The lysine contingency created by International Genetic Technologies, Inc. was intended to be a failsafe method to prevent de-extinct animals from surviving in the event that they escaped confinement and could not be recaptured or killed. This was accomplished via genetic engineering by Dr. Henry Wu in the late 1980s, preventing the animals from producing the amino acid lysine. As a result, the dinosaurs would require weekly supplements of lysine in their diet in order to survive. The lysine contingency was ultimately obsolete on Isla Nublar following the 1993 incident, and failed to kill off the animals on Isla Sorna, but was nonetheless the subject of an intense bioethical debate during the late 1980s and early 1990s among InGen employees.
The lysine contingency was implemented sometime after Dr. Henry Wu came to work at InGen in 1986, and was a key factor in his promotion to the head of Genetics rather than Dr. Laura Sorkin. It was rendered useless by environmental conditions, and was completely reversed by Dr. Sorkin on Isla Nublar on June 12, 1993. It has not been discussed since Dr. Sarah Harding discovered that the dinosaurs were simply making use of environmentally-available lysine in 1997; there is currently no evidence that InGen enforced or developed any form of lysine contingency when they recommenced operations in late 1998. The bioethical debate surrounding the lysine contingency does, however, set the stage for the decades of ethical quandaries in genetic engineering and de-extinction that followed.
Lysine is one of the essential or indispensable amino acids, meaning it cannot be synthesized by the organism. In humans, there are nine such essential amino acids. In real life, lysine cannot be synthesized by any known animal; it is produced by plants, higher fungi, euglenids, and prokaryotic microorganisms. Thus, in reality, preventing the dinosaurs and other de-extinct animals from being able to produce lysine would be unlikely to have any effect, as all animals need to obtain lysine from dietary sources anyway. The fact that everyone at InGen believed the contingency would work (including Drs. Laura Sorkin and Henry Wu, both highly educated geneticists) suggests that the process was actually more complicated than commonly described to laypeople.
According to InGen technician Ray Arnold, the lysine contingency is the result of a single faulty enzyme in the animals’ protein metabolism pathways, which prevents them from manufacturing lysine. As a result, InGen needed to provide the animals with dietary lysine on a weekly basis. The amino acid was introduced to the dinosaurs’ food sources; for the herbivores, they would presumably have been fed naturally lysine-rich plants such as beans, while the carnivores would have been fed meat enriched with lysine.
In theory, if any animals escaped from InGen facilities and could not be recaptured, the lysine contingency would eliminate them. Without weekly dietary supplements, the animals would become comatose and die. The symptoms of lysine deficiency include weakened connective tissues, reduced fatty acid metabolism, anemia, and fatigue related to a lack of protein.
The primary proponents of the implementation of the lysine contingency were its architect Dr. Henry Wu and Jurassic Park warden Robert Muldoon. It was endorsed by InGen CEO John Hammond, but at the time of the incident, Hammond refused to allow the contingency to go into effect. All new InGen employees who worked on the Jurassic Park project signed agreements to endorse the use of the lysine contingency should it be put into effect, a policy which was intended to cut down on bioethical debate surrounding the failsafe.
Muldoon’s support of the lysine contingency was primarily in the interest of security. He believed that the potential danger posed by many of the dinosaurs was too great to permit their survival in the wild (or, in the case of Velociraptor antirrhopus, their existence in the first place). Likewise, veterinarian Dr. Gerry Harding agreed that the risk posed by carnivorous dinosaurs in particular was great enough that, should any escape into the wild, they could not be permitted to survive. His concerns extended to global ecology, suggesting that he considered the possibility of dozens of animals escaping to the mainland to be a real and serious threat.
In theory, ensuring that any escaped animals died within a short period of time would also reduce the chances of InGen’s competition obtaining living specimens and retroengineering the technology needed for de-extinction.
By far the biggest opponent of the lysine contingency was geneticist Dr. Laura Sorkin, who had worked at InGen prior to Dr. Wu and was a major critic of much of his work. Following the introduction and implementation of the contingency, Dr. Sorkin worked on engineering a method to replace the faulty enzyme. As of 1993, she had succeeded in her endeavor.
Dr. Sorkin’s argument against the use of the lysine contingency was rooted in animal rights. She described the contingency as “cruel and unnecessary,” and referred to it as a “kill switch.” In an argument that would be echoed by dinosaur-rights activists decades later, Dr. Sorkin claimed that cloned animals should have the same protection as those that existed naturally and therefore could not, within morality, be killed simply because they became inconvenient. Her arguments also extended to her research, as if her specimens were to be destroyed, she would have to start completely over and thus lose years of time and money.
In a rebuttal to Dr. Harding’s claims that escaped dinosaurs posed an existential threat to the global ecosystem, Dr. Sorkin stated that the dinosaurs were too few in number to drive any naturally extant species into extinction. Furthermore, the number of animals that could escape InGen’s island facilities to the nearest point of American mainland without human intervention was even lower than the number of de-extinct animals existing in the first place. Therefore, Dr. Harding’s concerns were an exaggeration, rather than being based in fact.
Ultimately, when the lysine contingency was proposed to be put into effect during the incident on Isla Nublar in 1993, John Hammond himself opposed it. Despite having signed off on it himself and enforcing its support among InGen employees, he referred to it as “out of the question” when it was suggested by Robert Muldoon. His opposition to the contingency was not explored at the time, so it is not certain what his objection was based on. It may have been out of a belief that the damage done to the Park at the time could be contained, or he may have believed that the time required for the contingency to take effect was too long; there were Park guests trapped in the paddock areas at the time, and they may not have had enough time to wait until all the threatening animals had become comatose.
Treatments, Cures, and Obsolescence
Following the implementation of the lysine contingency by Dr. Wu sometime in or after 1986, Dr. Laura Sorkin developed a treatment for the condition. This treatment involved a waterborne adenovirus, which would be used as a vehicle for targeted gene therapy (a process for which adenoviruses are commonly used by geneticists). Using either recombinant DNA or protein, the adenovirus would be ingested by animals drinking affected water and introduce the treatment directly into the animals’ cells. During the second day of the 1993 Isla Nublar incident, Dr. Sorkin was able to introduce the treatment into the water supply of northern Isla Nublar, from which point it was transported through the piping into the water supply for the entire island. As a result, the dinosaurs of Isla Nublar were cured.
According to Dr. Sorkin, the treatment had no effect on non-dinosaurian animals such as the island’s Pteranodons or the Tylosaurus. This was intentional, in order to reduce the number of natural species accidentally impacted by the treatment. She was considering developing species-specific cures to further reduce impact at the time of her death.
Environmental Sources of Lysine
In all animals, lysine is an essential amino acid that cannot be produced. As a result, it must be obtained from dietary sources. InGen did not appear to take this fact into account, and if any employees came to realize this, they did not correct their superiors’ oversight. Once in the wild, the animals easily located sources of lysine in their environments. Herbivorous animals fed on lysine-rich plants such as soy and agama beans, and carnivorous animals obtained lysine by eating the herbivores. This should have been regarded as a possibility by InGen much earlier than it was, but was apparently unknown until Dr. Sarah Harding recorded it in 1997.
Other environmental sources of lysine include other plants (particularly legumes and beans, but also some cereal grains), eggs, meat (beef, poultry, and pork are good sources), and especially fish. These food sources are fairly common in nature, and would have been readily available to the animals of both Isla Nublar and the Muertes Archipelago. Thus, even the pterosaurs that Dr. Sorkin was unable to cure would have been able to easily obtain dietary lysine in the form of the various fish found in Pacific Costa Rican waters.