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FTR#1215 The Oswald Institute of Virology, Part 13: Douthat Agonistes and the Northwoods Virus

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­­­FTR #1215 This pro­gram was record­ed in one, 60-minute seg­ment.

Intro­duc­tion: This pro­gram sup­ple­ments our long series on “The Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.”

A pair of sto­ries in The Wall Street Jour­nal yield under­stand­ing of our media land­scape and the degree of pro­pa­gan­diz­ing of same.

Reportage about the WHO’s resump­tion of its inquiry into the ori­gins of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic has­n’t received much cov­er­age in the U.S.

What cov­er­age there has been has–predictably–focused on the “lack of transparency/cooperation” by Chi­na in the probe.

(We reit­er­ate that–at this point in time and some­time before–the Chi­nese response would have be gov­erned by the dis­ci­plines war­rant­ed by a wartime inves­ti­ga­tion of an ene­my attack. In this case, a U.S. bio­log­i­cal war­fare attack. Some­thing of a “bio-North­woods” oper­a­tion.)

A remark­able aspect of the Jour­nal’s cov­er­age con­cerns a devel­op­ment that has been almost com­plete­ly excised from the West­ern press: ” . . . . For months, China’s gov­ern­ment has insist­ed both in pub­lic, and in pri­vate meet­ings with Dr. Tedros, that stud­ies on the ori­gins of the virus should now focus on oth­er coun­tries, such as Italy, or on a U.S. mil­i­tary biore­search facil­i­ty in Fort Det­rick, Md. Dozens of gov­ern­ments aligned with Chi­na have sent Dr. Tedros let­ters in sup­port of Beijing’s posi­tion, a per­son famil­iar with the let­ters said. . . .”

“Dozens of gov­ern­ments?” Which ones? This sounds like a major inter­na­tion­al dialogue/scandal. 

WHY aren’t we hear­ing about it?

I think it affords us some per­spec­tive on just how care­ful­ly man­i­cured the pub­lic per­spec­tive is in this coun­try.

In anoth­er arti­cle in the same issue of the Jour­nal, it was not­ed that Jef­frey Sachs is dis­band­ing the sci­en­tif­ic pan­el he over­saw on behalf of the pres­ti­gious British med­ical jour­nal The Lancet, due to the pres­ence of Eco­Health Alliance chief Peter Daszak and sev­er­al oth­er mem­bers of the pan­el asso­ci­at­ed with the orga­ni­za­tion.

” . . . . Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Jef­frey Sachs said he has dis­band­ed a task force of sci­en­tists prob­ing the ori­gins of Covid-19 in favor of wider bio-safe­ty research. Dr. Sachs, chair­man of a Covid-19 com­mis­sion affil­i­at­ed with The Lancet sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals, said he closed the task force because he was con­cerned about its links to Eco­Health Alliance. . . . Eco­Health Alliance’s pres­i­dent, Peter Daszak, led the task force until recus­ing him­self from that role in June. Some oth­er mem­bers of the task force have col­lab­o­rat­ed with Dr. Daszak or Eco­Health Alliance on projects. . . . .”

Eco­Health Alliance has been heav­i­ly involved in coro­n­avirus research–including gain-of-func­tion work–at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. We have not­ed that the DARPA has been heav­i­ly involved with that cat­e­go­ry of research.

As not­ed in past pro­grams and dis­cus­sion, the Eco­Health Alliance is fund­ed pri­mar­i­ly by the Depart­ment of Defense and USAID, a State Depart­ment sub­sidiary that has often served as a cov­er for CIA oper­a­tions. One of the prin­ci­pal advis­ers of the orga­ni­za­tion is David Franz, the for­mer com­mand­ing offi­cer of Fort Det­rick.

Worth not­ing is that Jef­frey Sachs–an Amer­i­can eco­nom­ics professor–was tabbed to select those per­son­nel to serve on a pan­el of experts assem­bled under the aus­pices of The Lancet–a British med­ical jour­nal.

In addi­tion to his role advis­ing both Bernie Sanders and Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, Sachs head­ed the U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty con­sor­tium that advised Boris Yeltsin and, in the process, drove Rus­sia back to the stone age.

In Rus­sia, it is wide­ly believed that Sachs work for the CIA–a the­o­ry that is bol­stered by his piv­otal role in man­ag­ing the nar­ra­tive con­cern­ing the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic.

We have done many pro­grams under­scor­ing our work­ing hypoth­e­sis that Covid-19 is a bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon, devel­oped by the U.S. and deployed as part of the desta­bi­liza­tion pro­gram against Chi­na we have cov­ered since the fall of 2019.

(Some of those pro­grams are: FTR#‘s 1157, 1158, 1159, 1170 and FTR#‘s 1183 through 1193, inclu­sive.)

 Next, we high­light a heav­i­ly “spun” sto­ry about the Eco­Health Alliance and its involve­ment with Pen­ta­gon-linked research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es may well–when freed from the pre­dictably ide­ol­o­gized jour­nal­is­tic shad­ing to which it has been subjected–yield a “smok­ing genome” with regard to the SARS CoV‑2 virus caus­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic.

(The Inter­cept is the spawn of Pierre Omid­yar, deeply involved in the ascent of the Nazi OUN/B milieu in Ukraine and that of the Hin­dut­va fas­cist regime of Naren­dra Modi in India. He has part­nered with U.S. intel­li­gence cutouts such as the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy and USAID. Omid­yar’s pro­tege Glenn Green­wald is to be viewed with a jaun­diced eye as well.)

Key points of infor­ma­tion in the arti­cle:

  • ” . . . . Last month, a grant appli­ca­tion sub­mit­ted to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) revealed that an inter­na­tion­al team of sci­en­tists had planned to mix genet­ic data of sim­i­lar strains to cre­ate a new virus. The grant appli­ca­tion was made in 2018 . . . .”

  • ” . . . . The grant appli­ca­tion pro­pos­al was sub­mit­ted by British zool­o­gist Peter Daszak on behalf of a group, which includ­ed Daszak Eco­Health Alliance, the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and Duke NUS in Sin­ga­pore, The Tele­graph report­ed. . . .”
  • ” . . . . ‘We will com­pile sequence/RNAseq data from a pan­el of close­ly relat­ed strains and com­pare full length genomes, scan­ning for unique SNPs rep­re­sent­ing sequenc­ing errors. ‘Con­sen­sus can­di­date genomes will be syn­the­sised com­mer­cial­ly using estab­lished tech­niques and genome-length RNA and elec­tro­po­ra­tion to recov­er recom­bi­nant virus­es,’ the appli­ca­tion states. . . .”

  • ” . . . . The WHO expert told The Tele­graph that the process detailed in the appli­ca­tion would cre­ate ‘a new virus sequence, not a 100 per cent match to any­thing.’ ‘They would then syn­the­sise the viral genome from the com­put­er sequence, thus cre­at­ing a virus genome that did not exist in nature but looks nat­ur­al as it is the aver­age of nat­ur­al virus­es. ‘Then they put that RNA in a cell and recov­er the virus from it. ‘This cre­ates a virus that has nev­er exist­ed in nature, with a new ‘back­bone’ that did­n’t exist in nature but is very, very sim­i­lar as it’s the aver­age of nat­ur­al back­bones,’ the expert said. . . .”

  • ” . . . . Experts told the paper that cre­at­ing an ‘ide­al’ aver­age virus could have been part of work to cre­ate a vac­cine that works across coro­n­avirus­es. Last month, it emerged that the US had fund­ed sim­i­lar research to that out­lined in the 2018 grant pro­pos­al. . . .”

Key con­sid­er­a­tions in the con­text of which this sto­ry should be viewed:

  • DARPA has been exten­sive­ly involved in research­ing bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es in, and around Chi­na.
  • Note that the pro­pos­al to DARPA involved exten­sive dis­cus­sion of the genome of the virus to be syn­the­sized. Uti­liz­ing con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­o­gy, this would per­mit the syn­the­sis of the virus with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly approv­ing the pro­pos­al!
  • Note that the lat­est inno­va­tions in biotech­nol­o­gy per­mit: ” . . . . Advances in the area mean that sci­en­tists now have the capa­bil­i­ty to recre­ate dan­ger­ous virus­es from scratch; make harm­ful bac­te­ria more dead­ly; and mod­i­fy com­mon microbes so that they churn out lethal tox­ins once they enter the body. . . .”
  • Those inno­va­tions also per­mit: ” . . . . In the report, the sci­en­tists describe how syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, which gives researchers pre­ci­sion tools to manip­u­late liv­ing organ­isms, ‘enhances and expands’ oppor­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate bioweapons. . . .”
  • Those inno­va­tions also per­mit: ” . . . . Today, the genet­ic code of almost any mam­malian virus can be found online and syn­the­sized. ‘The tech­nol­o­gy to do this is avail­able now,’ said [Michael] Impe­ri­ale. ‘It requires some exper­tise, but it’s some­thing that’s rel­a­tive­ly easy to do, and that is why it tops the list.’ . . .”
  • The chief fund­ing sources for the Eco­Health Alliance are the Pen­ta­gon and USAID, a State Depart­ment sub­sidiary that com­mon­ly serves as a cov­er for CIA. 
  • One of Peter Dasza­k’s chief advis­ers is David Franz, the for­mer com­mand­ing offi­cer of Fort Det­rick.
  • In FTR#1191, we not­ed that pro­duc­ing a vac­cine for an exist­ing bio­log­i­cal weapon or one under advanced devel­op­ment might well be seen as an “offen­sive” bio­log­i­cal war­fare maneu­ver.
  • This arti­cle, like many oth­ers, fea­tures com­men­tary from Richard Ebright to the effect that the WIV did, in fact, syn­the­size the virus. Ebright had a long asso­ci­a­tion with the Howard Hugh­es Med­ical Insti­tute, the for­mer own­er of the Hugh­es Air­craft Com­pa­ny, a firm with pro­found nation­al secu­ri­ty con­nec­tions. It is more than a lit­tle inter­est­ing that Ebright, like almost all of the oth­er com­menters quot­ed in the U.S., does not fac­tor in the inno­va­tions in biotech­nol­o­gy high­light­ed above.
  • Of inter­est, as well, is this pas­sage: ” . . . . Experts told the paper that cre­at­ing an ‘ide­al’ aver­age virus could have been part of work to cre­ate a vac­cine that works across coro­n­avirus­es. Last month, it emerged that the US had fund­ed sim­i­lar research to that out­lined in the 2018 grant pro­pos­al. . . .”
  • The Pen­ta­gon has, indeed, been work­ing on such a vac­cine” . . . . The ser­vice is clos­ing in on a ‘pan-coro­n­avirus’ vac­cine and on syn­thet­ic anti­bod­ies that could pro­tect a pop­u­la­tion before spread. . . .”

Pom­peo State Depart­ment offi­cials pur­su­ing the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis were told to cov­er it up lest it shed light on U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of research at the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy!”: ” . . . . In one State Depart­ment meet­ing, offi­cials seek­ing to demand trans­paren­cy from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment say they were explic­it­ly told by col­leagues not to explore the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virology’s gain-of-func­tion research, because it would bring unwel­come atten­tion to U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of it. . . . In an inter­nal memo obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, Thomas DiNan­no, for­mer act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and Com­pli­ance, wrote that. . .  staff from two bureaus . . . ‘warned’ lead­ers with­in his bureau ‘not to pur­sue an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of COVID-19’ because it would ‘open a can of worms’ if it con­tin­ued.’ . . . . As the group probed the lab-leak sce­nario, among oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties, its mem­bers were repeat­ed­ly advised not to open a ‘Pandora’s box,’ said four for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cials inter­viewed by Van­i­ty Fair. . . .”

New York Times right-wing colum­nist Ross Douthat has high­light­ed the pro­pa­gan­da sig­nif­i­cance of pin­ning the “Lab Leak The­o­ry” on Chi­na.

In an iron­ic tragedy wor­thy of Aeschy­lus, Douthat has been strug­gling with Lyme Dis­ease, and has suf­fered great­ly in his attempts to nav­i­gate the Lyme Dis­ease treat­ment labyrinth. We have done many pro­grams on Lyme Dis­ease and its devel­op­ment as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon.

Inter­viewed by an indie film­mak­er named Tim Grey, Willy Burgdor­fer dis­cussed the devel­op­ment of Lyme Dis­ease as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon. It was Burgdor­fer who “dis­cov­ered” the spiro­chete that caused Lyme Dis­ease in 1982. As we will see lat­er, it appears that more than one organ­ism is involved with Lyme Dis­ease.

  1. ” . . . . Willy paused, then replied, ‘Ques­tion: Has [sic] Bor­re­lia Burgdor­feri have the poten­tial for bio­log­i­cal war­fare?’ As tears welled up in Willy’s eyes, he con­tin­ued, ‘Look­ing at the data, it already has. If the organ­ism stays with­in the sys­tem, you won’t even rec­og­nize what it is. In your lifes­pan, it can explode . . . We eval­u­at­ed. You nev­er deal with that [as a sci­en­tist]. You can sleep bet­ter.’ . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Lat­er in the video, Grey cir­cled back to this top­ic and asked, ‘If there’s an emer­gence of a brand-new epi­dem­ic that has the tenets of all of those things that you put togeth­er, do you feel respon­si­ble for that?’ ‘Yeah. . . .’ ”
  3. ” . . . . Grey asked him the one ques­tion, the only ques­tion, he real­ly cared about: ‘Was the pathogen that you found in the tick that Allen Steere [the Lyme out­break inves­ti­ga­tor] gave you the same pathogen or sim­i­lar, or a gen­er­a­tional muta­tion, of the one you pub­lished in the paper . . . the paper from 1952?’ ”
  4. ” . . . . The left side of his mouth briefly curled up, as if he is think­ing, ‘Oh, well.’ Then anger flash­es across his face. ‘Yah,’ he said, more in Ger­man than Eng­lish. . . .”
  5. ” . . . . It was a stun­ning admis­sion from one of the world’s fore­most author­i­ties on Lyme dis­ease. If it was true, it meant that Willy had left out essen­tial data from his sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles on the Lyme dis­ease out­break, and that as the dis­ease spread like a wild­fire in the North­east and Great Lakes regions of the Unit­ed States, he was part of the cov­er-up of the truth. . . It had been cre­at­ed in a mil­i­tary bioweapons lab for the spe­cif­ic pur­pose of harm­ing human beings. . . . ”

Next, we present dis­cus­sion of Ms. New­by’s expose of the insti­tu­tion­al­ly and finan­cial­ly inces­tu­ous rela­tion­ship between bureau­crat­ic and cor­po­rate enti­ties that both reg­u­late, and prof­it from, Lyme Dis­ease. Key “experts” involved with diag­nos­ing and treat­ing the afflic­tion run inter­fer­ence for the sta­tus quo.

