Connie Muren

Connie Muren
Media
Image
A portrait of Connie Muren, dressed formally and looking at the camera.

Connie Muren in 2039.

Birth name

Constance Olivia Muren

Born

September 16th 1992 in Nottingham, Great Britain

Disappeared

March 4th 2040 between Düsseldorf and Berlin, Germany

Died

October 8th 2049 (aged 57) in Dharwad, India

Nationality

German (British-born)

Occupation

Neurologist

Known for

Discovering Cariappa-Muren disease (CMD)

Connie Muren (born September 16th 1992 - died October 8th 2049) was a British-born German neurologist, activist, and author whose celebrated research into prions led her to be instrumental in the discovery of Cariappa-Muren disease (CMD) in 2039.

Born in Nottingham, Muren moved to Germany in 2017 and became a research associate at the University of Düsseldorf, where she developed a new diagnosis method and immunotherapeutic treatment for both Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and its acquired variant, winning her team the 2034 Nobel Prize in Medicine.

In 2038, Muren was contacted by Sunil Cariappa about a novel prion agent being spread through Lassgard tuna, leading to the shared discovery of CMD. Under the auspices of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Muren became the public face of the international effort to stop the CMD pandemic.

In 2040, Muren went missing while travelling to a conference in Berlin. Despite several arrests and public appeals, Muren’s disappearance has remained unsolved, though many believe it was related to her activism. The case was closed in April 2040 with all charges dropped, and Muren was declared dead in absentia by her family in 2047.

In 2049, Muren’s body was recovered in Dharwad, India, with Matvey Kozlov identified as her killer and Efua Amankwah-Crouse in custody as a person of interest in Muren’s death and recent whereabouts. Interpol has reopened its investigation into Muren’s disappearance with the intent to prosecute it as a murder case.

Early life and education

Connie Muren was born Constance Olivia Muren on September 16th 1992 in Nottingham, Great Britain. Her mother was Hannah Tildesley, a sales manager, and her father was Richard Muren, an architect who died from an undiagnosed heart condition three months after she was born. In 1995, Tildesley married Anil Jagtap, whose influence and encouragement Muren credits with inspiring her love of science. [1]

The family moved to London City in 2006, where Muren qualified for her medical degree at UCLC Medical School in 2015 and earned a Master of Science in Clinical Neuroscience in 2016.

Activism

In 2016, Muren campaigned for the Remain camp of the Brexit referendum. When the Leave vote won out and negotiations regarding the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) went underway, Muren joined Open Britain, focusing her efforts on highlighting “the unabashed actions of successive Tory governments to privatise the National Health Service (NHS) by systematically stripping it of resources and staff under the guise of austerity and anti-immigration policies.”

On April 16th 2017, Jagtap was the victim of a racist assault while walking to their home in West Green, which resulted in a punctured dura mater and a paralysed right arm. He urged Tildesley to leave the UK and they emigrated to Düsseldorf, Germany on a residence permit. Muren was naturalised as a German citizen in 2023.

Muren continued her activism in Germany, taking part in pro-immigration rallies and offering treatment to migrants who had sustained injuries during demonstrations and police raids. On several occasions in 2017 and 2018, Muren travelled to Greece, where she offered medical aid in the refugee encampments and helped migrants cross the border with Macedonia. After Muren and other volunteers were detained by Greek police in November 2018, she reported that she had been beaten during her arrest. Muren has talked openly about being diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the event.

Research and career

Over the course of her career, Muren published over 150 articles and edited four books. She was also a sought-after peer reviewer. From 2018 to 2022, Muren worked at the University of Düsseldorf on replicating research on a possible new treatment for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD) involving targeted antibodies. [2] [3] Muren’s work eventually led to a breakthrough in long-term neuroprotection during preclinical trials with transgenic mice.

In 2023, Muren was offered to lead her own research group at the university’s Institute of Neuroscience. She started a clinical trial for the antibody treatment, setting up a long-term study over the next decade after initial delays due to difficulties in finding suitable candidates. In 2034, the antibody treatment was officially approved as a neuroprotector against CJD and vCJD, and made available as a prescription drug under the name daunocycline.

