think of when they hear the word “pandemic.”
COVID-19 presently affects a tiny fraction of the global population — about 1.4 million cases out of a global population of 7.78 billion — and even with a death toll of 81,000 worldwide, COVID-19 has had a miniscule impact, having killed a mere 0.00001% of the population.
Don’t get me wrong. Any death is tragic. But any given individual’s risk of dying from the epidemics of diabetes, heart disease or cancer, for example, is greater than their risk of dying from COVID-19. Why is death from lifestyle-induced disease and environmental toxicity more preferable and acceptable than death from an infectious disease?
Dying from a preventable medical mistake is also a greater risk, as that kills up to 440,000 Americans every year. Where’s the panic about that? Isn’t the idea that conventional medicine kills 440,000 people a year terrifying?! 1 in 5 elderly patients are also injured by medical care. Where are the calls to protect our aging loved ones from this threat?
Were health policies more aligned with truth, we wouldn’t have these chronic disease epidemics and far fewer people would die from preventable medical mistakes. More people would lead healthy lives were they properly informed about what’s harmful and what’s healthy.
Similarly, when it comes to COVID-19, there are simple strategies with which we can address this infection that does not require collapsing the global economy, creating unheard of unemployment and isolating everyone from human contact for weeks on end. You can find many articles detailing such strategies on my Coronavirus Resource Page.
As noted by Ayyadurai, systems biology tells us that one size does not fit all. “We need to move to the right medicine for the right person at the right time,” he says. But this knowledge has not been applied in this pandemic. Instead, everyone is being treated as though they’re high risk for severe infection and death and therefore need to take identical precautions. So, what’s really going on here?
“We have not said, ‘Hey, let’s shut down the economy to address the fact that we have skyrocketing obesity taking place, skyrocketing diabetes,” Ayyadurai says. “So, the level of contradiction, the level of hypocrisy should wake up everyone to understand that there is another agenda.
There is another agenda afoot. I repeat what my mentor said: ‘When things don’t add up, take a step back and ask, what is the other agenda?’ And the only thing in a common-sense way that reveals itself to me is power, profit and control. Power, profit and control.”
The Power, Profit and Control Agenda
Like Ayyadurai, I believe the fearmongering is being used to suppress dissent, to crash the economy and to issue medical mandates. “If you look broadly, there were massive uprisings, antiestablishment uprisings [in different countries]. Well, they’re all gone now. We don’t even hear anything about them,” Ayyadurai says.
He also believes this fearmongering and social isolation mandates will be used as a way to acclimatize people to accept state wants or what a few people deem is good for everyone. “That, I think, is the milieu being set up,” he says. “That’s being teed up.” Indeed, it simply doesn’t add up when you look at mortality rates.
“There’s another agenda,” Ayyadurai says. “That’s what I see, because it doesn’t make any rational sense [to crash the economy over COVID-19]. I think that’s why a number of the videos, the tweets I’ve done have gone viral, because to everyday working people, it doesn’t make sense either. They’re trying to sort this out.”
Interestingly, this epidemic is taking place just a few months after Google began censoring holistic health news. So, people searching for sound nutritional strategies can no longer find them. Instead, they’re directed to Big Pharma-backed sites promoting conventional medicine.
The censorship isn’t even about squashing nonscientific views anymore. Educated health professionals are being banned left and right simply for posting peer-reviewed studies showing nutraceuticals work, or that drugs or vaccines don’t work — including Ayyadurai himself, who got kicked off Twitter the day this interview was recorded over a vitamin D post.
“It has essentially moved to a model of a finite set of people serving the interests of another finite set of people,” Ayyadurai says. “That’s what’s fundamentally going on. When we really look back at the history of ‘infectious diseases,’ what actually caused the real decline in infectious disease? …
That came from sanitation, vitamin A, nutrition, elimination of child labor, refrigeration [and] infrastructure at the political level … Well, how did we get that? This is one layer people need to understand from a human standpoint. It came about because in the late 1800s, there was a massive force of the American working class who were militant, and they fought for those rights.
People lived in squalor. No one cared for them. It was the uprising of those people and very, very powerful independently self-organizing systems, all over this country, that forced the elites to give them these basic infrastructures …
So, what I see is the ability for people to organize and demand their rights and get them. That is what occurred in the late 1900s, and we got massive gains. Now look at infrastructure today. Dirty water, dirty air, dirty food … and we look at them in synergy, how they affect our body. None of that’s discussed, none of that.
I think the United States has a D+ in infrastructure. The roads, the bridges and the water systems [are all crumbling]. And when you don’t fix these things in time, they affect all types of environmental things. The elite in this country do not want to address that. They want to always create a fake problem and a fake solution to consolidate power.
And that’s why when you look at this [COVID-19] phenomenon that’s taking place, it’s a penultimate of it … You create massive amounts of fear so people will be willing — because they’re under economic stress, under what they think is a health [threat] — to give up their rights.