Legal and reg­u­la­to­ry rul­ings have enabled the patent­ing of liv­ing organ­isms and that has exac­er­bat­ed the mon­e­tiz­ing of Lyme Dis­ease treat­ment. That mon­e­ti­za­tion, in turn, has adverse­ly affect­ed the qual­i­ty of care for afflict­ed patients. ” . . . . All of a sud­den, the insti­tu­tions that were sup­posed to be pro­tec­tors of pub­lic health became busi­ness part­ners with Big Phar­ma. The uni­ver­si­ty researchers who had pre­vi­ous­ly shared infor­ma­tion on dan­ger­ous emerg­ing dis­eases were now delay­ing pub­lish­ing their find­ings so they could become entre­pre­neurs and prof­it from patents through their uni­ver­si­ty tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer groups. We essen­tial­ly lost our sys­tem of sci­en­tif­ic checks and bal­ances. And this, in turn, has under­mined patient trust in the insti­tu­tions that are sup­posed to ‘do no harm.’ . . .”

Strik­ing­ly, a FOIA suit she filed was stonewalled for five years, before final­ly yield­ing the doc­u­ments she had so long sought.

The “experts” and their agen­da were neat­ly, and alarm­ing­ly, summed up by Ms. New­by:

” . . . . The emails revealed a dis­turb­ing pic­ture of a nonof­fi­cial group of gov­ern­ment employ­ees and guide­lines authors that had been set­ting the nation­al Lyme dis­ease research agen­da with­out pub­lic over­sight or trans­paren­cy. . . . Bot­tom line, the guide­lines authors reg­u­lar­ly con­vened in gov­ern­ment-fund­ed, closed-door meet­ings with hid­den agen­das that lined the pock­ets of aca­d­e­m­ic researchers with sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial inter­ests in Lyme dis­ease tests and vac­cines. A large per­cent­age of gov­ern­ment grants were award­ed to the guide­line authors and/or researchers in their labs. Part of the group’s stat­ed mis­sion, culled from these FOIA emails, was to run a covert ‘dis­in­for­ma­tion war’ and a ‘sociopo­lit­i­cal offen­sive’ to dis­cred­it Lyme patients, physi­cians, and jour­nal­ists who ques­tioned the group’s research and motives. In the FOIA-obtained emails, Lyme patients and their treat­ing physi­cians were called ‘loonies’ and ‘quacks’ by Lyme guide­lines authors and NIH employ­ees. . . .”

We con­clude with review of  a chill­ing set of provo­ca­tions that were planned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the ear­ly 1960s. Although they were not for­mal­ly insti­tut­ed at that time, Mr. Emory believes the sce­nar­ios dis­cussed below have been adapt­ed to the mod­ern, high-tech­nol­o­gy avail­able to bio­log­i­cal war­fare prac­ti­tion­ers and insti­tut­ed as the Covid-19 “op.”

1a. A pair of sto­ries in The Wall Street Jour­nal yield under­stand­ing of our media land­scape and the degree of pro­pa­gan­diz­ing of same.

Reportage about the WHO’s resump­tion of its inquiry into the ori­gins of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic has­n’t received much cov­er­age in the U.S.

What cov­er­age there has been has–predictably–focused on the “lack of transparency/cooperation” by Chi­na in the probe.

(We reit­er­ate that–at this point in time and some­time before–the Chi­nese response would have be gov­erned by the dis­ci­plines war­rant­ed by a wartime inves­ti­ga­tion of an ene­my attack. In this case, a U.S. bio­log­i­cal war­fare attack. Some­thing of a “bio-North­woods” oper­a­tion.)

A remark­able aspect of the Jour­nal’s cov­er­age con­cerns a devel­op­ment that has been almost com­plete­ly excised from the West­ern press: ” . . . . For months, China’s gov­ern­ment has insist­ed both in pub­lic, and in pri­vate meet­ings with Dr. Tedros, that stud­ies on the ori­gins of the virus should now focus on oth­er coun­tries, such as Italy, or on a U.S. mil­i­tary biore­search facil­i­ty in Fort Det­rick, Md. Dozens of gov­ern­ments aligned with Chi­na have sent Dr. Tedros let­ters in sup­port of Beijing’s posi­tion, a per­son famil­iar with the let­ters said. . . .”

“Dozens of gov­ern­ments?” Which ones? This sounds like a major inter­na­tion­al dialogue/scandal. 

WHY aren’t we hear­ing about it?

I think it affords us some per­spec­tive on just how care­ful­ly man­i­cured the pub­lic per­spec­tive is in this coun­try.

In anoth­er arti­cle in the same issue of the Jour­nal, it was not­ed that Jef­frey Sachs is dis­band­ing the sci­en­tif­ic pan­el he over­saw on behalf of the pres­ti­gious British med­ical jour­nal The Lancet, due to the pres­ence of Eco­Health Alliance chief Peter Daszak and sev­er­al oth­er mem­bers of the pan­el asso­ci­at­ed with the orga­ni­za­tion.

” . . . . Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Jef­frey Sachs said he has dis­band­ed a task force of sci­en­tists prob­ing the ori­gins of Covid-19 in favor of wider bio-safe­ty research. Dr. Sachs, chair­man of a Covid-19 com­mis­sion affil­i­at­ed with The Lancet sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals, said he closed the task force because he was con­cerned about its links to Eco­Health Alliance. . . . Eco­Health Alliance’s pres­i­dent, Peter Daszak, led the task force until recus­ing him­self from that role in June. Some oth­er mem­bers of the task force have col­lab­o­rat­ed with Dr. Daszak or Eco­Health Alliance on projects. . . . .”

Eco­Health Alliance has been heav­i­ly involved in coro­n­avirus research–including gain-of-func­tion work–at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. We have not­ed that the DARPA has been heav­i­ly involved with that cat­e­go­ry of research.

As not­ed in past pro­grams and dis­cus­sion, the Eco­Health Alliance is fund­ed pri­mar­i­ly by the Depart­ment of Defense and USAID, a State Depart­ment sub­sidiary that has often served as a cov­er for CIA oper­a­tions. One of the prin­ci­pal advis­ers of the orga­ni­za­tion is David Franz, the for­mer com­mand­ing offi­cer of Fort Det­rick.

Worth not­ing is that Jef­frey Sachs–an Amer­i­can eco­nom­ics professor–was tabbed to select those per­son­nel to serve on a pan­el of experts assem­bled under the aus­pices of The Lancet–a British med­ical jour­nal.

In addi­tion to his role advis­ing both Bernie Sanders and Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez, Sachs head­ed the U.S. gov­ern­ment-fund­ed Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty con­sor­tium that advised Boris Yeltsin and, in the process, drove Rus­sia back to the stone age.

In Rus­sia, it is wide­ly believed that Sachs work for the CIA–a the­o­ry that is bol­stered by his piv­otal role in man­ag­ing the nar­ra­tive con­cern­ing the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic.

We have done many pro­grams under­scor­ing our work­ing hypoth­e­sis that Covid-19 is a bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon, devel­oped by the U.S. and deployed as part of the desta­bi­liza­tion pro­gram against Chi­na we have cov­ered since the fall of 2019.

(Some of those pro­grams are: FTR#‘s 1157, 1158, 1159, 1170 and FTR#‘s 1183 through 1193, inclu­sive.)

“WHO to Resume Covid-19 Ori­gin Probe” by Drew Hin­shaw and Bet­sy McK­ay; The Wall Street Jour­nal;  9/27/2021; P. A6.

The World Health Orga­ni­za­tion is reviv­ing its stalled inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the Covid-19 virus as agency offi­cials warn that time is run­ning out to deter­mine how the pan­dem­ic that has killed more than 4.7 mil­lion world­wide began. . . .

. . . . Biden admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials, includ­ing Sec­re­tary of State Antho­ny Blinken, have pressed WHO Direc­tor-Gen­er­al Tedros Ghe­breye­sus pub­licly and pri­vate­ly to renew the inquiry, which is like­ly to include at least one Amer­i­can. . . .

. . . . In a press con­fer­ence in August, WHO offi­cials said they were aware of new stud­ies being con­duct­ed in Chi­na, but weren’t informed about the specifics. It isn’t clear if those stud­ies will be made avail­able to the new team.

For months, China’s gov­ern­ment has insist­ed both in pub­lic, and in pri­vate meet­ings with Dr. Tedros, that stud­ies on the ori­gins of the virus should now focus on oth­er coun­tries, such as Italy, or on a U.S. mil­i­tary biore­search facil­i­ty in Fort Det­rick, Md. Dozens of gov­ern­ments aligned with Chi­na have sent Dr. Tedros let­ters in sup­port of Beijing’s posi­tion, a per­son famil­iar with the let­ters said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Army Med­ical Research Insti­tutes of Infec­tious Dis­eases didn’t respond to requests for com­ment. Few, if any, sci­en­tists out­side Chi­na see the mil­i­tary base as a plau­si­ble ground zero for the pan­dem­ic. Dr. Tedros has resist­ed the idea of inves­ti­gat­ing Fort Det­rick, a per­son with knowl­edge of those con­ver­sa­tions said. . . .

 1b“Sci­en­tists’ Pan­el on Virus Dis­bands” by Bet­sy Mck­ay; The Wall Street Jour­nal;  9/27/2021; P. A6.

NB: A much longer ver­sion of this sto­ry appears in the online edi­tion of WSJ. The text below was in a small, “box” sto­ry along­side the sto­ry above.

Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor Jef­frey Sachs said he has dis­band­ed a task force of sci­en­tists prob­ing the ori­gins of Covid-19 in favor of wider bio-safe­ty research.

Dr. Sachs, chair­man of a Covid-19 com­mis­sion affil­i­at­ed with The Lancet sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals, said he closed the task force because he was con­cerned about its links to Eco­Health Alliance. The New York-based non-prof­it has been under scruti­ny from some sci­en­tists, mem­bers of Con­gress and oth­er offi­cials since 2020 for using U.S. funds for stud­ies on bat coro­n­avirus­es with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, a research facil­i­ty in the Chi­nese city where the first Covid-19 out­break occurred.

Eco­Health Alliance’s pres­i­dent, Peter Daszak, led the task force until recus­ing him­self from that role in June. Some oth­er mem­bers of the task force have col­lab­o­rat­ed with Dr. Daszak or Eco­Health Alliance on projects.

“I just didn’t want a task force that was so clear­ly involved with one of the main issues of this whole search for the ori­gins, which was Eco­Health Alliance,” Dr. Sachs said.

1c.  A heav­i­ly “spun” sto­ry about the Eco­Health Alliance and its involve­ment with Pen­ta­gon-linked research into bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es may well–when freed from the pre­dictably ide­ol­o­gized jour­nal­is­tic shad­ing to which it has been subjected–yield a “smok­ing genome” with regard to the SARS CoV‑2 virus caus­ing the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic.

(The Inter­cept is the spawn of Pierre Omid­yar, deeply involved in the ascent of the Nazi OUN/B milieu in Ukraine and that of the Hin­dut­va fas­cist regime of Naren­dra Modi in India. He has part­nered with U.S. intel­li­gence cutouts such as the Nation­al Endow­ment for Democ­ra­cy and USAID. Omid­yar’s pro­tege Glenn Green­wald is to be viewed with a jaun­diced eye as well.)

Key points of infor­ma­tion in the arti­cle:

  • ” . . . . Last month, a grant appli­ca­tion sub­mit­ted to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) revealed that an inter­na­tion­al team of sci­en­tists had planned to mix genet­ic data of sim­i­lar strains to cre­ate a new virus. The grant appli­ca­tion was made in 2018 . . . .”

  • ” . . . . The grant appli­ca­tion pro­pos­al was sub­mit­ted by British zool­o­gist Peter Daszak on behalf of a group, which includ­ed Daszak Eco­Health Alliance, the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and Duke NUS in Sin­ga­pore, The Tele­graph report­ed. . . .”
  • ” . . . . ‘We will com­pile sequence/RNAseq data from a pan­el of close­ly relat­ed strains and com­pare full length genomes, scan­ning for unique SNPs rep­re­sent­ing sequenc­ing errors. ‘Con­sen­sus can­di­date genomes will be syn­the­sised com­mer­cial­ly using estab­lished tech­niques and genome-length RNA and elec­tro­po­ra­tion to recov­er recom­bi­nant virus­es,’ the appli­ca­tion states. . . .”

  • ” . . . . The WHO expert told The Tele­graph that the process detailed in the appli­ca­tion would cre­ate ‘a new virus sequence, not a 100 per cent match to any­thing.’ ‘They would then syn­the­sise the viral genome from the com­put­er sequence, thus cre­at­ing a virus genome that did not exist in nature but looks nat­ur­al as it is the aver­age of nat­ur­al virus­es. ‘Then they put that RNA in a cell and recov­er the virus from it. ‘This cre­ates a virus that has nev­er exist­ed in nature, with a new ‘back­bone’ that did­n’t exist in nature but is very, very sim­i­lar as it’s the aver­age of nat­ur­al back­bones,’ the expert said. . . .”

  • ” . . . . Experts told the paper that cre­at­ing an ‘ide­al’ aver­age virus could have been part of work to cre­ate a vac­cine that works across coro­n­avirus­es. Last month, it emerged that the US had fund­ed sim­i­lar research to that out­lined in the 2018 grant pro­pos­al. . . .”

