The lecturer in this video is Wyndham Lathem, a former microbiologist at Northwestern University who apparently specialized in the study of the plague bacteria, Yersinia Pestis. Back in 2015, he released the results of a study showing that a small genetic change in the bacillus may have unleashed the deadly disease on the world:
"While studying Yersinia pestis, the bacteria responsible for epidemics of plague such as the Black Death, Wyndham Lathem, Ph.D., assistant professor in microbiology-immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, found a single small genetic change that fundamentally influenced the evolution of the deadly pathogen, and thus the course of human history." Source: Archaeology News Network (2015).
As it turns out, Lathem was charged with murder last year. According to The Scientist (Aug. 24, 2017), it was a brutal killing. The body of the victim, a 26-year-old man named Trenton James Cornell-Duranleau, "was found in Lathem’s apartment ... stabbed dozens of times." Lathem fled to California with another man, " a University of Oxford employee from the United Kingdom visiting the States." The two later turned themselves in and Lathem was extradited to Chicago, where he was jailed after bond was denied. I'm not sure where the case stands right now.
Now I'm not particularly interested in this alleged murder. The vicious nature of the killing (stabbing suggests rage) and the fact that Lathem and his companion allegedly just panicked afterward and fled, leaving the body lying around in Lathem's apartment, strongly suggests that the alleged murder was a run-of-the-mill crime of passion. It's also possible that Lathem and his friend are completely innocent. What do I know?
The interesting part of the story is the research Lathem was doing. More specifically, what kind of research was he doing? As explained in the news report above, he was hoping to go to work for the Pasteur Institute but the French government refused to give him the necessary security clearance, which raises the question of why he needed a security clearance to work at the institute in the first place.
I'm not suggesting some kind of conspiracy theory here. Lathem probably needed a security clearance because he would have had access to pathogens at his new job. That seems like the most likely explanation. The Pasteur Institute probably keeps (for medical research purposes) stockpiles of the plague and every other lethal bug known to Man. I'm not sure why he was denied clearance. Maybe the French government turned him down for political reasons. Who knows?
It's possible, I suppose, that Lathem, a plague expert, was involved in some way with biological warfare research, maybe for defensive purposes. It's also possible, of course, that he was doing purely scientific research that might have been used to develop or improve biological weapons if it fell into the wrong hands. Pure science and weapons development tend to overlap in many fields -- physics and nuclear weapons, for example -- and that seems to be the case with the study of lethal diseases.
Lathem was involved, tangentially at least, with the whole issue of biological warfare. According to The Scientist, he "had a successful career as an independent investigator, including participating in recent scientific conferences on chemical and biological terrorism defense." For example, he was one of the guest speakers at the 2017 "Gordon Research Conference "Innovation and Advancement: Fundamental Science Resulting in Next-Gen Solutions for Chemical and Biological Threats."
The fact that Lathem spoke at this conference doesn't prove anything at all. There's nothing sinister about it. I have absolutely no evidence that he was involved in biological warfare research and there is no reason to believe that the murder he was charged with committing was anything more than an ordinary murder. That's all irrelevant, anyway. The thing about this case that bothers me is that I can't help wondering how many scientists are out there -- on all sides -- who are doing research, either directly or indirectly, that could lead to the development of new and improved forms of weaponized Black Death.
Governments have been working on this kind of thing for a long time.
Terrorists are apparently looking for ways to use to plague against the West and they're perfectly capable of actually doing it. And who knows how many countries and private institutions are stockpiling this deadly disease that may have killed half of Europe's population during the Middle Ages? North Korea supposedly has its own supply and I'm sure the US, Russia, China and just about everybody else have stockpiles ready to be deployed. Most of these countries probably aren't crazy enough to actually release the plague, but what if it escapes from one of the labs where scientists like Lathem are doing their research?
Archaeologists have been digging up and studying ancient plague victims for a long time now, unearthing old strains of the disease in the process, and scientists have been re-creating these pathogens in the lab. Let's just hope they know what they're doing.
Here's a paranoid scenario for you. Let's say that a plague researcher flips out for some reason. He kills somebody in a blind rage, stabbing them repeatedly, then panics and drives off in his car, heading cross-country. But instead of turning himself in later, he decides to take everyone with him and releases the plague bacilli he stole from his lab at different points along the way, creating a nationwide pandemic.
The similarities between this scenario and the Lathem case are purely coincidental, of course. This kind of Robert Ludlum plotline could never happen in real life. After all, everybody knows that scientists are sane and responsible people.