And that’s where I see this headed. So, this is an interesting convergence of … economic attack, attack on people’s health, [and attack on] people’s autonomy and freedom. Truth, freedom and health are all under attack …
They do not want any discussion about indigenous people’s medicines that have worked for centuries. They don’t want to talk about simple solutions … so, they suppress discourse, suppress debate, suppress freedom, and move everything away from the scientific method — which is a process where you actually have to prove stuff, which is what they claim they want to do to scientific consensus.
Freedom gets suppressed and now you can move truth to scientific consensus. So, you go from suppression of freedom to fake science or outdated science at best. And then that is used to create a fake problem and a fake solution.
And then, if you go to the health part, what that means is you diminish people’s health, you control people’s health, and now you have a populace which is so controlled, they don’t have the strength to fight for their freedom. So, you have the attack on freedom, the attack on truth, and the attack on health.
All of those are interconnected. They too are a system from a systems perspective. Without freedom, you can’t have truth. Without truth, you can’t have health. And without health we don’t have the strength to fight for our freedom. And the way that truth actually is discovered should be through the scientific method. That’s what’s really been compromised, starting, I would say, in the late ‘50s.”
Postal Service Could Be Used to Protect Free Communications
To summarize, the three-pronged agenda is: Power, profit and control. To counteract that three-pronged threat, we need academic freedom and the freedom to discourse and debate.
From that freedom, we get truth, and from truth, we’re able to understand health, not only physical health but also in the broadest sense the health of our systems, our infrastructure and environment. With health, we gain the strength to fight for even more freedoms.
“For each one of those, there’s a solution. For example, when you go to freedom, if you look at communication, right now we are heavily relying on Google, Facebook and three major telecom companies. So, basically, five CEOs control our communication. One phone call to them, and you can essentially shut down communication …
What is the solution? Well, it’s going to sound weird, but … the founding fathers of this country created an institution called the United States Postal Service. Why did they create that? Because the crown was not allowing each individual to communicate. So, the notion of ‘the press’ was all of us. There was no New York Times. Each one of us were supposed to be the press …
If anyone interfered with your communications, [they got a] 20-year prison sentence. It was criminal. So, the entire postal service system was a decentralized environment enabling every American to communicate for pennies …
In 1997 is when email volume overtook postal mail volume. I met with the executives of the postal service. I said, look, you guys should be living up to what you were chartered to do, which is to protect free communications. Why don’t you offer a public email service and public social media services … that would be protected by the laws of the Constitution? No one, including the government, could interfere.
They thought it was a ridiculous idea … In 2011, the postal services were going out of business. Why? Because all the best parts of the postal service were privatized into DHL and FedEx. So, I again hit them really hard. The inspector general, Dave Williams, called me up.
He goes, ‘Shiva, why are you attacking us?’ I said, ‘Look, you guys are not doing your job. You’re not in the postal mail business. You were supposed to be in the communications business. You are set up as a quasi-organization to protect our rights. So anyway, I did two chartered reports for them.
My point is we need a digital rights act, and there is an institution [that can supply us with that]. It is the postal service, in my view. All these postal service locations could be converted to a mesh network. So, there is an opportunity to have a network by the people for the people. Now if someone wants to go use Google and Facebook and you can, but there needs to be a public common.
Those few elite would object to this and have the power and control to prevent that from being implemented. Definitely. That’s why I believe we need to have a mass movement. Nothing has ever been given to us. People think slavery ends one day and we have freedom the next. Every point in human history has always been people chipping away at slavery to get freedom from the elite.”
Decentralization Is the Name of the Game
Ayyadurai discusses many additional issues and goes far deeper than I can summarize here, so please, listen to the interview in its entirety. He has many fascinating insights, ideas and solutions. For example, about 50 minutes in, he discusses how federally funded research systems can be improved to ensure scientific integrity and prevent scientific fraud.
“We need to take power away from the academics,” he says, “and one way to do that is to force decentralization. That’s a common theme here.” He also analyzes the health care model, and discusses how health care, as a system, can be improved while simultaneously being made far less expensive.
“Broadly, we need to decentralize health care. The concept of centralized health care — which is what the purpose of this [COVID-19 pandemic is] — is that next year everyone’s going to be mandated vaccines,” he says.
“For them to crash the economy, to drive it into a depression, for them it’s a relatively great return on investment. You make the fed print $6 trillion, but you’re going to make $7 trillion to $8 trillion recurring revenue [by way of mandated, annual vaccinations] … So, we have to do whatever it takes to decentralize health care …
When you look at these things I’ve said, it comes down to one word: Decentralization … I think the opportunity here is to start educating people. It is supposed to be We the People, and this does not mean it’s going to happen without struggle.
We may have to rise up and fight in ways that we haven’t done before, just like those people did in the late 1800s, and the idea is to compel the thing. We need to build a broad-based movement bottom-up … And I think it begins with taking care of your health.”