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Group: Group VI (ssRNA-RT)
The Progenitor virus (also known as the Clay virus) was a unique mutagenic retrovirus, a type of RNA virus discovered from a rare flower in West Africa. It possessed the ability to parasitize a host at a cellular level and mutate DNA and recombine genes, thereby strengthening a host's characteristics but causing detrimental mutations when cells developed abnormally. It was unknown to most of human civilization until its discovery by the founders of the Umbrella Corporation, who kept its existence top-secret and applied it to "B.O.W. (Bio Organic Weapons)" development, living biological weapons for military application. For this purpose, the virus became the basis for a range of weaponized virus strains. The virus was also secretly the fundamental aspect of a plan for the creation of an evolved superhuman race of "Progenitor Humans."
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Details on the virus' origins were previously unknown due to the secrecy imposed on it by its discoverers, although it was theorized that it must have previously existed in an isolated system since its zoonotic attribute to infect almost any organism would have otherwise allowed it to become a trans-species pandemic. It is now confirmed to have been discovered from a rare flower in an underground cave system in West Africa, in a region home to an ancient civilization known as the "Ndipaya" who possessed advanced technological knowledge for their time and had constructed an expansive underground city deep within the caves, where their monarchy ruled.
The flower was known as the "Stairway of the Sun" and its habitat, the "Sun Garden", was the innermost section of the Ndipaya's underground city. The flower was extremely poisonous to humans and its effects were usually fatal if consumed. However, some individuals possessed a natural genetic resistance to the virus. The Ndipaya people believed that a man who could survive after ingesting the plant was destined to become king. Finding an individual who could survive ingestion of the powerful poison was a rarity, but a successful individual would gain superhuman abilities, intelligence and above all, immortality. One such man reigned as king for hundreds of years.
The virus later became the cause of the downfall of the Ndipaya Kingdom. The civilization had begun feeding the flower to animals, presumably for usage in war. This practice led to the animals becoming extremely ferocious mutants that began to decimate the population. In the end, the Ndipaya were forced to abandon the underground city with their numbers crippled. Thereafter they were left as a mere tribe, a vestige of a formerly powerful kingdom. 1
The search for the Progenitor virus was started by two renowned aristocrats from two prominent families in Western European nobility, Oswell E. Spencer of the Spencer family and Dr. Edward Ashford, a virologist and fifth generation head of the aristocratic Ashford family. Alongside them was their friend Dr. James Marcus, a biochemist and authority on viruses who had been Spencer's alumnus. In the beginning, Dr. Ashford had been searching for a virus which could promote evolution, based on the scientific theory that viruses were a major factor in the evolutionary process and could directly promote it.
The subsequent search for the Progenitor virus began based on information about a Ndipaya ritual contained within the "Natural History Conspectus", a set of books penned by Henry Travis as an encyclopedia of Africa. Spencer was interested in the conspectus for its ethnological side, but upon reading the description of the Ndipaya tribe ceremony for choosing their kings, which incorporated a flower called the "Stairway of the Sun" that could grant a human great abilities if consumed, he became intrigued and conveyed this information to Dr. Ashford, Dr. Marcus and the latter's student, Brandon Bailey. Based on Spencer's information, Dr. Marcus hypothesized that the flower's ability to enhance certain characteristics was a phenomenon caused by an unknown virus altering DNA.
In September 1966, the three traveled to the region where the flower was described. While attempting to reach the Sun Garden, they were relentlessly attacked by the Ndipaya attempting to defend their land, but were able to conquer them with superior technology. Upon reaching the garden, the expedition group began to examine the flower. On December 4, they confirmed Dr. Marcus' hypothesis and discovered that the flower did contain a new virus strain; an RNA retrovirus they named "Progenitor", which they also renamed the flower. Bailey and Dr. Marcus cultured quantities of the virus to take back to the United States along with the Progenitor flower. Spencer ordered for the construction of a top-secret research laboratory beneath one of his estates in the outskirts of Raccoon City and took samples of the virus there for his own research, while Dr. Ashford also took the virus and began his own research alongside his son Alexander Ashford.