Key con­sid­er­a­tions in the con­text of which this sto­ry should be viewed:

  • DARPA has been exten­sive­ly involved in research­ing bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es in, and around Chi­na.
  • Note that the pro­pos­al to DARPA involved exten­sive dis­cus­sion of the genome of the virus to be syn­the­sized. Uti­liz­ing con­tem­po­rary tech­nol­o­gy, this would per­mit the syn­the­sis of the virus with­out nec­es­sar­i­ly approv­ing the pro­pos­al!
  • Note that the lat­est inno­va­tions in biotech­nol­o­gy per­mit: ” . . . . Advances in the area mean that sci­en­tists now have the capa­bil­i­ty to recre­ate dan­ger­ous virus­es from scratch; make harm­ful bac­te­ria more dead­ly; and mod­i­fy com­mon microbes so that they churn out lethal tox­ins once they enter the body. . . .”
  • Those inno­va­tions also per­mit: ” . . . . In the report, the sci­en­tists describe how syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, which gives researchers pre­ci­sion tools to manip­u­late liv­ing organ­isms, ‘enhances and expands’ oppor­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate bioweapons. . . .”
  • Those inno­va­tions also per­mit: ” . . . . Today, the genet­ic code of almost any mam­malian virus can be found online and syn­the­sized. ‘The tech­nol­o­gy to do this is avail­able now,’ said [Michael] Impe­ri­ale. ‘It requires some exper­tise, but it’s some­thing that’s rel­a­tive­ly easy to do, and that is why it tops the list.’ . . .”
  • The chief fund­ing sources for the Eco­Health Alliance are the Pen­ta­gon and USAID, a State Depart­ment sub­sidiary that com­mon­ly serves as a cov­er for CIA. 
  • One of Peter Dasza­k’s chief advis­ers is David Franz, the for­mer com­mand­ing offi­cer of Fort Det­rick.
  • In FTR#1191, we not­ed that pro­duc­ing a vac­cine for an exist­ing bio­log­i­cal weapon or one under advanced devel­op­ment might well be seen as an “offen­sive” bio­log­i­cal war­fare maneu­ver.
  • This arti­cle, like many oth­ers, fea­tures com­men­tary from Richard Ebright to the effect that the WIV did, in fact, syn­the­size the virus. Ebright had a long asso­ci­a­tion with the Howard Hugh­es Med­ical Insti­tute, the for­mer own­er of the Hugh­es Air­craft Com­pa­ny, a firm with pro­found nation­al secu­ri­ty con­nec­tions. It is more than a lit­tle inter­est­ing that Ebright, like almost all of the oth­er com­menters quot­ed in the U.S., does not fac­tor in the inno­va­tions in biotech­nol­o­gy high­light­ed above.
  • Of inter­est, as well, is this pas­sage: ” . . . . Experts told the paper that cre­at­ing an ‘ide­al’ aver­age virus could have been part of work to cre­ate a vac­cine that works across coro­n­avirus­es. Last month, it emerged that the US had fund­ed sim­i­lar research to that out­lined in the 2018 grant pro­pos­al. . . .”
  • The Pen­ta­gon has, indeed, been work­ing on such a vac­cine” . . . . The ser­vice is clos­ing in on a ‘pan-coro­n­avirus’ vac­cine and on syn­thet­ic anti­bod­ies that could pro­tect a pop­u­la­tion before spread. . . .”

“Wuhan sci­en­tists and US researchers planned to cre­ate a new coro­n­avirus in 2018: Con­sor­tium led by Brit Peter Daszak asked DARPA to fund research at lab in city where Covid pan­dem­ic began” by Char­lotte Mitchell; Dai­ly Mail [UK]; 10/05/2021.

US and Chi­nese sci­en­tists were plan­ning to cre­ate a new coro­n­avirus before the pan­dem­ic erupt­ed, leaked pro­pos­als show. 

Last month, a grant appli­ca­tion sub­mit­ted to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) revealed that an inter­na­tion­al team of sci­en­tists had planned to mix genet­ic data of sim­i­lar strains to cre­ate a new virus.

The grant appli­ca­tion was made in 2018 and leaked to Dras­tic, the pan­dem­ic ori­gins analy­sis group. 

‘We will com­pile sequence/RNAseq data from a pan­el of close­ly relat­ed strains and com­pare full length genomes, scan­ning for unique SNPs rep­re­sent­ing sequenc­ing errors.

‘Con­sen­sus can­di­date genomes will be syn­the­sised com­mer­cial­ly using estab­lished tech­niques and genome-length RNA and elec­tro­po­ra­tion to recov­er recom­bi­nant virus­es,’ the appli­ca­tion states.

This would result in a virus which had no clear ances­tor in nature, a World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) expert told The Tele­graph.

The expert, who asked the paper not to pub­lish their name, said that, if such a method had been car­ried out, it could explain why no close match has ever been found in nature for Sars-CoV­‑2.

The clos­est nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring virus is the Banal-52 strain, report­ed in Laos last month. It shares 96.8 per cent of Covid-19’s genome. 

No direct ances­tor, which would be expect­ed share around 99.98 per cent, has been found so far. 

The WHO expert told The Tele­graph that the process detailed in the appli­ca­tion would cre­ate ‘a new virus sequence, not a 100 per cent match to any­thing.’

‘They would then syn­the­sise the viral genome from the com­put­er sequence, thus cre­at­ing a virus genome that did not exist in nature but looks nat­ur­al as it is the aver­age of nat­ur­al virus­es.

‘Then they put that RNA in a cell and recov­er the virus from it. 

‘This cre­ates a virus that has nev­er exist­ed in nature, with a new ‘back­bone’ that did­n’t exist in nature but is very, very sim­i­lar as it’s the aver­age of nat­ur­al back­bones,’ the expert said.

The pro­pos­al was reject­ed and the data­base of viral strains at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy was tak­en offline some 18 months lat­er, mak­ing it impos­si­ble to check what sci­en­tists there were work­ing on.

The insti­tute’s sci­en­tists have con­sis­tent­ly denied cre­at­ing the coro­n­avirus in their lab.

The grant appli­ca­tion pro­pos­al was sub­mit­ted by British zool­o­gist Peter Daszak on behalf of a group, which includ­ed Daszak Eco­Health Alliance, the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na and Duke NUS in Sin­ga­pore, The Tele­graph report­ed. 

Experts told the paper that cre­at­ing an ‘ide­al’ aver­age virus could have been part of work to cre­ate a vac­cine that works across coro­n­avirus­es. 

Last month, it emerged that the US had fund­ed sim­i­lar research to that out­lined in the 2018 grant pro­pos­al. 

Files obtained by The Inter­cept as part of an FOI request to drill down the pos­si­ble root of COVID and whether the US had any role in it showed that in 2014, the Nation­al Health Insti­tute (NIH) approved a five-year, year­ly grant of $666,000 a year for five years ($3.3million) for Eco­Health Alliance, a US research orga­ni­za­tion, into bat coro­n­avirus

Eco­Health Alliance, in its pro­pos­al to the NIH, acknowl­edged the risks involved were ‘the high­est risk of expo­sure to SARS or oth­er CoVs’ among staff, who could then car­ry it out of the lab.

The NIH gave them the mon­ey any­way — some­thing Dr Antho­ny Fau­ci was pre­vi­ous­ly forced to admit when tes­ti­fy­ing before Con­gress in May this year. Eco­Health Alliance then gave $599,000 of the mon­ey to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.

At the time and repeat­ed­ly since, Fau­ci has denied that the research con­sti­tut­ed what’s known as ‘gain-of-func­tion’ research. 

Gain-of-func­tion research is the sci­en­tif­ic term giv­en to research that delib­er­ate­ly changes an organ­ism to make give it new func­tions in order to test a the­o­ry. 

When applies to study­ing human virus­es, it can mean mak­ing the virus more trans­mis­si­ble and or even dead­ly in order to test what can and can’t sur­vive it. 

‘The doc­u­ments make it clear that asser­tions by the NIH Direc­tor, Fran­cis Collins, and the NIAID Direc­tor, Antho­ny Fau­ci, that the NIH did not sup­port gain-of-func­tion research or poten­tial pan­dem­ic pathogen enhance­ment at WIV are untruth­ful,’ Richard Ebright, a mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist at Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty, tweet­ed. 

Ebright stud­ied the papers and alleged that the sci­en­tists per­formed ‘the con­struc­tion — in Wuhan — of nov­el chimeric SARS-relat­ed coro­n­avirus­es that com­bined a spike gene from one coro­n­avirus with genet­ic infor­ma­tion from anoth­er coro­n­avirus and con­firmed the result­ing virus­es could infect human cells’. 

2. Pom­peo State Depart­ment offi­cials pur­su­ing the lab-leak hypoth­e­sis were told to cov­er it up lest it shed light on U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of research at the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy!”: ” . . . . In one State Depart­ment meet­ing, offi­cials seek­ing to demand trans­paren­cy from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment say they were explic­it­ly told by col­leagues not to explore the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virology’s gain-of-func­tion research, because it would bring unwel­come atten­tion to U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of it. . . . .In an inter­nal memo obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, Thomas DiNan­no, for­mer act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and Com­pli­ance, wrote that. . .  staff from two bureaus . . . ‘warned’ lead­ers with­in his bureau ‘not to pur­sue an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of COVID-19’ because it would ‘open a can of worms’ if it con­tin­ued.’ . . . . As the group probed the lab-leak sce­nario, among oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties, its mem­bers were repeat­ed­ly advised not to open a ‘Pandora’s box,’ said four for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cials inter­viewed by Van­i­ty Fair. . . .”

“The Lab-Leak The­o­ry: Inside the Fight to Uncov­er Covid-19’s Ori­gins” by Kather­ine Eban; Van­i­ty Fair; 6/3/2021.

. . . . A months long Van­i­ty Fair inves­ti­ga­tion, inter­views with more than 40 peo­ple, and a review of hun­dreds of pages of U.S. gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments, includ­ing inter­nal mem­os, meet­ing min­utes, and email cor­re­spon­dence, found that con­flicts of inter­est, stem­ming in part from large gov­ern­ment grants sup­port­ing con­tro­ver­sial virol­o­gy research, ham­pered the U.S. inves­ti­ga­tion into COVID-19’s ori­gin at every step.In one State Depart­ment meet­ing, offi­cials seek­ing to demand trans­paren­cy from the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment say they were explic­it­ly told by col­leagues not to explore the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virology’s gain-of-func­tion research, because it would bring unwel­come atten­tion to U.S. gov­ern­ment fund­ing of it.

In an inter­nal memo obtained by Van­i­ty Fair, Thomas DiNan­no, for­mer act­ing assis­tant sec­re­tary of the State Department’s Bureau of Arms Con­trol, Ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and Com­pli­ance, wrote that staff from two bureaus, his own and the Bureau of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, “warned” lead­ers with­in his bureau “not to pur­sue an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gin of COVID-19” because it would “‘open a can of worms’ if it con­tin­ued.” . . . . 

. . . . But for most of the past year, the lab-leak sce­nario was treat­ed not sim­ply as unlike­ly or even inac­cu­rate but as moral­ly out-of-bounds. In late March, for­mer Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol direc­tor Robert Red­field received death threats from fel­low sci­en­tists after telling CNN that he believed COVID-19 had orig­i­nat­ed in a lab. . . . 

. . . . In the words of David Fei­th, for­mer deputy assis­tant sec­re­tary of state in the East Asia bureau, “The sto­ry of why parts of the U.S. gov­ern­ment were not as curi­ous as many of us think they should have been is a huge­ly impor­tant one.” . . . .

. . . . As offi­cials at the meet­ing dis­cussed what they could share with the pub­lic, they were advised by Christo­pher Park, the direc­tor of the State Department’s Bio­log­i­cal Pol­i­cy Staff in the Bureau of Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty and Non­pro­lif­er­a­tion, not to say any­thing that would point to the U.S. government’s own role in gain-of-func­tion research, accord­ing to doc­u­men­ta­tion of the meet­ing obtained by Van­i­ty Fair.

Only two oth­er labs in the world, in Galve­ston, Texas and Chapel Hill, North Car­oli­na, were doing sim­i­lar research. “It’s not a dozen cities,” Dr. Richard Ebright said. “It’s three places.” 

Some of the atten­dees were “absolute­ly floored,” said an offi­cial famil­iar with the pro­ceed­ings. That some­one in the U.S. gov­ern­ment could “make an argu­ment that is so naked­ly against trans­paren­cy, in light of the unfold­ing cat­a­stro­phe, was…shocking and dis­turb­ing.”

Park, who in 2017 had been involved in lift­ing a U.S. gov­ern­ment mora­to­ri­um on fund­ing for gain-of-func­tion research, was not the only offi­cial to warn the State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors against dig­ging in sen­si­tive places. As the group probed the lab-leak sce­nario, among oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties, its mem­bers were repeat­ed­ly advised not to open a “Pandora’s box,” said four for­mer State Depart­ment offi­cials inter­viewed by Van­i­ty Fair. The admo­ni­tions “smelled like a cov­er-up,” said Thomas DiNan­no, “and I wasn’t going to be part of it.” . . . . 

3. New York Times right-wing colum­nist Ross Douthat has high­light­ed the pro­pa­gan­da sig­nif­i­cance of pin­ning the “Lab Leak The­o­ry” on Chi­na:

“Why The Lab-Leak The­o­ry Mat­ters” by Ross Douthat; The New York Times; 5/29/2021.

. . . . But if we could find out the truth, and it turned out that the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy real­ly was the epi­cen­ter of a once-in-a-cen­tu­ry pan­dem­ic, the rev­e­la­tion would itself be a major polit­i­cal and sci­en­tif­ic event.

First, to the extent that the Unit­ed States is engaged in a con­flict of pro­pa­gan­da and soft pow­er with the regime in Bei­jing, there’s a pret­ty big dif­fer­ence between a world where the Chi­nese regime can say, We weren’t respon­si­ble for Covid but we crushed the virus and the West did not, because we’re strong and they’re deca­dent, and a world where this was basi­cal­ly their Cher­nobyl except their incom­pe­tence and cov­er-up sick­ened not just one of their own cities but also the entire globe. . . .

4. In an iron­ic tragedy wor­thy of Aeschy­lus, Douthat has been strug­gling with Lyme Dis­ease, and has suf­fered great­ly in his attempts to nav­i­gate the Lyme Dis­ease treat­ment labyrinth. We have done many pro­grams on Lyme Dis­ease and its devel­op­ment as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon.

“How I became a Sci­ence Exper­i­ment” by Ross Douthat; The New York Times; 10/30/2021.

. . . . That is part of what hap­pened to me, in the months and then years after the sud­den sum­mer-of-2015 descent into insom­nia, dis­in­te­gra­tion and blaz­ing pain that I wrote about last week­end. In that sum­mer I expe­ri­enced a trun­cat­ed form of what many peo­ple with chron­ic ill­ness expe­ri­ence over many, many years: not a med­ical sys­tem that offers answers that the patients then bull­head­ed­ly reject, but a sys­tem full of well-mean­ing doc­tors who offer you exact­ly noth­ing — no diag­no­sis what­so­ev­er, just a lot of mur­murs about stress and mys­tery when the blood tests come back neg­a­tive and a sug­ges­tion that you sim­ply wait and hope the pain some­how goes away.

In my case, and I was for­tu­nate, this changed when we moved from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to Con­necti­cut. Soon I began see­ing doc­tors who rec­og­nized my strange sit­u­a­tion as a like­ly case of Lyme dis­ease . . . .

