BRYAN, Texas (KXAN) - It was only a movie.
So it couldn't really happen in real life.
Or could it?
Hollywood or not, history has proven a deadly pandemic, like the one at the focus of the 2011 movie "Contagion," is possible.
The Black Death epidemic -- also called bubonic plague -- killed 25 million people in Europe in just five years in the 14th century, while the Spanish Flu is blamed for killing as many as 100 million people in the early 1900s.
And, yes, it could happen again.
"We have major problems with vaccine production and manufacturing in our country," said Dr. Brett Giror, the vice chancellor of Strategic Initiatives at Texas A&M University.
"Vaccines we make are safe and effective, but they take too long to make and billions of dollars to manufacture."
The 2009 swine flu scare that shut down schools and businesses revealed some shortcomings in the way vaccines are produced and distributed.
"When the swine flu pandemic hit, everyone got the disease before a vaccine was even available," said Giror.
That is a gap Texas A&M is trying to help close with the Blue Angel program, a $65 million venture that started in February 2010.
The goal is to find a quicker, cheaper, more efficient way to make vaccines by turning over new leaves. Literally.
"The project is to demonstrate we can grow vaccines in plants , actual green plants, and do it at an industrial level that could supply the world with vaccines."
Unlike the vaccines derived from eggs, the Blue Angel program hopes to find new hope by going green.
That is why more than two million hydroponic plants sit below custom, purple, grow lights at the Caliber Biotherapeutics Manufacturing Facility in Bryan . The plants eventually end up in a lab where scientists look for a way to turn them into potentially live saving vaccines.
The program is funded predominantly by a federal agency that has always looked to the future.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency , or DARPA, is credited with innovations like NASA and the internet. Defending against a potentially deadly virus is an important defense strategy for them.
Especially if it is intentionally spread.
"Biology is the threat of the future," said Giror. "Terrorist groups like al Qaeda have sophisticated personnel who will never build an aircraft to fight the U.S. but could modify an existing bacteria or virus in a way that could be deadly to us."
A bio-terrorist attack would be more formidable and pose greater challenges than traditional terroristic threats.
But the best weapon to protect the country might be found in those tiny plants.
"One of the defenses is to develop any vaccine rapidly and effectively," said Giror. "If there were a threat, we want to be able to vaccinate the country quick enough to where there was no threat."
The freezing and near-freezing rain that swooped into Central Texas overnight prompted numerous school closings and delays and made for a harrowing morning commute on Friday.
A man is expected to survive after being stabbed in the head at the Salvation Army shelter in Downtown Austin at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
As the Austin area prepares itself for an impending winter storm on Friday, Dec. 6, many schools have already announced delays.
With freezing temperatures pushing through the region, heating systems will likely be working overtime, which can bring rising energy bills.
Investigators are looking into an overnight fire that left one woman with third-degree burns.
Caldwell County residents gathered Thursday evening to organize their fight against a proposed landfill that they say poses a hazard that they don't need.