With the unique mutagenic attribute of the Progenitor virus, Spencer had proposed using the virus for the purpose of monopolizing the military market through the development and production of "Bio Organic Weapons" (B.O.W.), living biological weapons which used living organisms as hosts with their characteristics enhanced by the Progenitor virus for use as weapons. However, the virus proved insufficient for this development. In response, Dr. Ashford laid the foundation of the "t-Virus Project", the development of a weaponized variant. Consequently, variants of the Progenitor virus became known as the "t-virus" (Tyrant Virus). 2 Unknown to his partners, Spencer strongly believed he was one of the "chosen ones" and that people should be ruled by physically and intellectually superior individuals. Upon discovering the Progenitor virus, he planned to realize this philosophy and secretly used the t-Virus Project to hide the development of an improved strain of the Progenitor virus more able to adapt to the human body.
Culture Attempts (1967)
On February 12, 1967, while attempting to cultivate the Progenitor flower outside of its original habitat, Dr. Marcus and Bailey hit a dead-end in their research. They initially tried tissue culture of the virus; however the result lacked the DNA transmutation characteristic. Therefore, they decided to mass-produce the virus by cultivating the Progenitor flower. At first, it was favorable, as the flower grew quickly with strong vitality in few terms. However, the virus was not present in the resulting flowers. At another dead-end, they decided to inspect further and examine whether the cultivation environment would affect the virus' development within the flower.
By March 23, they had cultivated the flower in various conditions under many variables for soil, water, temperature, humidity and duration of sunshine. The virus did not develop in the flower even after making every condition the same as the Sun Garden. During an argument between Dr. Marcus and Bailey over future research plans, Spencer interjected with a proposal to establish a company to camouflage their virus research, angering Bailey who believed that without the Progenitor virus fully available to them, the establishment of a company would be pointless. 3
On November 10, the first human administration experiments were secretly conducted with the Progenitor virus. At the Spencer Mansion in Raccoon Forest, two variant strains of the virus were produced in an attempt to successfully adapt it to the human body and remove the need for a genetic resistance, an important step to fulfilling Spencer's goal of an evolved human race of "Progenitor Humans." The first variant known as "TYPE-A" was injected into Jessica Trevor, whose tissue deteriorated when the virus failed to establish itself in her body. "TYPE-B" was administered to her daughter, Lisa Trevor, whose tissue also deteriorated. However, the virus successfully established itself and some positive results were found in her remodeled body. She was kept under observation and became the main test subject for Spencer's t-virus research, and he kept her existence, the experiments and their results a strict secret from his peers.
Umbrella Corporation (1968)
In March 1968, Spencer and his peers Dr. Marcus and Dr. Ashford established a pharmaceutical company named "Umbrella Pharmaceuticals" under the concept that virus research would someday deeply influence the enhancement of health for people around the world, and they used the company to camouflage their biological weapons development. For Spencer, development of the Progenitor virus for weapon application purposes was perfect for him to advance his own research of the virus for the purpose of creating a new human race without his true intention being realized by anyone. The company's sole possession of the Progenitor virus and its unique properties put their pharmaceutical research far ahead of other companies in the field and rapidly reinforced Umbrella's organizational strength and political influence.
On April 15, Dr. Marcus and Bailey had used up the supply of the Progenitor virus that they had taken from Africa and more than a year had passed with no progress. They decided they would have to return to Africa and, at Spencer's suggestion, resolved to seize the area from the Ndipaya tribe by force. On August 19, Umbrella's armed personnel successfully expelled the Ndipaya from the Sun Garden and captured half of the underground ruins. Spencer then determined to build a facility in the garden for the purpose of researching the Progenitor virus, but stopped Dr. Marcus from returning to Africa and instead requested that he become first director of the Umbrella Executive Training School, secretly to increase his own power over Umbrella. However, Dr. Marcus stated that he would become director only if he was given access to a laboratory in order to allow him to continue his research on the Progenitor virus. Spencer agreed and as a result, Bailey returned to Africa alone, determined to serve his teacher's research. As two weeks passed, the facility lacked the equipment to perform advanced research on the Progenitor virus and consequently, Bailey concentrated on extracting the virus from the Progenitor flower and sending it to Dr. Marcus. 4
In July, Spencer orchestrated the death of Dr. Ashford by causing him to be "accidentally" infected with the Progenitor virus during his research. The virus' fatal nature to most humans ended the doctor's life and allowed Spencer to increase his control over Umbrella while Dr. Ashford's successor, his son Alexander Ashford, could not achieve any results with the t-Virus Project with his lack of skill. With the other two founders no longer having any power over the company, Spencer was free to make decisions and expand the organization as he saw fit. In order to reach his goal of creating a world of "Progenitor humans", Spencer believed that those who live in an ideal world should themselves be ideal, and he secretly commenced the "Wesker Project" to train such skilled, ideal humans for his new world. This project, named after the chief researcher at the time, involved gathering up several hundred children born to the most intellectually gifted and accomplished people around the world, giving them special educations, raising them until they had perfect bodies and minds and then releasing them back into the world. All of the subjects were given the name Wesker and were known as the "Wesker Children."