On October 3rd 2034, Muren’s research group was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine “for its discoveries concerning a novel diagnosis and treatment of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and its variant strain.” [4] Muren initially considered refusing the award because of her disregard for official honours and recent scandals surrounding several Nobel Committees, but ultimately decided to accept, citing Maryam Mirzakhani as an inspiration. [1]

In 2035, Muren accepted a position as Professor of Translational Neuroscience at the University of Düsseldorf. While her research group at the university’s Institute of Neuroscience was headed by Gerhard Kobl-Thissen after her departure, Muren continued to work with him on applying her findings to other neurodegenerative disorders that result from prion agents.

Discovery of CMD

Index case

In October 2038, Muren was asked to consult on the clinical case of Deng Yixing, an atypical patient of vCJD. Initially reluctant to travel to China for a medical appraisal, Muren accepted when the patient’s father, Deng Bowen, privately offered to “pay a hefty sum to bring in the foremost authority on prion diseases,” with Muren requesting that he make a donation to a refugee charity instead.

After arriving in China, Muren was puzzled by Deng’s case and clashed with Kobl-Thissen on establishing a diagnosis. A medical colloid had indicated the presence of infectious aggregates that closely matched the molecular structure of vCJD prions, but Deng’s young age was inconsistent with vCJD’s long incubation period and repeated doses of daunocycline had no apparent effect. When MRI of Deng’s brain revealed a lack of spongiosis, Muren initially assumed that Deng was suffering from a rare case of sporadic fatal insomnia (sFI), which similarly shows no brain spongiosis and acts on the same prion protein that is affected by vCJD.

This was ruled out when the exponential growth rate of the prion aggregates indicated that Deng’s symptomatic period would take approximately three months before onset of death, whereas sFI patients have an average survival time of eighteen months after becoming symptomatic. In addition, no insomnia was described and genetic testing revealed no markers for the development of sFI or any other known inherited prion diseases. When she returned to Düsseldorf, Muren co-authored an article with Kobl-Thissen and described Deng’s condition as a novel sporadic prion mutation with rapid progression. [5]

Shared discovery

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A photo of Sunil Cariappa looking off to the side, smiling slightly. He's wearing a suit and has a lanyard around his neck.

Sunil Cariappa, pictured in 2047.

In November 2038, Muren was contacted by Sunil Cariappa while she was anticipating the results of further genetic tests and a post-mortem examination following Deng’s death. Cariappa informed her of a possible outbreak of feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE) in domestic cats that he had documented after his own cat became infected.

Necropsies of the affected cats had shown an anomalous lack of spongiosis, which had brought Cariappa to Muren’s article on Deng’s case because it mentioned the same anomaly. Additionally, Cariappa had determined that the common link between all FSE-affected cats was their diet, which included Lassgard tuna.

While Muren had found no mention of tuna in Deng’s dietary records, she did uncover a 2034 livestream sponsored by Lassgard Bioteknik during which Deng had consumed large amounts of sushi made with Lassgard tuna, which explained the accelerated neurodegeneration in his case. After Deng died on November 29th 2038, the livestream was taken down by order of William Lassgard.

Muren and Cariappa began to communicate over video calls so they could confirm their find before raising any alarm. Cariappa suggested they contact Lassgard Bioteknik to request samples of their tuna stock, but Muren anticipated that the company would stonewall or close ranks. She reached out to Deng’s father and told him that, with his financial backing and a guarantee of secrecy, she could confirm a promising theory that might shed light on Deng’s death and the suspected existence of a more widespread foodborne outbreak. He agreed and arranged for Lassgard tuna from suppliers in East Asia, Europe, Africa, and the United States to be shipped to Düsseldorf.

With the cooperation of the University of Düsseldorf and members of her research group, Muren analysed brain samples of the delivered tuna and found that a significant proportion of the samples showed advanced amyloidosis, which was most likely the result of a prion infection. Although there was some debate regarding its origin, Muren and Cariappa jointly described the infection as piscine transmissible amyloidotic encephalopathy (PTAE).

