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Group: Group VI (ssRNA-RT)
The Progenitor virus (also known as the Clay virus) was an ancient RNA retrovirus with the ability to mutate DNA and recombine genes to strengthen a host's characteristics but cause detrimental mutations or death when cells developed abnormally. Humans adapted to the virus were known as "Progenitor Humans."
It was unknown to human civilization until its 1966 discovery in West Africa by the founders of the Umbrella Corporation, who classified its existence and applied it to "B.O.W. (Bio Organic Weapons)" development, living biological weapons for military application. For this purpose, the virus was used as the base for a range of weaponized and oncolytic viral strains and the basis of a revolution in retroviral therapy. It was secretly the fundamental tool in a plan to create an evolved superhuman species.
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Details on the virus' origins were previously unknown due to the secrecy imposed upon it by its discoverers, although it was theorized to have previously existed in an isolated system since its zoonotic attribute to infect almost any animal or plant organism would have otherwise allowed it to become a trans-species pandemic.
The virus was deeply influential in the history of evolution due to its ability to infect both animals and plants and spontaneously cause random genetic mutations in the body of an infected host. As the virus itself evolved, it transferred altered genes into other organisms by infecting a second host, causing a fresh mutation influenced by the previous host's genes. This ability functioned both between whole individuals and between individual cells. However, over millenia, organisms lost genetic adaptability with the virus and infected hosts died unable to bear the intense mutations. A host able to survive the virus became increasingly rare as time passed and it gradually became less common in nature.
At some point, the last host of the virus was a rare flower species in an isolated underground cave system in the later nation of Kijuju, West Africa. The ancient "Ndipaya" civilization used its advanced technological knowledge of the time to construct a giant underground city as the seat of its monarchy within this cave system, where they discovered the flower. The Ndipaya took interest in the flower and ingested it, leading to the deaths of several and the emergence of a survivor with heightened physical abilities, intelligence and biological immortality with slitted yellow-red eyes. This individual's physical and mental prowess led them to be crowned king and a ceremony was born in which prospective monarchs ingested the flower. The survivor would be crowned king.
The Ndipaya named the flower the "Stairway to the Sun" and its habitat the "Sun Garden" was the deepest innermost section of the Ndipaya's underground city. The flower was extremely fatal to most humans but some rare individuals possessed a natural resistance to the virus due to peculiar genes able to produce certain antibodies not found in most humans. The Ndipaya people believed that a man able to survive ingesting the plant was destined to become king. Finding an individual able to survive ingestion of the plant was a rarity. One such man reigned as king for hundreds of years due to the inability to find someone able to survive the ingestion throughout their reign.
The virus later became the cause of the downfall of the Ndipaya kingdom. The civilization began feeding the flower to animals to create primitive "living weapons" with physical abilities and intelligence surpassing conventional animals of the time, giving the Ndipaya a significant advantage in warfare. However, this practice led the animals to become extremely ferocious carnivores that began to decimate the kingdom. In the end, the Ndipaya were forced to abandon the underground city with their numbers and surrounding kingdom crippled. Thereafter, they were left as a mere tribe, a vestige of a formerly powerful empire cut down before it could spread beyond the local region. 1
The Ndipaya tribe continued to guard the remains of the underground city and use the Stairway to the Sun flower in traces of the ceremony at a festival once a year to comfort the souls of their ancestors.
In the 1960s, fifth generation head of the aristocratic Ashford family Edward Ashford conducted virus research and hypothesized the existence of a virus able to promote evolution based on the theory that viruses were a major contributing factor to natural evolution. He began searching the world for a virus with this ability, but made little progress. Fellow believers in this virus were fellow aristocrat Oswell E. Spencer and a biochemist revered as an authority on virology, their friend James Marcus.
In 1966, Spencer acquired the National History Conspectus set of books written during the Age of Discovery as an encyclopedia of the African continent by Henry Travis of Travis Trading Enterprises. He was interested in the conspectus for its ethnological aspects, but upon reading about the Ndipaya tribe festival involving the Stairway to the Sun flower and the description of its use in selecting a king, he felt that the flower held significance. He reported this to Ashford and alumnus Marcus with the latter's student, Brandon Bailey. Based on the descriptions, Marcus hypothesized that the flower's ability to strengthen characteristics was a phenomenon caused by a virus altering DNA.
In September, the four men traveled to Kijuju based on the information in Travis' books. They were attacked by the Ndipaya defending their land, but were able to conquer them with superior technology. Upon reaching the garden, the group examined the flower. On December 4, Marcus' hypothesis was confirmed as a new RNA retrovirus strain was found in the flower. He named the virus and flower "Progenitor." The discoverers desired to use the virus to become evolved humans, but Spencer secretly believed he was one of the "chosen ones" and that people should be ruled by physically and intellectually superior individuals. He schemed to create a utopia of evolved humans with himself as ruler and "God."