5.  Inter­viewed by an indie film­mak­er named Tim Grey, Willy Burgdor­fer dis­cussed the devel­op­ment of Lyme Dis­ease as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare weapon. It was Burgdor­fer who “dis­cov­ered” the spiro­chete that caused Lyme Dis­ease in 1982. As we will see lat­er, it appears that more than one organ­ism is involved with Lyme Dis­ease.

  1. ” . . . . Willy paused, then replied, ‘Ques­tion: Has [sic] Bor­re­lia Burgdor­feri have the poten­tial for bio­log­i­cal war­fare?’ As tears welled up in Willy’s eyes, he con­tin­ued, ‘Look­ing at the data, it already has. If the organ­ism stays with­in the sys­tem, you won’t even rec­og­nize what it is. In your lifes­pan, it can explode . . . We eval­u­at­ed. You nev­er deal with that [as a sci­en­tist]. You can sleep bet­ter.’ . . .”
  2. ” . . . . Lat­er in the video, Grey cir­cled back to this top­ic and asked, ‘If there’s an emer­gence of a brand-new epi­dem­ic that has the tenets of all of those things that you put togeth­er, do you feel respon­si­ble for that?’ ‘Yeah. . . .’ ”
  3. ” . . . . Grey asked him the one ques­tion, the only ques­tion, he real­ly cared about: ‘Was the pathogen that you found in the tick that Allen Steere [the Lyme out­break inves­ti­ga­tor] gave you the same pathogen or sim­i­lar, or a gen­er­a­tional muta­tion, of the one you pub­lished in the paper . . . the paper from 1952?’ ”
  4. ” . . . . The left side of his mouth briefly curled up, as if he is think­ing, ‘Oh, well.’ Then anger flash­es across his face. ‘Yah,’ he said, more in Ger­man than Eng­lish. . . .”
  5. ” . . . . It was a stun­ning admis­sion from one of the world’s fore­most author­i­ties on Lyme dis­ease. If it was true, it meant that Willy had left out essen­tial data from his sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles on the Lyme dis­ease out­break, and that as the dis­ease spread like a wild­fire in the North­east and Great Lakes regions of the Unit­ed States, he was part of the cov­er-up of the truth. . . It had been cre­at­ed in a mil­i­tary bioweapons lab for the spe­cif­ic pur­pose of harm­ing human beings. . . . ”

Bit­ten: The Secret His­to­ry of Lyme Dis­ease and Bio­log­i­cal Weapons by Kris New­by; Harper­Collins [HC]; Copy­right 2019 by Kris New­by; ISBN 9780062896728; pp. 100–101.

. . . . “Let’s take your sci­en­tif­ic work, stud­ies that I have dis­cov­ered that were pub­lished in 1952 and 1956,” Grey said. “One being the inten­tion­al infect­ing of ticks. The sec­ond being the recom­bi­na­tion of four dif­fer­ent pathogens, two being spiro­chetal and two being viral. From a sim­ple pro­ce­dur­al stand­point, I think it’s safe to assume that the pur­pose of those stud­ies, at the height of the Cold War, on the heels of World War II, was to ensure that we were able to keep up with the rest of the world from a bio­log­i­cal war­fare stand­point . . . . Did you ques­tion that?”

Willy paused, then replied, “Ques­tion: Has [sic] Bor­re­lia Burgdor­feri have the poten­tial for bio­log­i­cal war­fare?” As tears welled up in Willy’s eyes, he con­tin­ued, “Look­ing at the data, it already has. If the organ­ism stays with­in the sys­tem, you won’t even rec­og­nize what it is. In your lifes­pan, it can explode . . . We eval­u­at­ed. You nev­er deal with that [as a sci­en­tist]. You can sleep bet­ter.”

Lat­er in the video, Grey cir­cled back to this top­ic and asked, “If there’s an emer­gence of a brand-new epi­dem­ic that has the tenets of all of those things that you put togeth­er, do you feel respon­si­ble for that?”

“Yeah. It sounds like through­out the thir­ty-eight years, I may have . . . The [lab] direc­tor tele­phoned me, ‘This is direc­tor so and so. I got some­body here from the FBI. Will you come down and we will ask a few ques­tions?’ Exact­ly the same thing. I recall all these dis­cus­sions,” Willy said.

Final­ly, after three hours and four­teen min­utes, Grey asked him the one ques­tion, the only ques­tion, he real­ly cared about: “Was the pathogen that you found in the tick that Allen Steere [the Lyme out­break inves­ti­ga­tor] gave you the same pathogen or sim­i­lar, or a gen­er­a­tional muta­tion, of the one you pub­lished in the paper . . . the paper from 1952?”

In response, Willy crossed his arms defen­sive­ly, took a deep breath, and stared into the cam­era for forty-three seconds—an eter­ni­ty. Then he looked away, down and to the right; he appeared to be work­ing through an inter­nal debate. The left side of his mouth briefly curled up, as if he is think­ing, “Oh, well.” Then anger flash­es across his face. “Yah,” he said, more in Ger­man than Eng­lish.

It was a stun­ning admis­sion from one of the world’s fore­most author­i­ties on Lyme dis­ease. If it was true, it meant that Willy had left out essen­tial data from his sci­en­tif­ic arti­cles on the Lyme dis­ease out­break, and that as the dis­ease spread like a wild­fire in the North­east and Great Lakes regions of the Unit­ed States, he was part of the cov­er-up of the truth. He seemed to be say­ing that Lyme wasn’t a nat­u­ral­ly occur­ring germ, one that may have got­ten loose and been spread by glob­al warm­ing, an explo­sion of deer, and oth­er envi­ron­men­tal changes. It had been cre­at­ed in a mil­i­tary bioweapons lab for the spe­cif­ic pur­pose of harm­ing human beings. . . .

6a. Next, we present dis­cus­sion of Ms. New­by’s expose of the insti­tu­tion­al­ly and finan­cial­ly inces­tu­ous rela­tion­ship between bureau­crat­ic and cor­po­rate enti­ties that both reg­u­late, and prof­it from, Lyme Dis­ease. Key “experts” involved with diag­nos­ing and treat­ing the afflic­tion run inter­fer­ence for the sta­tus quo.

Legal and reg­u­la­to­ry rul­ings have enabled the patent­ing of liv­ing organ­isms and that has exac­er­bat­ed the mon­e­tiz­ing of Lyme Dis­ease treat­ment. That mon­e­ti­za­tion, in turn, has adverse­ly affect­ed the qual­i­ty of care for afflict­ed patients. ” . . . . All of a sud­den, the insti­tu­tions that were sup­posed to be pro­tec­tors of pub­lic health became busi­ness part­ners with Big Phar­ma. The uni­ver­si­ty researchers who had pre­vi­ous­ly shared infor­ma­tion on dan­ger­ous emerg­ing dis­eases were now delay­ing pub­lish­ing their find­ings so they could become entre­pre­neurs and prof­it from patents through their uni­ver­si­ty tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer groups. We essen­tial­ly lost our sys­tem of sci­en­tif­ic checks and bal­ances. And this, in turn, has under­mined patient trust in the insti­tu­tions that are sup­posed to ‘do no harm.’ . . .”

Strik­ing­ly, a FOIA suit she filed was stonewalled for five years, before final­ly yield­ing the doc­u­ments she had so long sought.

The “experts” and their agen­da were neat­ly, and alarm­ing­ly, summed up by Ms. New­by:

” . . . . The emails revealed a dis­turb­ing pic­ture of a nonof­fi­cial group of gov­ern­ment employ­ees and guide­lines authors that had been set­ting the nation­al Lyme dis­ease research agen­da with­out pub­lic over­sight or trans­paren­cy. . . . Bot­tom line, the guide­lines authors reg­u­lar­ly con­vened in gov­ern­ment-fund­ed, closed-door meet­ings with hid­den agen­das that lined the pock­ets of aca­d­e­m­ic researchers with sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial inter­ests in Lyme dis­ease tests and vac­cines. A large per­cent­age of gov­ern­ment grants were award­ed to the guide­line authors and/or researchers in their labs. Part of the group’s stat­ed mis­sion, culled from these FOIA emails, was to run a covert ‘dis­in­for­ma­tion war’ and a ‘sociopo­lit­i­cal offen­sive’ to dis­cred­it Lyme patients, physi­cians, and jour­nal­ists who ques­tioned the group’s research and motives. In the FOIA-obtained emails, Lyme patients and their treat­ing physi­cians were called ‘loonies’ and ‘quacks’ by Lyme guide­lines authors and NIH employ­ees. . . .”

Bit­ten: The Secret His­to­ry of Lyme Dis­ease and Bio­log­i­cal Weapons by Kris New­by; Harper­Collins [HC]; Copy­right 2019 by Kris New­by; ISBN 9780062896728; pp. 229–230.

. . . . Think­ing back on my research for the Lyme doc­u­men­tary Under Our Skin, I con­clud­ed that there was much more mon­ey at stake with Lyme Dis­ease. It was the first major new dis­ease dis­cov­ered after the Bayh-Dole Act and the Dia­mond v. Chakrabar­ty Supreme Court deci­sion made it pos­si­ble for the NIH, the CDC, and uni­ver­si­ties to patent and prof­it from “own­er­ship” of live organ­isms. When the causative organ­ism behind Lyme dis­ease was announced, some­thing akin to the Okla­homa Land Rush of 1889 began, as sci­en­tists with­in these insti­tu­tions began furi­ous­ly fil­ing patents on the sur­face pro­teins and DNA of the Lyme spiro­chete, hop­ing to prof­it from future vac­cines and diag­nos­tic tests that used these markers–for exam­ple, an NIH employ­ee who patents a bac­te­r­i­al sur­face pro­tein used in a com­mer­cial test kit or a vac­cine could receive up to $150,000 in roy­al­ty pay­ments a year, an amount that might dou­ble his or her annu­al salary. All of a sud­den, the insti­tu­tions that were sup­posed to be pro­tec­tors of pub­lic health became busi­ness part­ners with Big Phar­ma. The uni­ver­si­ty researchers who had pre­vi­ous­ly shared infor­ma­tion on dan­ger­ous emerg­ing dis­eases were now delay­ing pub­lish­ing their find­ings so they could become entre­pre­neurs and prof­it from patents through their uni­ver­si­ty tech­nol­o­gy trans­fer groups. We essen­tial­ly lost our sys­tem of sci­en­tif­ic checks and bal­ances. And this, in turn, has under­mined patient trust in the insti­tu­tions that are sup­posed to “do no harm.”

With Lyme dis­ease, there’s no prof­it incen­tive for proac­tive­ly treat­ing some­one with a few weeks of inex­pen­sive, off-patent antibi­otics. It’s the patentable vac­cines and manda­to­ry tests-before-treat­ment that bring in the steady rev­enues year after year. . . . 

6b. Bit­ten: The Secret His­to­ry of Lyme Dis­ease and Bio­log­i­cal Weapons by Kris New­by; Harper­Collins [HC]; Copy­right 2019 by Kris New­by; ISBN 9780062896728; pp. 121–124.

. . . . In the IDSA [Infec­tious Dis­eases Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca] guide­lines, chron­ic Lyme isn’t clas­si­fied as an ongo­ing, per­sis­tent infec­tion; it’s con­sid­ered either an autoim­mune syn­drome (in which a body’s immune sys­tem attacks itself) or a psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tion caused by “the aches and pains of dai­ly liv­ing” or “pri­or trau­mat­ic psy­cho­log­i­cal events.” These guide­lines were often used by med­ical insur­ers to deny treat­ment, and many of its authors are paid con­sult­ing fees to tes­ti­fy as expert wit­ness­es in these insur­ance cas­es. In some states, the guide­line rec­om­men­da­tions take on the force of law, so that Lyme physi­cians who prac­tice out­side them are at risk of los­ing their med­ical licens­es.

The pro­tes­tors were angry because, as part of a 2008 antitrust set­tle­ment brought by Con­necti­cut attor­ney gen­er­al Richard Blu­men­thal (now a sen­a­tor), the IDSA guide­lines were sup­posed to appoint an expert pan­el with­out bias­es or con­flicts to do a re-review of the guide­lines. In the set­tle­ment press release, Blu­men­thal had writ­ten, “My office uncov­ered undis­closed finan­cial inter­ests held by sev­er­al of the most pow­er­ful IDSA pan­elists. The IDSA’s guide­line pan­el improp­er­ly ignored or min­i­mized con­sid­er­a­tion of alter­na­tive med­ical opin­ion and evi­dence regard­ing chron­ic Lyme dis­ease, poten­tial­ly rais­ing seri­ous ques­tions about whether the rec­om­men­da­tions reflect­ed all rel­e­vant sci­ence.”

In response, the IDSA lead­er­ship select­ed a review pan­el of doc­tors and sci­en­tists, and they deter­mined that “No changes or revi­sions to the 2006 Lyme guide­lines are nec­es­sary at this time.”

Lor­raine John­son, JD, MBA, the chief exec­u­tive offi­cer of LymeDisease.org, and a cham­pi­on of the IDSA antitrust suit, main­tains that the review pan­el was stacked with like-mind­ed cronies of the orig­i­nal guide­lines’ authors and was there­fore biased. She cites the recent arti­cle by research qual­i­ty expert and Stan­ford pro­fes­sor John Ioan­ni­dis, MD, DSc, who rec­om­mends that “Pro­fes­sion­al soci­eties should con­sid­er dis­en­tan­gling their spe­cial­ists from guide­lines and dis­ease def­i­n­i­tions and lis­ten to what more impar­tial stake­hold­ers think about their prac­tices.”

Today, in 2019, these con­tro­ver­sial guide­lines and dis­put­ed tests are still influ­enc­ing Lyme patient care.

Peo­ple often ask me why the IDSA and CDC would sup­port the prob­lem­at­ic two-tier Lyme test. Dur­ing my doc­u­men­tary research, I tried to get an answer to this ques­tion with a Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act (FOIA) request that solicit­ed emails between three CDC employ­ees and the IDSA guide­lines authors. For five years the CDC strung me along with friv­o­lous denials, unex­plained delays, and false promis­es. In essence, the delays became an ille­gal, off-the-books FOIA denial. Some delays were attrib­uted to under­staffing, year-end dead­lines, and CDC per­son­nel out for vaca­tion. At one point, my unan­swered calls were blamed on a phone “dead zone” in the CDC’s new FOIA office. After the Lyme doc­u­men­tary Under Our Skin was released, I decid­ed to dou­ble-down on my efforts to dis­lodge the FOIA request. My con­gressper­son sent sev­er­al let­ters to the CDC. The direc­tor of the doc­u­men­tary wrote a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma. The FOIA ombuds­man in the Office of Gov­ern­ment Infor­ma­tion Ser­vices repeat­ed­ly pres­sured the CDC to ful­fill my request. I pub­lished blog posts about my plight and enlist­ed the sup­port of a num­ber of orga­ni­za­tions ded­i­cat­ed to ensur­ing gov­ern­ment trans­paren­cy. Final­ly, the CDC sent three-thou­sand-plus FOIA pages, and I then under­stood its moti­va­tion for hav­ing delayed their release.