WHO response

In January 2039, Muren sent a report on PTAE to the Global Foodborne Infections Network (GFN). She had asked to be involved in any decision-making process prompted by the report, but GFN officials prematurely contacted Lassgard Bioteknik about a possible contaminant in its tuna stock. Muren had criticised this move, as it signalled the start of the company’s harassment and disinformation campaign against the World Health Organisation (WHO). Consequently, the only response to the report was a notice against feeding tuna to pets in the WHO’s monthly Bulletin, with no mention made of Lassgard Bioteknik or the suspected biorisk to people. [6]

Muren publicly denounced the WHO for acquiescing to pressure from Lassgard Bioteknik, which resulted in the GFN assembling an Outbreak Control Team (OCT) in February 2039. Muren later stated that she considered this to be another way for the WHO to avoid having to take any proportional action, as an OCT is considerably limited in scope when compared to an official WHO investigation. The OCT was composed of only four members (Muren, Cariappa, and two food safety officers from the GFN), enjoyed little to no logistical support, and had to work out of facilities provided by the University of Düsseldorf.

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A portrait of William Lassgard, wearing a dark blue suit with red tie and looking to the left of the camera.

William Lassgard has been accused of personally ordering a harassment and disinformation campaign against Connie Muren.

On February 18th 2039, legal action was brought against the university when Lassgard Bioteknik uncovered the agreement Muren had made with Deng’s father, which the company’s lawyers cited as grounds for her immediate dismissal. The university’s president, Sam Humleker, came out in support of Muren, who was reappointed as head of her former research group so the OCT could benefit from more resources.

Muren proposed a study of PTAE’s transmission potential to humans, which involved the passage of infected brain material from Lassgard tuna to transgenic mice. This study was completed in July 2039 and conclusively demonstrated that PTAE could result in a clinical disease in humans with an infection vector analogous to that between bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and vCJD.

Muren described the newly discovered disease as acquired prionopathic neurodegeneration syndrome (APNS) and prepared a report for the WHO, which had been suffering a mounting image crisis due to repeated attacks from Lassgard Bioteknik and other Big Fish companies. [7] On July 20th 2039, the WHO’s Emergency Committee declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and widened the OCT’s scope, with Muren appointed as chair.

Muren felt uncomfortable with the increased visibility that accompanied her new role, which was magnified when APNS was described and issued to the media as Cariappa-Muren disease (CMD). Muren expressed her dismay at being overruled on the medical name she had chosen, with health communicators in the OCT believing that the eponymous name was easier to grasp, avoided confusion with PTAE, and put a human face on the team’s efforts. Muren dismissed this as “a branding exercise,” though later stated that she understood the decision.

Lassgard Bioteknik often seized on Muren’s attitude to claim there was a lack of scientific consensus in the OCT, with “premature and unfair” aim being taken at Lassgard tuna. While some internal debate regarding the specific origin of PTAE remained, there was no doubt that Lassgard tuna was the primary method by which it was spreading to humans.

Muren’s working theory on PTAE’s origin was based on a 2009 research study, which had demonstrated that fish infected with BSE could develop a neurodegenerative amyloidosis that was largely consistent with PTAE[8] She believed PTAE was a variant strain of BSE introduced to Lassgard tuna via the fish meal used during their farming cycle.

Muren was unable to confirm this theory, as Lassgard Bioteknik lawyers were actively fighting all attempts to subpoena the formula for this feed. In addition, the WHO’s campaign for a preventive ban of Lassgard tuna was met with little response from national food agencies due to lobbying efforts from the Aquaculture Advisory Council (AAC).

Breakthrough

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A portrait of Anse Daems, wearing a formal suit with turtleneck and smiling at the camera.

Anse Daems, pictured in 2038.

In October 2039, Muren was contacted by Anse Daems on behalf of World News Wire (WNW), which was reviewing a data cache of documents and correspondence Daems had received from a source inside Lassgard Bioteknik. Muren coordinated with the GFN to flag all files relevant to the farming process of Lassgard tuna and make them available to the OCT and fifteen other laboratories. The files revealed that Lassgard Bioteknik had been using waste material of bovine origin to feed its tuna stock, which corroborated Muren’s theory regarding the origin of PTAE.