Marcus and Bailey cultured the virus to take back to the United States along with the flower. Spencer ordered construction of a top-secret laboratory beneath his estate in the outskirts of Raccoon City and transported samples of the virus there while Ashford took samples to study with his son Alexander Ashford. Preliminary research revealed that the virus was insufficient due to the genes of modern organisms being weak to it and no longer capable of adaptation. Ashford laid the foundation of the t-Virus Project to develop of a weakened variant of the virus to circumvent this problem. Variants of the Progenitor virus became known as "t-virus" (Tyrant Virus). 2
Culture Attempts (1967)
On February 12, 1967, while attempting to cultivate the Progenitor flower outside of its original habitat, 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 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, a crucial step to fulfilling Spencer's goal of an evolved human species. The first variant "TYPE-A" was injected into Jessica Trevor, who died when the virus failed to establish itself in her body. "TYPE-B" was administered to her daughter, Lisa Trevor. 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.
On November 17, three of Spencer's researchers proposed using the Progenitor virus to monopolize the military market by changing the very concept of war through development and production of "Bio Organic Weapons" (B.O.W.), living biological weapons using living organisms as hosts with characteristics enhanced by the Progenitor virus. However, the virus was still presently insufficient due to modern organisms being weak to its severe mutations and much research was required.
Umbrella Corporation (1968)
In March 1968, Spencer and his collaborators established the pharmaceutical company Umbrella Pharmaceuticals with the belief that virus research would deeply influence the enhancement of health around the world. Secretly it was a front company to fund development of the weakened Progenitor virus strain and camouflage biological weapons development. For Spencer, development of the Progenitor virus for weapon application purposes was perfect to advance research for creating a new human species without his true intention being realized. The company's sole possession of the Progenitor virus and its unique properties put its pharmaceutical research ahead of other companies and rapidly reinforced Umbrella's organizational strength and political influence.
On April 15, Marcus and Bailey used up the supply of the Progenitor virus they'd taken from Africa and more than a year had passed with no progress. At Spencer's suggestion, they sent soldiers to seize the area from the Ndipaya tribe by force. On August 19, Umbrella's soldiers expelled the Ndipaya from the Sun Garden and captured half of the underground ruins. Spencer ordered construction of a laboratory in the garden to study the virus but stopped Marcus from returning to Africa and instead requested that he become first director of the Umbrella Executive Training Center, secretly to increase his own power over Umbrella.
However, Marcus insisted he would become director only if given access to a laboratory to continue 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 Marcus. 4 Meanwhile, aware that he lacked skill in virus research, Alexander Ashford commenced the CODE:Veronica Project to artificially create a genius scientist cloned from the DNA of his family's founder, Veronica Ashford. He hoped this scientist would assist in his father's research to develop a variant of the Progenitor virus to take control of Umbrella and grasp the leading edge in biotechnology.
In July, Spencer orchestrated Ashford's death by causing him to be accidentally infected with the Progenitor virus. It killed the doctor and allowed Spencer to increase his control over Umbrella while Ashford's successor, his son Alexander Ashford, failed to achieve results with the t-Virus Project. 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 new world, Spencer believed that those living in an ideal world should themselves be ideal, and he secretly commenced the Wesker Project, a eugenics plan to train such skilled humans for his new world. Named after the chief scientist at the time, this project involved gathering several hundred children born to intellectually gifted and accomplished people around the world, giving them special educations, raising them with perfect bodies and minds and then releasing them into the world. All of the subjects were given the surname 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 Marcus' development of his t-virus. In 1971, the genius girl Alexia Ashford was born from the CODE:Veronica Project, making the project a success.
On September 19, 1977, Marcus saw a prospect of developing the first successful t-virus. As a result of various experiments by injecting the Progenitor virus into leeches, he concluded that integrating leech DNA would be the decisive factor in its creation. 5 After carrying out the combination, he conducted B.O.W. host experiments by administering the virus to several different types of creatures. However, on October 23, he concluded that further progress couldn't be expected without using humans as the mammalian base organism. 6 He secretly conducted human experiments with the Progenitor virus using junior executive candidates as test subjects. The total victim count rose to about twenty people.
On January 13, 1978, Marcus completed the t-virus, but on January 31, it was stolen by Albert Wesker and William Birkin under Spencer's orders. With the virus in his possession, Spencer shut down the executive training center and transferred t-virus research to the Arklay Laboratory, where he appointed Wesker and Birkin as chief scientists. The initial strain of the t-virus developed by Marcus was unsuitable for B.O.W. development, but upon incorporating genes of the filovirus Ebola virus, subsequent improvements by Birkin stabilized the virus and enabled production of several B.O.W. types.
