News FocusBiodefense: 10 Years After

Helping Hollywood Create and Battle a Pandemic

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Science  02 Sep 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6047, pp. 1219
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6047.1219-a

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The "deadly disease assaults the planet" genre has a long, ludicrous history, with the offending pathogen arriving from outer space (Andromeda Strain) or a medical treatment gone awry (I Am Legend) and scientists deriving cures from laughably implausible sources such as a mystery serum mixed with monkey antibodies (Outbreak). Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh (Traffic; sex, lies, and videotape; Ocean's Eleven) and written by Scott Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum), makes an unusual attempt to avoid groans from the scientific cognoscenti. Science interviewed Ian Lipkin, a neurologist–molecular biologist at Columbia University who specializes in disease outbreaks, who was hired as a script consultant for the movie.