The emails revealed a dis­turb­ing pic­ture of a nonof­fi­cial group of gov­ern­ment employ­ees and guide­lines authors that had been set­ting the nation­al Lyme dis­ease research agen­da with­out pub­lic over­sight or trans­paren­cy. Inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Mary Beth Pfeif­fer of the Pough­keep­sie Jour­nal was giv­en access to these emails, and on May 20, 2013. She pub­lished an expose on this group’s abuse of pow­er.

Bot­tom line, the guide­lines authors reg­u­lar­ly con­vened in gov­ern­ment-fund­ed, closed-door meet­ings with hid­den agen­das that lined the pock­ets of aca­d­e­m­ic researchers with sig­nif­i­cant com­mer­cial inter­ests in Lyme dis­ease tests and vac­cines. A large per­cent­age of gov­ern­ment grants were award­ed to the guide­line authors and/or researchers in their labs.

Part of the group’s stat­ed mis­sion, culled from these FOIA emails, was to run a covert “dis­in­for­ma­tion war” and a “sociopo­lit­i­cal offen­sive” to dis­cred­it Lyme patients, physi­cians, and jour­nal­ists who ques­tioned the group’s research and motives. In the FOIA-obtained emails, Lyme patients and their treat­ing physi­cians were called “loonies” and “quacks’ by Lyme guide­lines authors and NIH employ­ees.

Because my FOIA request end­ed up tak­ing five years to process, Under Our Skin had been made and released with­out answer­ing an impor­tant ques­tion: Were the gov­ern­ment offi­cials respon­si­ble for man­ag­ing Lyme dis­ease health pol­i­cy being inap­pro­pri­ate­ly influ­enced by out­side com­mer­cial inter­ests?

Through my FOIA request, I found that a major­i­ty of the authors of the 2006 IDSA Lyme diag­no­sis and treat­ment guide­lines held direct or indi­rect com­mer­cial inter­ests relat­ed to Lyme dis­ease. By defin­ing the dis­ease and endors­ing tests or vac­cines for which they were patent hold­ers, they and their insti­tu­tions made more mon­ey.

Yet, now Willy’s con­fes­sion had added anoth­er poten­tial dimen­sion to the sto­ry, anoth­er rea­son for the CDC to be under­count­ing Lyme cases—maybe gov­ern­ment offi­cials knew that some­thing else, a pathogen in addi­tion to Bor­re­lia, pos­si­bly a bio-weapon, was caus­ing the prob­lems, and they want­ed to keep a lid on it. . . .

7. We con­clude with review of  a chill­ing set of provo­ca­tions that were planned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the ear­ly 1960s. Although they were not for­mal­ly insti­tut­ed at that time, Mr. Emory believes the sce­nar­ios dis­cussed below have been adapt­ed to the mod­ern, high-tech­nol­o­gy avail­able to bio­log­i­cal war­fare prac­ti­tion­ers and insti­tut­ed as the Covid-19 “op.”

Body of Secrets by James Bam­ford; Copy­right 2002 [SC]; Anchor Books [Ran­dom House]; ISBN 0–385-49907–8; pp. 82–85.

. . . . Although no one in Con­gress could have known it at the time, [Lyman] Lem­nitzer and the Joint Chiefs had qui­et­ly slipped over the edge. Accord­ing to secret and long-hid­den doc­u­ments obtained for Body of Secrets, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most cor­rupt plan ever cre­at­ed by the U.S. gov­ern­ment. In the name of anti­com­mu­nism, they pro­posed launch­ing a secret and bloody war of ter­ror­ism against their own coun­try in order to trick the Amer­i­can pub­lic into sup­port­ing an ill-con­ceived war they intend­ed to launch against Cuba. 

Code­named Oper­a­tion North­woods, the plan, which had the writ­ten approval of the Chair­man and every mem­ber of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for inno­cent peo­ple to be shot on Amer­i­can streets; for boats car­ry­ing refugees flee­ing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of vio­lent ter­ror­ism to be launched in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Mia­mi, and else­where. Peo­ple would be framed for bomb­ings they did not com­mit; planes would be hijacked. Using pho­ny evi­dence, all of it would be blamed on Cas­tro, thus giv­ing Lem­nitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the pub­lic and inter­na­tion­al back­ing, they need­ed to launch their war.  . . . .

. . . . Oper­a­tion North­woods called for a war in which many patri­ot­ic Amer­i­cans and inno­cent Cubans would die sense­less deaths-all to sat­is­fy the egos of twist­ed gen­er­als back in Wash­ing­ton, safe in their tax-pay­er-financed homes and lim­ou­sines. . . . 

. . . . The sug­gest­ed oper­a­tions grew pro­gres­sive­ly more out­ra­geous. Anoth­er called for an action sim­i­lar to the infa­mous inci­dent in Feb­ru­ary 1898 when an explo­sion aboard the bat­tle­ship Maine in Havana har­bor killed 266 U.S. sailors. Although the exact cause of the explo­sion remained unde­ter­mined, it sparked the Span­ish-Amer­i­can War with Cuba. Incit­ed by the dead­ly blast, more than one mil­lion men vol­un­teered for duty. Lem­nitzer and his gen­er­als came up with a sim­i­lar plan. ‘We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guan­tanamo Bay and blame Cuba,’ they pro­posed; ‘casu­al­ty lists in U.S. news­pa­pers would cause a help­ful wave of nation­al indig­na­tion.’ . . . .

. . . . There seemed no lim­it to their fanati­cism.: ‘We could devel­op a Com­mu­nist Cuban ter­ror cam­paign in the Mia­mi area, in oth­er Flori­da cities and even in Wash­ing­ton,’ they wrote. ‘The ter­ror cam­paign could be point­ed at Cuban refugees seek­ing haven in the Unit­ed States . . . We could sink a boat­load of Cubans en route to Flori­da (real or sim­u­lat­ed) . . . We could fos­ter attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the Unit­ed States even to the extent of wound­ing in instances to be wide­ly pub­li­cized.’ . . . . 

. . . . Bomb­ings were pro­posed, false arrests, hijack­ings: ‘Explod­ing a few plas­tic bombs in care­ful­ly cho­sen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of pre­pared doc­u­ments sub­stan­ti­at­ing Cuban involve­ment also would be help­ful in pro­ject­ing the idea of an irre­spon­si­ble gov­ern­ment.’. . . 

. . . . ‘Advan­tage can be tak­en of the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the Domini­can [Repub­lic] Air Force to intru­sions with­in their nation­al air space. ‘Cuban’ B‑26 or C‑46 type air­craft could make cane-burn­ing raids at night. Sovi­et bloc incen­di­aries could be found. This could be cou­pled with ‘Cuban’ mes­sages to the Com­mu­nist under­ground in the Domini­can Repub­lic and ‘Cuban’ ship­ments of arms which would be found, or inter­cept­ed, on the beach. Use of MIG type air­craft by U.S. pilots could pro­vide addi­tion­al provo­ca­tion.’ . . . . 

. . . . ‘Hijack­ing attempts against civ­il air and sur­face craft could appear to con­tin­ue as harass­ing mea­sures con­doned by the Gov­ern­ment of Cuba.’ Among the most elab­o­rate schemes was to ‘cre­ate an inci­dent which will demon­strate con­vinc­ing­ly that a Cuban air­craft has attacked and shot down a char­tered civ­il air­lin­er en route from the Unit­ed States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Pana­ma or Venezuela. The des­ti­na­tion would be cho­sen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The pas­sen­gers could be a group of col­lege stu­dents off on a hol­i­day or any group­ing of per­sons with a com­mon inter­est to sup­port char­ter­ing a non-sched­uled flight.’. . . 

 

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR#1215 The Oswald Institute of Virology, Part 13: Douthat Agonistes and the Northwoods Virus”

  1. This next arti­cle shows that our good friend, Dr. Ralph Bar­ic was involved in cur­rent research that can even­tu­al­ly pro­vide a med­ical that can treat COVID-19 and muta­tions.  Any relat­ed anti­body treat­ment would be used to address a pan­dem­ic and for stock­piles. This would give the Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies oppor­tu­ni­ties for more prof­itable drugs to address COVID-19 world­wide.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-10182893/Scientists-discover-antibody-protect-people-against-coronaviruses.html

    Sci­en­tists dis­cov­er an anti­body that can pro­tect peo­ple against sev­er­al coro­n­avirus­es

    By MANSUR SHAHEEN U.S. DEPUTY HEALTH EDITOR FOR DAILYMAIL.COM PUBLISHED: 13:49 EST, 9 Novem­ber 2021 | UPDATED: 08:49 EST, 10 Novem­ber 2021

    Sci­en­tists have iden­ti­fied an anti­body that can pro­tect peo­ple from COVID-19, its vari­ants and oth­er types of coro­n­avirus­es. 

    The anti­body, DH1047, works by bind­ing to the virus’s cells and neu­tral­iz­ing them, pre­vent­ing them from repli­cat­ing. 

    It is effec­tive at both pre­vent­ing infec­tion and at help­ing treat a per­son that has already con­tract­ed Covid. 

    The research team at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na — Chapel Hill (UNC) and Duke Uni­ver­si­ty, in Durham, says it believes it has found a key piece that can help com­bat the cur­rent pan­dem­ic and future virus out­breaks.  

    Pho­to Cap­tion: Researchers have dis­cov­ered an anti­body that is not only just effec­tive against Covid, but against all types of coro­n­avirus­es that could have future out­breaks among humans. Pic­tured: A micro­scope image of a COVID-19 infect­ed cell

    Graph­ic Dis­play:  The anti­body, DH1047, showed the abil­i­ty to 100% neu­tral­ize the virus cells of COVID-19, SARS and oth­er coro­n­avirus­es that are found in ani­mals

    Graph­ic Dis­play: For com­par­i­son, two oth­er anti­bod­ies the researchers test­ed were found to be effec­tive against some, but not all, types of the coro­n­avirus that can infect both ani­mals and humans. The anti­body DH1235 (left) was found to be effec­tive against some virus­es, while DH1073 (right) was only effec­tive against SARS (orange)

    ‘This anti­body has the poten­tial to be a ther­a­peu­tic for the cur­rent epi­dem­ic,’ Dr Bar­ton Haynes, direc­tor of Duke Human Vac­cine Insti­tute and co-author of the study, said in a state­ment. 

    ‘It could also be avail­able for future out­breaks, if or when oth­er coro­n­avirus­es jump from their nat­ur­al ani­mal hosts to humans.’ 

    Researchers, who pub­lished their find­ings on Novem­ber 2 in the Sci­ence Trans­la­tion­al Med­i­cine jour­nal, iden­ti­fied more than 1,700 coro­n­avirus anti­bod­ies.

    Of that pool, 50 were iden­ti­fied that could bind to both Covid and SARS — the virus that caused an out­break in Asia in the ear­ly 2000s — cells.

    One, named DH1047, was par­tic­u­lar­ly effec­tive, being able to bind to all kinds of virus­es, both ani­mal- and human-based.

    ‘This anti­body binds to the coro­n­avirus at a loca­tion that is con­served across numer­ous muta­tions and vari­a­tions,’ Haynes said. 

    ‘As a result, it can neu­tral­ize a wide range of coro­n­avirus­es.’ 

    The anti­body was test­ed in mice, and found to be able to pro­tect the rodents from devel­op­ing a Covid infec­tion after being exposed to the virus.

    It was effec­tive against all types of strains as well, includ­ing the high­ly con­ta­gious Delta vari­ant.

    Oth­er types of coro­n­avirus­es that are believed to have the future poten­tial of infect­ing humans were also test­ed, and were neu­tral­ized by the anti­body.

    ‘The find­ings pro­vide a tem­plate for the ratio­nal design of uni­ver­sal vac­cine strate­gies that are vari­ant-proof and pro­vide broad pro­tec­tion from known and emerg­ing coro­n­avirus­es,’ said Dr Ralph Bar­ic, a pro­fes­sor of epi­demi­ol­o­gy at UNC and co-senior author of the research.

    When test­ing the anti­body on ani­mals that were already infect­ed, they found that it was effec­tive at reduc­ing the sever­i­ty of symp­toms relat­ed to the lungs.

    ‘The ther­a­peu­tic activ­i­ty even after mice were infect­ed sug­gests that this could be a treat­ment deployed in the cur­rent pan­dem­ic, but also stock­piled to pre­vent the spread of a future out­break or epi­dem­ic with a SARS-relat­ed virus,’ Dr David Mar­tinez, co-lead author and a researcher at UNC, said in a state­ment.

    Cur­rent­ly, mon­o­clon­al anti­body treat­ments are con­sid­ered to be among the most effec­tive at treat­ing Covid. 

    The treat­ment pumps a per­son­’s body with Covid anti­bod­ies that assist the immune sys­tem in neu­tral­iz­ing virus cells and pre­vent­ing them from repli­cat­ing.

    This treat­ment is espe­cial­ly valu­able for unvac­ci­nat­ed peo­ple, who do not have the anti­bod­ies nec­es­sary to stave off infec­tion or severe hos­pi­tal­iza­tion.

    Incor­po­rat­ing this new­ly dis­cov­ered anti­body into the future of treat­ment devel­op­ment for coro­n­avirus relat­ed dis­eases could make them much more effec­tive.

    While it may be already too late for this pan­dem­ic, researchers hope their find­ings will be cru­cial to fight­ing the next virus out­break that strikes the world. 

    Posted by Mary Benton | November 21, 2021, 11:33 am
  2. The ‘lab leak’ nar­ra­tive just got an update. An update that appears to be part of a coor­di­nat­ed US gov­ern­ment effort. At least that’s the pic­ture that’s emerg­ing from a burst of ‘lab leak’ arti­cles this week pur­port­ing to show rock sol­id evi­dence that the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus emerged from Shi Zhengli’s lab at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV). But the loca­tion of virus’s ori­gin isn’t the only ‘rev­e­la­tion’ we’re receiv­ing with this new wave of report­ing. We’re also told that US inves­ti­ga­tors have con­clud­ed that the WIV was secret­ly car­ry­ing out dan­ger­ous gain-of-func­tion (GoF) exper­i­ments on behalf of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary as part of a secret biowar­fare oper­a­tion. A secret biowar­fare oper­a­tion that includ­ed the inser­tion of human furin cleav­age sites into the chimeras they were cre­at­ing. Until one of those chimeras infect­ed the lab work­ers and escape. Yep, that’s the nar­ra­tive that appears to have exten­sive US gov­ern­ment back­ing behind it.