Between October 10th and 19th 2039, Muren worked with Daems and WNW on editing and vetting a series of articles that would uncover Lassgard Bioteknik’s malpractice. In response, the WHO declared the outbreak of CMD a pandemic and issued a global alert on October 25th 2039. This granted Muren international media attention akin to celebrity status, which she described as “intense.”

In December 2039, Zhupao announced a partnership with the WHO to manufacture and supply medical colloids for the WHO’s contact tracing efforts to contain the CMD pandemic. Although Muren publicly endorsed the WHO strategy, she took aim at Zhupao for its patent enforcement on colloid technology.

Following a public backlash, Muren delegated her duties as OCT chair so she could return home and take care of Jagtap, who had fallen ill. After Jagtap’s death in February 2040, Muren returned to the University of Düsseldorf so she could further her analysis of CMD and PTAE. Her work ultimately laid the foundation for the WHO’s official report on the CMD pandemic, which was released on April 19th 2040 when the pandemic was declared contained.

Refusing to Fold

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A photo of Connie Muren and Anse Daems during their promotional tour for Refusing to Fold. They are both formally dressed and laughing.

Connie Muren (left) and Anse Daems (right) during their promotion of Refusing to Fold in 2040.

In November 2039, Daems approached Muren with the idea to expand the interviews they had conducted for the WNW articles into a book. Muren agreed because she trusted Daems to be truthful in providing a counternarrative to the disinformation that persisted around her role in identifying CMD. The book was completed two months later and published on February 7th 2040 under the title Refusing to Fold. It became an unexpected bestseller, with an estimated nine million copies sold in 132 languages.

In February 2040, Muren joined Daems on a digital book tour. When appearing on a livestream for the Lahore Literary Festival on February 25th 2040, Muren was asked how she felt about “having cured CMD with colloids.” In her answer, Muren lamented this misconception “being actively encouraged everywhere” and took aim at China’s announcement of mìngyùn and its integration of implantable medical devices (IMDs), which she condemned as “a way to turn temporary health measures into permanent fixtures of the surveillance state.”

A clip of Muren’s answer went viral following the livestream, amassing over 120 million views in twelve hours. Muren’s perceived criticism of mìngyùn ended up stalling talks between the WHO and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to allow the WHO to assess the CMD pandemic in mainland China. Muren was set to travel to Beijing alongside then-WHO Director-General Yang Jinglei, but the video’s popularity caused the CCP to withdraw Muren’s invitation.

On February 27th 2040, Muren cut short her participation in the book tour and issued a statement, explaining her concerns that the CCP was extending her an invitation for the sole purpose of legitimising the creation of mìngyùn. While Muren had discussed these and other concerns in private, she was under pressure from the WHO to refrain from voicing them in public, leading her to conclude that the WHO was similarly interested only in her name recognition.

Disappearance

On March 4th 2040, Muren was scheduled to deliver the opening keynote at the annual Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM) conference in Berlin. The theme of that year’s event was the threat of the neurocarceral state, and Muren’s public stance on G6 had prompted the organisers to ask her if she was willing to adapt her comments for the keynote.

Muren was booked on a ICE train from Düsseldorf to Berlin, which she boarded four minutes prior to its departure at 09:52 CET. When the train arrived in Berlin at 13:34 CET, she was no longer on it. An official investigation into Muren’s whereabouts was started on March 5th 2040 when Düsseldorf police found that she was not in her apartment, and all activity on her mobile phone and social media profiles had ceased after she boarded the train.

Analysis of video surveillance inside the train showed Muren’s assigned seat as empty after the intermediate stop in Bochum, though she was not seen disembarking there or at any of the other stops. All passengers on the train were summoned for questioning, but none recalled any unusual activity or having taken specific notice of Muren.