In 1981, Alexia Ashford was appointed chief scientist at the Antarctic Laboratory. Using the Progenitor virus as the base, she created a new virus strain by incorporating plant genes and the genes of a queen ant containing traces of an ancient endogeneous retrovirus. 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 80's, artificial culture of the Progenitor virus from the Progenitor flower became possible, but Spencer limited its production to the Africa Laboratory and also applied strict management to ensure the secrecy of the virus' location.
In 1988, the t-virus reached a certain level of perfection at the Arklay Laboratory and Marcus was assassinated by Wesker and Birkin under Spencer's orders. His research results were stolen by Birkin for his own research. In that same year, 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 Birkin was able to extract peculiar genes from her body containing a new virus strain that had been mutating for twenty one years since she was first administered with the Progenitor virus TYPE-B variant. This new strain was the prototype of the G-virus. 7
The official story regarding the history of the Progenitor virus was greatly distorted within Umbrella due to Spencer's influence. Officially, the virus was discovered by Oswell E. Spencer and Edward Ashford who passed research on to Marcus, who was ousted from the company. Spencer manipulated the facts and made it become known that Spencer and Ashford had passed their research to Marcus, but he was ousted from the company for wildly eccentric conduct while subsequent research was left in the hands of Birkin, who was hailed as the creator of the t-virus. Research on the Progenitor virus continued in Umbrella laboratories around the world as the foundation upon which new virus strains could be developed. 8
In 1998, Birkin created a modified t-virus strain able to elucidate the latent properties of superhuman abilities upon adaptation. This was the closest success of the t-Virus Project, however the virus failed to grant heightened intelligence or immortality and out of thirteen of the most genetically gifted humans in the world, two survived, Alex Wesker and Albert Wesker, and only Albert gained superhuman abilities at the cost of certain side-effects such as instability within the body. Although this strain was closest to success, further development was compromised due to Birkin's death and the destruction of Raccoon City. Additionally, the G-virus was too incomplete to function as a replacement and without Birkin it couldn't be perfected.
In November 1998, Spencer destroyed all samples and data of the virus within Umbrella and erased the existence of the Africa Laboratory. He ordered the assassination of senior executives with Level 10 and Level 9 classified information access privileges to ensure that only he knew of the laboratory's location. Through these efforts, Spencer buried the Progenitor virus, preventing its eradication or seizure. The Progenitor virus' existence was well-known to the Anti-Umbrella Pursuit and Investigation Team and the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) and while these organizations targeted the virus for eradication and conducted investigations into its whereabouts, other entities desired to steal it for other purposes, such as biological weapons development. 9
Uroboros Project (2008-2009)
In 2006, Albert Wesker learned of Spencer's true goal to create an evolved superhuman species using a virus based on the Progenitor virus. Having already schemed to use the t-virus for mass extinction and forced evolution, Wesker killed Spencer and decided to take over his ambition of becoming a next generation god. Wesker went underground and returned to his partnership with Excella Gionne to commence the Uroboros Project with the goal of creating a perfect virus, the Uroboros virus. However, the Progenitor virus was a necessity for the project and was rediscovered by TRICELL upon interrogating senior Umbrella executive Carlos M.
At Wesker's suggestion, the Africa Laboratory was reopened at Gionne's order and the company's scientists studied the virus. One course of this research led to the idea that injecting the Progenitor virus into a t-virus B.O.W. may lead to improvements. The most notable result of this concept was the Licker β, which merely gained breeding ability and heightened sense of smell. A by-product of Progenitor virus research was the development of the bodily enhancement drug P30, which had a side-effect of making a host susceptible to control.
The Progenitor virus' primary attribute was its DNA mutation characteristic which enabled gene mutation and recombination. When the virus was administered directly into an organism, it took up residence in the host's cells and self-propagated using the synthesis properties and energy of proteins. The protein and nucleic acid synthesis program of cells infected with the virus were rewritten based on the virus' nucleus, resulting in growing numbers of new Progenitor virus nuclei.
When infected cells developed abnormally, the subsequent rapid cellular mutations not only caused necrosis which destroyed the host's original tissue, but also caused the extreme deterioration of intelligence through the erosion of brain cells. In other cases, infection ended in a host's death. Creatures that survived infection either became brutal and ferocious or were left in a weakened state, however even these occurrences became rare through the course of history. Size increases due to an excessive secretion of growth hormone were also not uncommon in infection cases.
In ancient human hosts, the virus harbored a truly evolutionary ability. The strong genes of these humans withstood the virus' mutations and caused it to adapt to the host. As a result, an adapted host gained superhuman strength, speed and agility with heightened intellect and biological immortality due to suppressed telomere shortening. This form of evolution was impossible in modern humans due to weak genes, so development of a weakened strain of the virus was advanced.
A variant strain developed in 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 developed with 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 name Progenitor was chosen by James Marcus based on the virus' involvement in the advancement of evolution during ancient history and its ability to create entirely new life-forms, making it an origin of life.