    First, we got the fol­low­ing report from The Times of Lon­don lay­ing out the case made by US inves­ti­ga­tors into the ori­gins of the virus. A case that con­cludes that the WIV began a secret col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary in 2016 involv­ing dan­ger­ous GoF exper­i­ments on bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es. Dan­ger­ous exper­i­ments that includ­ed ani­mal pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments on human­ized mice with human-like lungs. We are also told that these exper­i­ments were done with­out the knowl­edge of the US gov­ern­ment or the WIV’s col­lab­o­ra­tors at the Eco­Health Alliance, includ­ing Peter Daszak. Beyond that, we’re told that the virus­es they were using in these dan­ger­ous secret exper­i­ments were dis­cov­ered in a Chi­nese mine shaft in 2012 when three minework­ers were killed after con­tract­ing a bar-borne coro­n­avirus, but the impor­tance of these virus­es and even knowl­edge of the deaths they caused were kept secret from the WIV’s US col­lab­o­ra­tors.

    Anoth­er part major ele­ment of this nar­ra­tive, which isn’t new, is the obser­va­tion that three mem­bers of Shi’s lab were among the first peo­ple in Wuhan to come down with COVID19 in mid-Novem­ber of 2019. It’s basi­cal­ly the same sto­ry we first heard back in May of 2021 when the WSJ first report­ed on these three mem­bers of Shi’s lab get­ting ill, but with a few addi­tion­al details. And, impor­tant­ly, it’s a sto­ry that pre­sumes these are the first three peo­ple to get sick and there­fore no evi­dence should exist of any out­break any­where in the world pre-Novem­ber 2019. This is a good time to recall that SkyNews 2021 doc­u­men­tary that fea­tured an alleged Chi­nese defec­tor, Wei Jing­sheng, who claims to have been alert­ing US offi­cials about a pos­si­ble viral out­break in Wuhan in Octo­ber of 2019 and spec­u­lat­ing that the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty was using the Mil­i­tary World Games as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare super­spread­er event. It was just one of a num­ber of sto­ries hint­ing at the virus cir­cu­lat­ing months before Decem­ber 2019, includ­ing the reports of ill ath­letes at the Mil­i­tary World Games. All of those sto­ries of pre-Novem­ber 2019 COVID cas­es are going to have to be ignored for this new nar­ra­tive to take hold.

    Of course, as we’re also going to see, this nar­ra­tive basi­cal­ly false apart on clos­er exam­i­na­tion. For exam­ple, let’s just look at some of the key events time­line of the col­lab­o­ra­tion between the WIV and its US col­lab­o­ra­tors. First, Shi’s lab was work­ing close­ly with Peter Daszak, Ralph Bar­ic, and Eco­Health Alliance in this mul­ti-year col­lab­o­ra­tion that was focused on char­ac­ter­iz­ing the range of virus­es dis­cov­ered in 2012 in the Shi­tou Cave in Yun­nan province, where a large diver­si­ty of bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es were found includ­ing the two viral clos­est cousins of SARS, dubbed W1V1 and SHC014. We’re also told that Shi went to Bar­ic to get help in cre­at­ing the SHC014/SARS chimeras that were report­ed in a 2015 paper, which was notably a year after the 2014 US ban on GoF exper­i­ments was put in place. But 2012 was also the year three mine­shaft work­ers died in Mojiang province, which prompt­ed Shi’s lab to also vis­it that site and col­lect anoth­er batch of nov­el bat-borne coro­n­avirus­es, includ­ing the RaTG13/4491 virus that was lat­er iden­ti­fied as being the clos­est known viral cous­ing to SARS-CoV­‑2. So we’re now told that that no men­tion was ever made of made to Shi’s US col­lab­o­ra­tors of the deaths of these three mine shaft work­ers and, in turn, the extreme poten­tial impor­tance of RaTG13/4991. Instead, Shi’s lab went on to start its secret col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary in 2016, even­tu­al­ly cre­at­ing chimeras for RaTG13/4991 with human furin cleav­age sites, run­ning them through pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments on human­ized mice, and then final­ly cre­at­ing SARS-CoV­‑2 which escaped via an infect­ed lab work­er.

    But as we’ve seen, the RaTG13/4991 virus was actu­al­ly first men­tioned by Shi’s lab in a 2014 pub­lished paper and was fur­ther char­ac­ter­ized in a 2016 paper that men­tioned Peter Dasza­k’s Eco­Health Alliance USNIAID grant in its acknowl­edg­ments. That 2016 paper made clear that RaTG13/4991 stood out from the rest of the nov­el coro­n­avirus­es from an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive. The entire genome of RaTG13 was even­tu­al­ly sequenced and used for a mas­ters the­sis pub­lished by one of Shi’s stu­dents in June of 2019. Givan all that, what are the odds that the impor­tance of RaTG13/4991 was some­how kept hid­den from the WIV’s US col­lab­o­ra­tors? It does­n’t seem plau­si­ble, and yet this nar­ra­tive hinges on it.

    In May of 2016, Shi’s lab appeared to be apply­ing Bar­ic’s cut­ting-edge chimera-cre­at­ing exper­i­ments and man­aged to cre­ate two chimeras of its own. This was report­ed in Peter Dasza­k’s May 2016 report to the US gov­ern­ment. In that report, Daszak also men­tioned how the WIV was plan­ning on cre­at­ing a chimera cre­at­ed by comb­ing bat coro­n­avirus­es with MERS. This alarmed the US gov­ern­ment because Daszak was describ­ing what was then still-banned GoF exper­i­ments. Daszak argued that, no, it was­n’t a GoF exper­i­ment because the exper­i­ment was unlike­ly to make a virus more vir­u­lent than the orig­i­nal virus­es. That result­ed in a ‘com­pro­mise’ with the US gov­ern­ment, where the exper­i­ments were approved, but only if they did­n’t result in a virus that was more than 10 times as vir­u­lent as the orig­i­nal virus­es. So the US gov­ern­ment gave a ‘winky winky’ green light to what were basi­cal­ly GoF exper­i­ments con­duct­ed in Shi’s lab in 2016, the same year we are now told the secret Chi­nese mil­i­tary exper­i­ments with Shi’s lab alleged­ly began.

    In 2017, Shi pub­lished a paper on the cre­ation of eight mutant virus­es from the Sars-like coro­n­avirus­es found in the Shi­tou cave in Yun­nan province. Peter Daszak is a co-author on the paper. Two of these virus­es showed an abil­i­ty to infect human cells. The paper also men­tioned that this work was car­ried out under BSL‑2 con­di­tions, below the required BSL‑3 safe­ty stan­dards for work­ing with coro­n­avirus­es. Chimeric mutants cre­at­ed with W1V1 were inject­ed into the noses of human­ized mice, result­ing in viral loads up to 10,000 times about the native W1V1 virus and a 75% death rate.

    We are told the US embassy found out about these exper­i­ments in Wuhan being car­ried out until BSL‑2 con­di­tions and sent diplo­mats with sci­en­tif­ic exper­tise to inspect the insti­tute in Jan­u­ary 2018, where they observed “a seri­ous short­age of appro­pri­ate­ly trained tech­ni­cians and inves­ti­ga­tors need­ed to safe­ly oper­ate this high-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ry”. Keep in mind that ear­ly 2018 this would over­lap with the time we are told Shi’s lab was car­ry­ing out secret biowar­fare exper­i­ments for the Chi­nese mil­i­tary. So it’s pret­ty remark­able that’s true and yet US diplo­mats were giv­en access to the WIV to car­ry out these inspec­tions and find all these laps­es. But that’s the nar­ra­tive we’re get­ting.

    In March of 2018, Peter Daszak made a pitch to DARPA for $14 mil­lion over three years that would entail Shi and Bar­ic cre­at­ing large num­bers of new chimeric virus­es from W1V1 and SHC014. One of the exper­i­ments involved the cre­ation of a furin cleav­age site. DARPA ulti­mate­ly reject­ed the pitch.

    In April of 2018, Daszak filed a progress report with the NIH that men­tioned the human­ized mouse exper­i­ments with the chimeric virus­es but does­n’t men­tion the mouse deaths at all. Instead, it referred to “mild Sars-like clin­i­cal signs”. Don’t for­get the ‘com­pro­mise’ Daszak arrived at with the US gov­ern­ment on these puta­tive GoF exper­i­ments. So it would appear that Daszak was try­ing to avoid acknowl­edg­ing that they were vio­lat­ing that agree­ment.

    That’s all part of what is admit­ted about what the US gov­ern­ment knew about what the WIV was up to and forms the basis for the asser­tion by these inves­ti­ga­tors that Shi’s lab was secret­ly run­ning these same kinds of exper­i­ments on the RaTG13/4991 virus for the Chi­nese mil­i­tary as part of a secret biowar­fare pro­gram. Inter­est­ing­ly, the one US inves­ti­ga­tor who is actu­al­ly named in the fol­low­ing arti­cle, Dr Steven Quay, spec­u­lates that SARS-CoV­‑2 basi­cal­ly came from these same kinds of ani­mal pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments on human­ized mice, but with the RaTG13 virus. But Quay also asserts that these inves­ti­ga­tors sus­pect even Peter Daszak was also kept in the dark about furin cleave site and ani­mal pas­sage GoF research being done on RaTG13 and oth­er ‘secret’ virus­es from the Mojiang mine. Exper­i­ments that were basi­cal­ly the part of the 2018 grant pro­pos­al that was reject­ed by DARPA!

    But it gets more curi­ous when we note the sources below for the claims that the WIV was secret­ly insert­ing furin cleav­age sites into RaTG13 and then car­ry­ing out ani­mal pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments on these virus­es with human­ized mice: two unnamed researchers work­ing at a US lab­o­ra­to­ry who were col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Wuhan insti­tute at the time of the out­break. So some­how Daszak was kept in dark while these two unnamed US researchers who were col­lab­o­rat­ing with the WIV some­how knew about this. Yep.

    Final­ly, beyond just the secret cre­ation of SARS-CoV­‑2 on behalf of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary, we are also told that US inves­ti­ga­tors believe the WIV began work on some sort of coro­n­avirus vac­cine in the fall of 2019. This is good time to recall that Mod­er­na claims to have been work­ing with the NIH on mRNA coro­n­avirus vac­cines as far back as 2015 and even claimed to have invent­ed the idea of using mRNA vac­cines for the beta­coro­n­avirus fam­i­ly of virus­es. So when we hear about coro­n­avirus-relat­ed vac­cine research tak­ing place at the WIV in 2019, we almost have to ask whether or not Chi­na was try­ing to keep up with the advances the US had already made on that front years ear­li­er.

    So that’s the new nar­ra­tive, which is real­ly just the same old nar­ra­tive we’ve been get­ting for a cou­ple of years now, but with a few addi­tion­al twists. Twists seem­ing­ly designed to ensure we focus exten­sive­ly on alleged secret Chi­nese mil­i­tary exper­i­ments no one has proven even hap­pened and large­ly ignore the well doc­u­ment Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed exper­i­ments no one is even deny­ing any­more:

    The Times of Lon­don

    What real­ly went on inside the Wuhan lab weeks before Covid erupt­ed

    Fresh evi­dence drawn from con­fi­den­tial reports reveals Chi­nese sci­en­tists spliced togeth­er dead­ly pathogens short­ly before the pan­dem­ic, the Sun­day Times Insight team report

    Jonathan Calvert | George Arbuth­nott
    Sat­ur­day June 10 2023, 4.00pm BST, The Sun­day Times

    Sci­en­tists in Wuhan work­ing along­side the Chi­nese mil­i­tary were com­bin­ing the world’s most dead­ly coro­n­avirus­es to cre­ate a new mutant virus just as the pan­dem­ic began.

    Inves­ti­ga­tors who scru­ti­nised top-secret inter­cept­ed com­mu­ni­ca­tions and sci­en­tif­ic research believe Chi­nese sci­en­tists were run­ning a covert project of dan­ger­ous exper­i­ments, which caused a leak from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy and start­ed the Covid-19 out­break.

    The US inves­ti­ga­tors say one of the rea­sons there is no pub­lished infor­ma­tion on the work is because it was done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with researchers from the Chi­nese mil­i­tary, which was fund­ing it and which, they say, was pur­su­ing bioweapons.

    The Sun­day Times has reviewed hun­dreds of doc­u­ments, includ­ing pre­vi­ous­ly con­fi­den­tial reports, inter­nal mem­os, sci­en­tif­ic papers and email cor­re­spon­dence that has been obtained through sources or by free­dom of infor­ma­tion cam­paign­ers in the three years since the pan­dem­ic start­ed. We also inter­viewed the US State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors — includ­ing experts on Chi­na, emerg­ing pan­dem­ic threats, and biowar­fare — who con­duct­ed the first sig­nif­i­cant US inquiry into the ori­gins of the Covid-19 out­break.

    ...

    The facil­i­ty, which had start­ed hunt­ing the ori­gins of the Sars virus in 2003, attract­ed US gov­ern­ment fund­ing through a New York-based char­i­ty whose pres­i­dent was a British-born and edu­cat­ed zool­o­gist. America’s lead­ing coro­n­avirus sci­en­tist shared cut­ting-edge virus manip­u­la­tion tech­niques.

    ...

    This changed in 2016 after researchers dis­cov­ered a new type of coro­n­avirus in a mine­shaft in Mojiang in Yun­nan province where peo­ple had died from symp­toms sim­i­lar to Sars.

    Rather than warn­ing the world, the Chi­nese author­i­ties did not report the fatal­i­ties. The virus­es found there are now recog­nised as the only mem­bers of Covid-19’s imme­di­ate fam­i­ly known to have been in exis­tence pre-pan­dem­ic.

    They were trans­port­ed to the Wuhan insti­tute and the work of its sci­en­tists became clas­si­fied. “The trail of papers starts to go dark,” a US inves­ti­ga­tor said. “That’s exact­ly when the clas­si­fied pro­gramme kicked off. My view is that the rea­son Mojiang was cov­ered up was due to mil­i­tary secre­cy relat­ed to [the army’s] pur­suit of dual use capa­bil­i­ties in viro­log­i­cal bio­log­i­cal weapons and vac­cines.”

    Accord­ing to the US inves­ti­ga­tors, the clas­si­fied pro­gramme was to make the mine­shaft virus­es more infec­tious to humans.