On June 15, 1969, construction of the Umbrella Africa Laboratory was completed. Brandon Bailey became director and chief scientist of this new facility and he wanted it to become the forefront of Progenitor virus research, with its discoveries supplementing Dr. Marcus' development of his t-virus. Meanwhile, aware that he lacked skill in virus research, Alexander Ashford commenced the "CODE:Veronica Project" in order to artificially create a genius scientist cloned from the DNA of his family's founder, Veronica Ashford. He hoped that this scientist would develop a variant of the Progenitor virus that would allow his family to regain their former glory, take control of Umbrella and grasp the leading edge in biotechnology. In 1971, the project was deemed a success after bearing a young genius, whom he named Alexia Ashford.
On September 19, 1977, Dr. Marcus saw a prospect of developing the first successful example of a t-virus. As a result of various experiments involving injecting the Progenitor virus into leech test subjects, he concluded that the integration of leech DNA would become the decisive factor in its creation. 5 After carrying out the combination, he began conducting B.O.W. application experiments by administering the virus to several different types of creatures. However, on October 23, he concluded that further progress could not be expected solely from experimenting on guinea pigs and that if he didn't use humans as the mammalian base organism, his t-virus development would be forever at a standstill. 6 In response, he secretly began conducting human experiments with the Progenitor virus by using junior executive candidates, Umbrella employees, as test subjects. The total victim count eventually rose to around twenty people.
On January 13, 1978, Dr. Marcus completed the t-virus, but on January 31, the new virus was stolen by Albert Wesker under the orders of Spencer. With the virus in his possession, Spencer shut down the executive training school and transferred t-virus research to the Arklay Laboratory, where he appointed Wesker and Dr. Birkin as chief scientists. The initial strain of the t-virus developed by Dr. Marcus was still unsuitable for B.O.W. development, but upon incorporating a gene from a filovirus known as the "Ebola virus", subsequent improvements by Dr. Birkin managed to stabilize the virus and enable the production of several B.O.W. types.
In 1981, Alexia Ashford was appointed as chief research scientist at the Umbrella Antarctic Laboratory. Using the Progenitor virus as the base, she created a new virus strain by incorporating the genes of plants and the gene of a queen ant, which contained traces of an ancient virus that harbored the ability to control lesser organisms. She named this new virus the "t-Veronica virus", but it was deemed lost in 1983 after she injected it into her own body and entered a fifteen year cryogenic stasis in order to allow the virus to adapt to her body. By the late 80s, artificial culture of the Progenitor virus with its DNA transmutation characteristic intact became possible, but Spencer limited its production by making the Africa Laboratory its sole supplier and also applied strict management to ensure the secrecy of the virus' location.
In 1988, the t-virus reached a certain level of completion at the Arklay Laboratory and Dr. Marcus was assassinated by Albert Wesker and Dr. Birkin under Spencer's orders. His research results were then appropriated by Dr. Birkin for his own research. In that same year, Dr. Birkin discovered the basis of another new virus strain after injecting Lisa Trevor with the NE-α Type parasite. The parasite disappeared after being absorbed within her body, and upon disregarding all previous data and inspecting her, Dr. Birkin was able to extract a peculiar gene from her body which contained a new virus strain that had been mutating for 21 years since she was first administered with the Progenitor virus. This new strain became the prototype of the "G-virus." 7
The official story regarding the history of the Progenitor virus became greatly distorted within Umbrella due to Spencer's influence. Officially, the virus was discovered by Umbrella founders Oswell E. Spencer and Edward Ashford while Dr. Marcus was not counted as a founder of Umbrella or one of the men who discovered the virus. Spencer manipulated the facts and made it become known that Spencer and Ashford had passed their research to Dr. Marcus, but his enthusiasm for the research was very unusual and he was eventually ousted from the company after his erratic behavior became noticeable, while subsequent research was left in the hands of Dr. Birkin who was hailed as the creator of the t-virus. 8
Research on the Progenitor virus continued in Umbrella laboratories around the world, primarily for its use as the foundation upon which new virus strains could be developed. However, when the bankruptcy and dissolution of Umbrella became clear, all samples of the virus, data related to it and the existence of the Africa Laboratory were erased from the company by Spencer, who also ordered for the assassination of senior Umbrella executives with Level 10 access to information that would know or remember the virus' location. Through these efforts, Spencer successfully buried the Progenitor virus so that only he could access it, preventing its eradication or seizure by rival organizations. 9
The existence of the Progenitor virus had become well-known to the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) through information obtained by Chris Redfield and through the dismantlement of Umbrella. While the BSAA sought to destroy the virus due to it being the origin of the t-virus and posing a further threat if used for further virus development, other organizations wanted to obtain it for their own biological weapons programs. In 2006, Albert Wesker learned of Spencer's true goal with the Progenitor virus and took over Spencer's ambition, having already planned to become a next generation god by using the t-virus to enact forced evolution and unnatural selection. Although Wesker initially believed that he could use the t-virus, he instead commenced the "Uroboros Project", using the Progenitor virus as the basis for the creation of a perfect virus he named the Uroboros virus.
