Based on independent research by Helen Pendergast into John James Audubon's sudden creative flowering, the idea for the project was brought to Longitude by her brother, Judson Esterhazy—a friend and former student of Slade's. The project was centered on a mind-enhancement drug culled from a strain of avian flu, which Helen had discovered caused heightened awareness, enhanced creativity and cognitive function. Over time, however, the heightened sensitivity drove its sufferers insane as their brains were overwhelmed with sensory input.
Project Aves, while promising, quickly began draining Longitude of its financial reserves, even as the researchers began to cut corners and ignore safety protocols to save money. Eventually, the lax safety precautions resulted in the escape of one of the birds being used to culture and test the virus. The bird found its way to the nearby town of Sunflower, where it infected a family with the experimental avian flu.
Rather than issue a public warning about the escape and treat the family for the disease, however, Slade decided to simply observe the family's reaction to the virus, essentially sacrificing them to save millions in extensive experimental test protocols. When the family died, the project was officially shut down. Soon afterward, a fire destroyed the Project Aves laboratories, killing Slade and ultimately forcing the company into bankruptcy.
Known members of the Project Aves team were Charles Slade, Helen Pendergast, Judson Esterhazy, Senior Vice President of Science Dr. Gordon Groebel, epidemiologist Morris Blackletter, Slade's executive secretary June Brodie, chief of security Michael Ventura and legal counsel Denison Phillips.