    They believe this led to the cre­ation of the Covid-19 virus, and that it leaked into the city of Wuhan after a lab­o­ra­to­ry acci­dent. “It has become increas­ing­ly clear that the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy was involved in the cre­ation, pro­mul­ga­tion and cov­er-up of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic,” one of the inves­ti­ga­tors said.

    ...

    The US inves­ti­ga­tors also revealed how they had been giv­en evi­dence indi­cat­ing the insti­tute had been work­ing on a vac­cine before the pan­dem­ic. “I inter­viewed sci­en­tists in Asia who have close rela­tion­ships with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,” the source said. “They told me it is their belief that there was vac­cine research going on in the fall of 2019, per­ti­nent to Covid-19 vac­ci­na­tion.”

    ...

    Exper­i­ment that diced with death: inside the Wuhan lab

    In Novem­ber 2002, farm­ers and food work­ers in the Chi­nese province of Guang­dong began to fall ill with severe res­pi­ra­to­ry symp­toms. Med­ical staff soon fol­lowed suit. The Sars virus spread rapid­ly through 29 coun­tries, infect­ing 8,000 peo­ple and killing 774. It was the first seri­ous epi­dem­ic of the new cen­tu­ry — and a wake-up call to sci­en­tists.

    ...

    The job of find­ing out how Sars had emerged was tak­en on by the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy and its most famous sci­en­tist, 39-year-old Dr Shi Zhengli. She and her team zoned in on bats, which had been linked to oth­er dead­ly virus­es, such as rabies, nipah and mar­burg. She began search­ing for bat colonies in caves in south­ern Chi­na in 2004, earn­ing her the nick­name “Bat­woman”. Fae­cal sam­ples were sent back to Wuhan to be test­ed for virus­es.

    They began con­duct­ing exper­i­ments with Sars and oth­er virus­es. Shi was joined by a British bat expert, Dr Peter Daszak, who would become a close friend and col­lab­o­ra­tor. Born in Duk­in­field, near Man­ches­ter, he obtained a degree in zool­o­gy at Ban­gor Uni­ver­si­ty and lat­er moved to New York, where he took a man­age­ment posi­tion in the Wildlife Trust, a non-prof­it organ­i­sa­tion. I

    ...

    Shi’s team pro­vid­ed the field­work for the trust’s cam­paign and the lab­o­ra­to­ries to test and exper­i­ment on the virus­es. In 2009, the trust was giv­en $18 mil­lion over five years from a new pro­gramme, called Pre­dict, to iden­ti­fy pan­dem­ic virus­es. Short­ly after­wards, the trust was rebrand­ed as the Eco­Health Alliance and Daszak assumed the role of pres­i­dent. The Chi­nese col­lab­o­ra­tors who helped put him on the map were also reward­ed: $1 mil­lion of the Pre­dict grant was redi­rect­ed to the Wuhan insti­tute.

    Tests on human­ised mice

    The tru­ly cut­ting-edge exper­i­ments were being done in the US by the vet­er­an virol­o­gist Ralph Bar­ic at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na. He used a tech­nique to fuse togeth­er dif­fer­ent pathogens by mix­ing their genes. To test the effect of these lab-cre­at­ed mutant virus­es on peo­ple, he cre­at­ed “human­ised” mice by inject­ing them with genes that allowed them to devel­op lungs and vas­cu­lar sys­tems sim­i­lar to ours. His ulti­mate aim was to cre­ate a uni­ver­sal vac­cine against Sars-type virus­es — an objec­tive still not achieved.

    ...

    Bioweapons warn­ings

    In 2012, in a cave called Shi­tou in the remote moun­tains of Yun­nan province, south­ern Chi­na, Shi’s team made a break­through. They recov­ered a virus that was the clos­est match to Sars of those found at the time. They labelled it WIV1, using the ini­tials of the insti­tute, and demon­strat­ed through lab­o­ra­to­ry work that it was able to infect human cells.

    But they were unable to grow suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of a sec­ond Sars-like virus found in the cave, labelled SHC014, to do sim­i­lar tests.

    Shi need­ed Baric’s exper­tise. She con­tact­ed him in 2013 and he agreed to help. The Wuhan Insti­tute pro­vid­ed Baric’s team with the genet­ic sequence for SHC014 so he could recre­ate the genes from the micro­scop­ic spikes that pro­trude from its sides. The Amer­i­can sci­en­tists then insert­ed SHC014’s “spike gene” into a copy of the orig­i­nal Sars virus Bar­ic had cre­at­ed in his lab and test­ed the new mutant on his human­ised mice.

    In May 2014, Eco­Health Alliance was award­ed a $3.7 mil­lion pub­licly fund­ed grant by the US Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH). More than $500,000 of it went to the Wuhan lab for equip­ment and a fur­ther $130,000 was spent chiefly on pay and ben­e­fits for Shi and her assis­tant.

    Pres­sure was being exert­ed on the lab work, how­ev­er. That year, Barack Oba­ma announced a mora­to­ri­um on all gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments that would be “rea­son­ably antic­i­pat­ed” to increase a pathogen’s infec­tious­ness or lethal­i­ty. This includ­ed Sars-relat­ed work.

    It could have been the end of the Wuhan-North Car­oli­na col­lab­o­ra­tion, but a loop­hole allowed gain-of-func­tion work to pro­ceed if deemed urgent and safe. Bar­ic made the argu­ment to the NIH, which gave approval.

    The results of Baric’s exper­i­ment with the genet­ic sequence giv­en to him by Shi were pub­lished in co-authored research in Novem­ber 2015. The com­bined Sars copy and SHC014 virus was a poten­tial mass killer. It caused severe lung dam­age in human­ised mice and was resis­tant to vac­cines devel­oped for Sars. The paper acknowl­edged this might have been an exper­i­ment that was too dan­ger­ous.

    ...

    Safe­ty fear at Wuhan labs

    The Wuhan insti­tute began step­ping up its own lab work using Baric’s tech­niques. It cre­at­ed two new mutants by fus­ing virus­es with the WIV1 pathogen it had found in the Shi­tou cave. These exper­i­ments were men­tioned in Daszak’s progress report for the year to May 2016, which he sub­mit­ted to the US gov­ern­ment fun­ders. The same report dis­closed the insti­tute planned to cre­ate an infec­tious ver­sion of the camel pathogen Mers by com­bin­ing it with bat virus­es. Mers had killed 35 per cent of peo­ple infect­ed dur­ing a 2012 out­break in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    This trig­gered alarm bells for the US gov­ern­ment because it would have involved the type of gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments that were still barred. Accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by free­dom of infor­ma­tion cam­paign­ers, Daszak argued the Mers exper­i­ment was not gain of func­tion because it was unlike­ly to make the virus more path­o­gen­ic. A com­pro­mise was reached where­by the sci­en­tists would stop work and report to US offi­cials if they cre­at­ed a new mutant virus that grew ten times faster than the nat­ur­al virus it was cre­at­ed from.

    That same year, Daszak announced to a New York con­fer­ence that Shi was mov­ing “clos­er and clos­er” to obtain­ing a virus “that could real­ly become path­o­gen­ic in peo­ple”.

    By 2017, accord­ing to a paper pub­lished by Shi, her sci­en­tists had sought to cre­ate eight mutant virus­es from the Sars-like coro­n­avirus­es found in the Shi­tou cave. Two of the mutant virus­es were found to infect human cells. Most of this work was car­ried out in the institute’s biosafe­ty lev­el 2 (BSL‑2) lab­o­ra­to­ries, which took only light pre­cau­tions that have been com­pared to those used in a den­tal surgery.

    ...

    The US embassy found out about the exper­i­ments in Wuhan and sent diplo­mats with sci­en­tif­ic exper­tise to inspect the insti­tute in Jan­u­ary 2018, accord­ing to diplo­mat­ic cables leaked to The Wash­ing­ton Post. They observed “a seri­ous short­age of appro­pri­ate­ly trained tech­ni­cians and inves­ti­ga­tors need­ed to safe­ly oper­ate this high-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ry”.

    Cre­at­ing a mutant virus

    Around the same time, the Wuhan insti­tute took anoth­er per­ilous leap for­ward with its work on the Shi­tou virus­es. It began what Pro­fes­sor Richard Ebright describes as the most dan­ger­ous coro­n­avirus exper­i­ment ever under­tak­en. The sci­en­tists select­ed three lab-grown mutant virus­es, cre­at­ed by mix­ing Sars-like virus­es with WIV1, which had all been shown to infect human cells. These mutants were then inject­ed into the noses of albi­no mice with human lungs.

    The aim was to see whether the virus­es had the poten­tial to spark a pan­dem­ic if they were fused togeth­er, as they might do nat­u­ral­ly in a bat colony. The orig­i­nal WIV1 virus was inject­ed into anoth­er group of mice as a com­par­i­son.

    The mice were mon­i­tored in their cages over two weeks. The results were shock­ing. The mutant virus that fused WIV1 with SHC014 killed 75 per cent of the rodents and was three times as lethal as the orig­i­nal WIV1. In the ear­ly days of the infec­tion, the mice’s human-like lungs were found to con­tain a viral load up to 10,000 times greater than the orig­i­nal WIV1 virus.

    ...

    The researchers’ tests also showed vac­cines and oth­er treat­ments devel­oped to com­bat Sars were not effec­tive against the new virus. The results of the exper­i­ment were not shared with oth­er sci­en­tists in any sci­en­tif­ic jour­nal or paper.

    The exper­i­ment was part-fund­ed by EcoHealth’s grant mon­ey, but the FOI doc­u­ments show that, while the Wuhan institute’s exper­i­ments were described in Daszak’s April 2018 annu­al progress report to the NIH, he did not refer to the deaths of the human­ised mice.

    There was also no men­tion of the mouse deaths in the grant renew­al appli­ca­tion Daszak filed to the NIH lat­er that year. In this account, he said the mice had expe­ri­enced “mild Sars-like clin­i­cal signs” when they were infect­ed with the mutant virus. It had actu­al­ly killed six of the eight infect­ed human­ised mice.

    Daszak even­tu­al­ly pro­vid­ed details of the experiment’s dead­ly results to the US author­i­ties in a report after the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. He now says his 2018 state­ment about the “mild” ill­ness was based on pre­lim­i­nary results — even though the exper­i­ment in which the mice died had tak­en place sev­er­al months before he issued the state­ment.

    US defence funds reject­ed

    By March 2018, the Wuhan insti­tute was keen to press ahead with more exper­i­ments. Daszak applied for more fund­ing from the US. He made a pitch for $14 mil­lion over three years from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which is respon­si­ble for emerg­ing tech­nol­o­gy for use by the mil­i­tary.

    The appli­ca­tion, enti­tled Defuse — which names Daszak, Shi and Bar­ic — pro­posed the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry find large num­bers of new Sars virus­es and mix some of them with their two dead­ly strains from the Shi­tou cave — WIV1 and SHC014 — to see what would hap­pen. Darpa declined to fund the research.

    One spe­cif­ic exper­i­ment involved insert­ing a furin cleav­age site, a tiny sec­tion of a virus’s genet­ic order that makes them more infec­tious, into the pathogens. Daszak and the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry say they did not go ahead with the work. But when Covid-19 emerged the fol­low­ing year, it was notable for being the first Sars-like coro­n­avirus with a furin cleav­age site.

    Last week, Daszak denied the Eco­Health-relat­ed exper­i­ments were dan­ger­ous. He said the NIH did not view the exper­i­ments as gain of func­tion and that lab­o­ra­to­ry safe­ty rules in Chi­na were fol­lowed at all times. The NIH said it “has nev­er approved any research that would make a coro­n­avirus more dan­ger­ous to humans”.

    Find­ing Covid’s ori­gins

    While the US fun­ders had been kept informed about the work on the cave virus­es, inves­ti­ga­tors believe the Wuhan insti­tute was run­ning a shad­ow project that it kept secret, even from Daszak.

    The root of this project goes back to an inci­dent that alleged­ly drew the atten­tion of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary to the work of sci­en­tists in Wuhan. In 2012, the Wuhan institute’s researchers inves­ti­gat­ed an aban­doned cop­per mine with a large bat colony in the Mojiang region of south Chi­na. Six men clear­ing out bat guano there were struck down by a mys­tery ill­ness that caused fever, coughs and pneu­mo­nia.

    All the men required hos­pi­tal treat­ment and three died. Tests on the men for var­i­ous ill­ness­es came back neg­a­tive but they test­ed pos­i­tive for anti­bod­ies to an unknown coro­n­avirus.

    It has been pos­si­ble, how­ev­er, to piece togeth­er what hap­pened from a master’s the­sis by a medic at the hos­pi­tal that treat­ed the men and a PhD paper by a stu­dent of the direc­tor of the Chi­nese Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

    The inci­dent hap­pened while the insti­tute was work­ing on EcoHealth’s Pre­dict pro­gramme, which was aimed at find­ing this type of virus crossover between ani­mals and humans. But the Wuhan insti­tute with­held infor­ma­tion about the mine deaths from Eco­Health and the US gov­ern­ment. Shi’s team spent four years strip­ping the Mojiang mine, col­lect­ing 1,300 sam­ples from the bats, and dis­cov­ered 293 coro­n­avirus­es.

    The work on the mine appears to have end­ed in May 2015. A year lat­er, Shi pub­lished a sci­en­tif­ic paper refer­ring to the dis­cov­ery at the site of a coro­n­avirus that was from a lin­eage of Sars nev­er seen before. She called it RaBtCoV/4991.

    The paper did not men­tion the deaths of the min­ers or that the sci­en­tists had found in the mine eight oth­er Sars coro­n­avirus­es from the same pre­vi­ous­ly undis­cov­ered fam­i­ly.

    After the pan­dem­ic began, the 4991 virus took on ever-greater sig­nif­i­cance. It was iden­ti­fied as the clos­est known rel­a­tive to Covid-19. It meant the nine virus­es found in the mine were the only mem­bers of Covid-19’s lin­eage known to have exist­ed pri­or to the pan­dem­ic. When the Wuhan insti­tute was forced to admit the exis­tence of 4991 — hav­ing list­ed a sec­tion of its genome sequence on an inter­na­tion­al data­base in 2016 — it changed the name to RaTG13, which meant it could not eas­i­ly be linked to the mine.

    In 2021, after sus­tained pres­sure, Shi pub­lished the genom­ic sequences of the eight oth­er mine virus­es, claim­ing they were more dis­tant from Covid-19 than RaTG13. How­ev­er, the sequences’ verac­i­ty has been called into ques­tion.