At some point, the location of the Progenitor virus was rediscovered by TRICELL upon interrogating Carlos M., one of the only surviving senior Umbrella executives with the information. Under the suggestion of Albert Wesker, the Africa Laboratory was reopened at the order of Excella Gionne and the company's B.O.W. scientists began conducting their own research into the virus. One course of this research led to the idea that injecting the Progenitor virus into a B.O.W. created with the t-virus may lead to improvements. The most notable result of this concept was the Licker β, which merely gained a more developed musculature and a heightened sense of smell. It is unknown whether any other B.O.W. types were developed out of this research.
The status of the Progenitor virus is unknown. Whether samples of the virus remain or all traces of it were eradicated is presently unknown.
The primary attribute of the Progenitor virus was its DNA mutation characteristic which enabled the recombination of genes and potential for organic evolution through subjecting infected cells to mutation. When the virus was administered directly into an organism, it would take up residence in the cells of the host and self-propagate by using the synthesis properties and energy of proteins. The protein and nucleic acid synthesis program of cells infected with the virus were then rewritten based on the nucleus of the virus, resulting in growing numbers of new Progenitor virus nuclei.
When infected cells developed abnormally, the subsequent rapid cellular mutations would not only destroy the host's original tissue, but also cause the extreme deterioration of intelligence through the erosion of brain cells. In other cases, infection would simply result in a host's death. Creatures that survived infection either became brutal and ferocious or were left in a weakened and damaged state. Size increases due to an excessive secretion of growth hormone were also not uncommon in infection cases.
The only mutation caused by the virus that could be referred to as true "evolution" was its adaptation to human hosts with an inherent genetic resistance to its otherwise fatal effects, known as a "Progenitor Human." This resistance was actually a specific genetic makeup which enabled the production of certain anti-bodies, with which mutation by the Progenitor virus did not affect the host's tissue and allowed them to gain superhuman strength, enhanced intelligence and biological immortality. Another common physical trait shared between these evolved humans was the ability for their eyes to glow red, usually when enraged. However, as adaptable individuals were extremely rare, the virus' potential for use in the evolution of humanity was also extremely low. This evolution on a mass-scale was the goal of Oswell E. Spencer.
A variant strain produced at the Arklay Laboratory and utilized for human experiments as part of an early attempt to develop a strain that would allow more human hosts to survive post-infection without the necessary genetic resistance. It was administered to Jessica Trevor, but the virus failed to establish itself in her body and killed her.
A second variant strain produced alongside TYPE-A. It was administered to Lisa Trevor and successfully established itself within her body, making her an immortal Progenitor human. However, the virus caused severe tissue damage to her body and drastically reduced her intelligence.
The colloquially named "TYPE-C" was a modified but experimental variant of the Progenitor virus developed by Dr. William Birkin under Spencer's order. Its purpose was to act as a "screening" for the Wesker Project in order to filter out the most genetically capable of the Wesker children. Out of thirteen Weskers only two survived injection of the virus: Albert and Alex. It is fundamentally a "t-virus", a variant of the Progenitor virus secretly developed in the t-Virus Project to serve Spencer's secret goal. This variant also harbored the ability to revive dead cells, which was also held by the G-virus. It is unknown whether this characteristic was transferred from the G-virus or if manifested independently. 10