When the media picked up on Muren’s disappearance, an internet campaign under the tag FindConnie led to rampant speculation and countless unconfirmed sightings in multiple EU countries. Cariappa, who was identified as one of the last persons to speak to Muren, launched a personal appeal, offering crowdfunded rewards for any information that would lead to a break in the case.

On March 9th 2040, three Chinese nationals who were on Muren’s train claimed that they had been held for questioning much longer than other passengers, which led to rumours that Muren had been kidnapped or murdered by agents operating under orders from China in retaliation for her critical comments. CCP officials issued strong denials of any involvement, and German police stated that foul play was only one of the avenues being pursued.

Interpol took over the German investigation on March 13th 2040 and fielded three detectives to coordinate with German police. On April 15th 2040, the international search effort was called off with no compelling leads or results, with Interpol ruling Muren’s case as either an accident or a voluntary disappearance, including a possible suicide. All charges made during the investigation were dropped.

Since Muren’s disappearance occurred in circumstances that were not dangerous to her life and her death was uncertain, there was a seven-year waiting period before she could be declared legally dead. This request was lodged and approved by Muren’s family on March 4th 2047.

In April 2040, Daems expressed her dissatisfaction with the Interpol investigation, calling it “rushed” and claiming that Muren’s disappearance had been maliciously orchestrated as a result of her continued activism, though she did concede that a voluntary disappearance was also a possibility.

Death

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A still from a livestream issued by Efua Amankwah-Crouse, who is looking into the camera with a strained expression. Two bodies are seen behind her, one of them covered by a sheet and the other visible over Amankwah-Crouse's shoulder.

Still from a livestream issued by Efua Amankwah-Crouse in 2049, showing the bodies of Matvey Kozlov (left) and Connie Muren (right).

On October 8th 2049, Efua Amankwah-Crouse issued a livestream from an undisclosed location in Dharwad, India, showing that Muren had been murdered by a Russian man identified as Matvey Kozlov, and that Amankwah-Crouse had managed to kill Kozlov in self-defence.

Amankwah-Crouse provided no explanation for her presence in Dharwad or connection with Muren, mentioning only that Muren’s death, as well as her 2040 disappearance, were part of “an ongoing cover-up.” Local authorities have recovered Muren’s body from the scene and confirmed Amankwah-Crouse’s account of the event.

Interpol has reopened its investigation into Muren’s disappearance with the intent to coordinate it as a murder case in cooperation with German, Indian, and Russian authorities. [9]

Personal life

Muren was notoriously private about her personal life. She remained close to her parents and her half-brother, political philosopher Ekram Jagtap, born 1996. Muren considered Jagtap to be her father, never referring to him as her stepfather and stating that she “[celebrates] him with the life I’m living, and Richard with the name I’m attaching it to.” [1]

See also

References

  1. Daems, A. (February 2040). “Refusing to Fold.” Standaard Uitgeverij  
  2. White, A; Evener, P; Tayebi, M et al. (March 2003). “Monoclonal antibodies inhibit prion replication and delay the development of prion disease.” Nature
  3. Paramithiotis, E; Pinard, M; Lawton, T et al. (July 2003). “A prion protein epitope selective for the pathologically misfolded conformation.” Nature Medicine
  4. Nobel Foundation. (October 2034). “The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2034.” nobelprize.org
  5. Muren, C; Kobl-Thissen, G; Matthes, B et al. (November 2038). “A Novel Type 5 Sporadic Prion Mutation in Humans.” German Medical Journal
  6. World Health Organisation. (January 2039). “Increased cat mortality linked to tuna diets.” Bulletin of the World Health Organisation
  7. Cariappa, S; Muren, C. (July 2039). “Acquired Prionopathic Neurodegeneration Syndrome (APNS): Pathology, Transmission, and Epidemiology.” Bulletin of the World Health Organisation
  8. Salta, E; Panagiotidis, C; Konstantinos, E et al. (July 2009). “Evaluation of the Possible Transmission of BSE and Scrapie to Gilthead Sea Bream (Sparus aurata).” PLOS Biology
  9. Bauer, H. (October 2049). “Interpol reopens investigation into 2040 disappearance of Connie Muren.” Die Welt