This was a way for me to practice usin VDB's and manipulating attributes inside of Houdini using VEX. The ending with the red color going up and across the Helix is where the magic of this lies. It's connected directly to a shader's emission. You can see the subtlety in action closes to the camera. That was the only part I rendered using Mantra because I admittedly am still not comfortable enough using it to really get what I want. The rest was exported as Alembic files and imported into Max through the VrayProxy object and I used Vray to render. There is a slight SSS material on the main helix and good ol' plain self-illuminated material on the lights. I ended up comping the veins to dial in the look I wanted.
After the fact, I thought of an idea to make this cooler by adding the attributes that cause the emission to flicker. I'll save it for something else.
I have to thank Matt Estela and Johnny Farmfield for lots of help in the odforce forums. It's not so much that Houdini is difficult - but it's more learning where things are that you are used to, and just changing your way of thinking.