    Dr Mon­ali Rahalkar, a micro­bi­ol­o­gist at the Agharkar Research Insti­tute in Pune, India, swift­ly tweet­ed: “Looks like cheat­ing . . . May be they changed [the sequences] so peo­ple drop the trips to Mojiang mine.”

    A shad­ow project

    ...

    More than a dozen inves­ti­ga­tors were giv­en unpar­al­leled access to “meta­da­ta, phone infor­ma­tion and inter­net infor­ma­tion” from inter­cepts col­lect­ed by the US intel­li­gence ser­vices.

    The inves­ti­ga­tors’ report was pub­lished in ear­ly 2021. It made two asser­tions: that Wuhan sci­en­tists were con­duct­ing exper­i­ments on RaTG13 from the Moi­jang mine, and that covert mil­i­tary research, includ­ing lab­o­ra­to­ry ani­mal exper­i­ments, was being done at the insti­tute before the pan­dem­ic. But the pub­lished report was brief — just 700 words — and was stripped of all sourc­ing and detail because so much of it was con­fi­den­tial.

    The Sun­day Times has spo­ken to three mem­bers of the team. The intel­li­gence they saw sug­gests the types of risky exper­i­ments under­tak­en on the Shi­tou cave Sars virus­es were also con­duct­ed in secret on RaTG13 and the oth­er Covid-19-like virus­es from the mine.

    “They were work­ing with the nine dif­fer­ent Covid vari­ants,” one of the inves­ti­ga­tors said. They believe one virus at the Wuhan insti­tute was an even clos­er match to Covid-19 than RaTG13. “We are con­fi­dent they were work­ing on a clos­er unpub­lished vari­ant — pos­si­bly col­lect­ed in Mojiang,” the source added.

    The inves­ti­ga­tors spoke to two researchers work­ing at a US lab­o­ra­to­ry who were col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Wuhan insti­tute at the time of the out­break. They said the Wuhan sci­en­tists had insert­ed furin cleav­age sites into virus­es in 2019 in exact­ly the way pro­posed in Daszak’s failed fund­ing appli­ca­tion to Darpa.

    The inves­ti­ga­tors also saw evi­dence that the insti­tute was con­duct­ing “ser­i­al pas­sag­ing” exper­i­ments on at least one of the mine virus­es. This is a process in which lab ani­mals are infect­ed with virus­es and mon­i­tored to see which strain is harm­ful to their health. The most dam­ag­ing strain is select­ed for repeat exper­i­ments to encour­age the pathogens to mutate into some­thing more dead­ly.

    The inves­ti­ga­tors spoke to a Wuhan insti­tute insid­er who alleged ser­i­al pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments were being car­ried out on RaTG13. “Human­ised mice with the ser­i­al pas­sag­ing is a tox­ic com­bi­na­tion,” said a source. “It speeds up the nat­ur­al muta­tion process. So instead of tak­ing years to mutate, it can take weeks or months. It guar­an­tees that you accel­er­ate the nat­ur­al process.”

    Dr Steven Quay, a US sci­en­tist who advised the State Depart­ment on its inves­ti­ga­tion, believes the Wuhan institute’s secre­cy about the mine virus nev­er made sense. “There has nev­er been an exam­ple of a bat virus direct­ly infect­ing humans and killing,” he said. Sars was a bat virus that infect­ed peo­ple via an inter­me­di­ary ani­mal. “If those min­ers died from a bat virus, that was the first time in the his­to­ry of human sci­ence that that hap­pened. And the Chi­nese didn’t pub­lish it,” he added. The inves­ti­ga­tors think Daszak was kept in the dark about this part of the work.

    Quay believes Covid-19 was cre­at­ed by insert­ing a furin cleav­age site into one of the mine virus­es and then ser­i­al pas­sag­ing it through human­ised mice. He sub­mit­ted a state­ment to the US Sen­ate explain­ing the process. “You infect the mice, wait a week or so, and then recov­er the virus from the sick­est mice. Then you repeat. In a mat­ter of weeks this direct­ed evo­lu­tion will pro­duce a virus that can kill every human­ised mouse.”

    This explains why from the begin­ning of the out­break, he says, the pan­dem­ic virus was so remark­ably well adapt­ed to infect humans.

    Work­ing with the mil­i­tary

    One of the rea­sons there is no pub­lished infor­ma­tion on such work, accord­ing to all three inves­ti­ga­tors, is because the shad­ow project on the mine virus­es at the Wuhan insti­tute was being fund­ed by the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

    The State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors wrote in their report: “Despite pre­sent­ing itself as a civil­ian insti­tu­tion, the Unit­ed States has deter­mined that the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy has col­lab­o­rat­ed on pub­li­ca­tions and secret projects with China’s mil­i­tary. The Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy has engaged in clas­si­fied research, includ­ing lab­o­ra­to­ry ani­mal exper­i­ments, on behalf of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary since at least 2017.”

    One of the inves­ti­ga­tor sources said the secret mil­i­tary-fund­ed exper­i­ments on the mine virus, RaTG13, began in 2016. At around that time, the Wuhan insti­tute became even less open about its work and most­ly stopped reveal­ing any new coro­n­avirus­es it dis­cov­ered. In the lead-up to the pan­dem­ic, the Wuhan insti­tute fre­quent­ly exper­i­ment­ed on coro­n­avirus­es along­side the Acad­e­my of Mil­i­tary Med­ical Sci­ences, a research arm of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA). In pub­lished papers, mil­i­tary sci­en­tists are list­ed as work­ing for the Bei­jing Insti­tute of Micro­bi­ol­o­gy and Epi­demi­ol­o­gy, which is the mil­i­tary academy’s base.

    The mil­i­tary was also giv­en posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty in the Wuhan insti­tute, accord­ing to a US Sen­ate report. A book pub­lished in 2015 by the mil­i­tary acad­e­my dis­cuss­es how Sars virus­es rep­re­sent a “new era of genet­ic weapons” that can be “arti­fi­cial­ly manip­u­lat­ed into an emerg­ing human dis­ease virus, then weaponised and unleashed”.

    The authors are PLA researchers, and one of the book’s edi­tors has col­lab­o­rat­ed on numer­ous sci­en­tif­ic papers with Wuhan sci­en­tists. They dis­cuss how Sars can be weaponised by fus­ing it with oth­er virus­es and “ser­i­al pas­sag­ing” the result­ing mutant to make it more dan­ger­ous.

    A vac­cine to shift pow­er

    The inves­ti­ga­tors believe the Chi­nese mil­i­tary had tak­en an inter­est in devel­op­ing a vac­cine for the virus­es so they could be used as poten­tial bioweapons. If a coun­try could inoc­u­late its pop­u­la­tion against its own secret virus, it might have a weapon to shift the bal­ance of world pow­er.

    The PLA had its own vac­cine spe­cial­ist, Zhou Yusen, a dec­o­rat­ed mil­i­tary sci­en­tist at the acad­e­my, who had col­lab­o­rat­ed with the Wuhan sci­en­tists on a study of the Mers coro­n­avirus and was work­ing with them at the time of the out­break.

    Sus­pi­cion fell on him after the pan­dem­ic because he pro­duced a patent for a Covid vac­cine with remark­able speed in Feb­ru­ary 2020, lit­tle more than a month after the out­break of the virus had first been admit­ted to the world by Chi­na.

    A report pub­lished in April, co-authored by Dr Robert Kadlec, who was respon­si­ble for the US’s vac­cine devel­op­ment pro­gramme, con­clud­ed that Zhou’s team must have been work­ing on a vac­cine no lat­er than Novem­ber 2019 — just as the pan­dem­ic began. One of the US inves­ti­ga­tors said tes­ti­mo­ny from sci­en­tists con­nect­ed to the Wuhan institute’s col­lab­o­ra­tors sug­gest­ed Covid-19 vac­cine work was going on at the lab­o­ra­to­ry before the out­break.

    In May 2020, aged just 54, Zhou appears to have died, a fact men­tioned only in pass­ing in a Chi­nese-media report and in a sci­en­tif­ic paper that placed the word “deceased” in brack­ets after his name. Wit­ness­es are said to have told the US inves­ti­ga­tion that Zhou fell from the roof of the Wuhan insti­tute, although this has not been ver­i­fied.

    Did Covid leak in 2019?

    The inves­ti­ga­tors also saw com­mu­ni­ca­tions inter­cepts that alleged­ly show three Wuhan insti­tute researchers work­ing at its lev­el 3 lab­o­ra­to­ry on coro­n­avirus gain-of-func­tion work had fall­en sick with coro­n­avirus symp­toms in the sec­ond week of Novem­ber 2019, when many experts believe the pan­dem­ic began. One of the researchers’ fam­i­ly mem­bers lat­er died.

    An inves­ti­ga­tor said: “We were rock-sol­id con­fi­dent that this was like­ly Covid-19 because they were work­ing on advanced coro­n­avirus research in the lab­o­ra­to­ry of Dr Shi. They’re trained biol­o­gists in their thir­ties and for­ties. Thir­ty-five-year-old sci­en­tists don’t get very sick with influen­za.”

    ...

    ———-

    “What real­ly went on inside the Wuhan lab weeks before Covid erupt­ed” by Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuth­nott; The Times of Lon­don; 06/10/2023

    “The Sun­day Times has reviewed hun­dreds of doc­u­ments, includ­ing pre­vi­ous­ly con­fi­den­tial reports, inter­nal mem­os, sci­en­tif­ic papers and email cor­re­spon­dence that has been obtained through sources or by free­dom of infor­ma­tion cam­paign­ers in the three years since the pan­dem­ic start­ed. We also inter­viewed the US State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors — includ­ing experts on Chi­na, emerg­ing pan­dem­ic threats, and biowar­fare — who con­duct­ed the first sig­nif­i­cant US inquiry into the ori­gins of the Covid-19 out­break.”

    The Sun­day Times is clear­ly one of the media out­lets that’s been tapped to help prop­a­gate this nar­ra­tive, with hun­dreds of doc­u­ments, includ­ing pre­vi­ous­ly con­fi­den­tial reports and inter­views with US offi­cials involved with the inves­ti­ga­tion. And as we can see, the nar­ra­tive that is emerg­ing is one of secret GoF exper­i­ments being con­duct­ed by the WIV, but NOT as part of its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Pen­ta­gon and Eco­Health Alliance. No, no, these secret exper­i­ments that ulti­mate­ly cre­at­ed the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus were done by the WIV in secret col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary. So we can just ignore all the non-secret exper­i­ments involv­ing the Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed GoF cre­ation of nov­el coro­n­avirus­es done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Eco­Health Alliance. Or any GoF exper­i­ments tak­ing place on coro­n­virus­es in labs around the world. Just ignore all of that and focus on the alleged secret exper­i­ments done at the behest of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

    And in this evolv­ing nar­ra­tive, 2016 is the year when the WIV’s secret Chi­nese mil­i­tary col­lab­o­ra­tion began. Accord­ing to these unnamed US inves­ti­ga­tors, the Chi­nese mil­i­tary decid­ed to weaponize the nov­el coro­n­avirus­es that killed three min­ers in a mine­shaft in Mojiang in Yun­nan province. Now, based on this report, it almost sounds like these three min­ers died from a virus dis­cov­ered in that mine­shaft in 2016 and the Chi­nese mil­i­tary decid­ed at that point to cov­er it up. But it’s actu­al­ly refer­ring to the three mine work­ers killed in 2012 in the Mojiang region. 2012 was the same year when Shi’s team dis­cov­ered a large pool of bat coro­n­avirus­es in a cave in Yun­nan province, includ­ing the clos­est dis­cov­ered rel­a­tives to SARS, which they dubbed WIV1 and SHC014. That Yun­nan cave dis­cov­ery was hap­pened while the col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Eco­Health Alliance, start­ed in 2009, was still ongo­ing. This col­lab­o­ra­tion, in turn, led to the now noto­ri­ous project with Ralph Bar­ic involv­ing the cre­ation of a chimeric ver­sion of the orig­i­nal SARS with a SHC014 spike pro­tein, in a paper pub­lished in 2015...after the 2014 US ban on GoF research. So this nar­ra­tive about how the Chi­nese nev­er shared with the world that the three work­ers died from a virus they were exposed to in that cave in 2012 assumes that this extreme­ly rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion was some­how kept secret from Peter Daszak, Ralph Bar­ic, and all of the oth­er inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tors they were work­ing with dur­ing this time on the char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of these virus­es:

    ...
    The facil­i­ty, which had start­ed hunt­ing the ori­gins of the Sars virus in 2003, attract­ed US gov­ern­ment fund­ing through a New York-based char­i­ty whose pres­i­dent was a British-born and edu­cat­ed zool­o­gist. America’s lead­ing coro­n­avirus sci­en­tist shared cut­ting-edge virus manip­u­la­tion tech­niques.

    ...

    This changed in 2016 after researchers dis­cov­ered a new type of coro­n­avirus in a mine­shaft in Mojiang in Yun­nan province where peo­ple had died from symp­toms sim­i­lar to Sars.

    Rather than warn­ing the world, the Chi­nese author­i­ties did not report the fatal­i­ties. The virus­es found there are now recog­nised as the only mem­bers of Covid-19’s imme­di­ate fam­i­ly known to have been in exis­tence pre-pan­dem­ic.

    They were trans­port­ed to the Wuhan insti­tute and the work of its sci­en­tists became clas­si­fied. “The trail of papers starts to go dark,” a US inves­ti­ga­tor said. “That’s exact­ly when the clas­si­fied pro­gramme kicked off. My view is that the rea­son Mojiang was cov­ered up was due to mil­i­tary secre­cy relat­ed to [the army’s] pur­suit of dual use capa­bil­i­ties in viro­log­i­cal bio­log­i­cal weapons and vac­cines.”

    Accord­ing to the US inves­ti­ga­tors, the clas­si­fied pro­gramme was to make the mine­shaft virus­es more infec­tious to humans.

    They believe this led to the cre­ation of the Covid-19 virus, and that it leaked into the city of Wuhan after a lab­o­ra­to­ry acci­dent. “It has become increas­ing­ly clear that the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy was involved in the cre­ation, pro­mul­ga­tion and cov­er-up of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic,” one of the inves­ti­ga­tors said.

    ...

    In 2012, in a cave called Shi­tou in the remote moun­tains of Yun­nan province, south­ern Chi­na, Shi’s team made a break­through. They recov­ered a virus that was the clos­est match to Sars of those found at the time. They labelled it WIV1, using the ini­tials of the insti­tute, and demon­strat­ed through lab­o­ra­to­ry work that it was able to infect human cells.

    But they were unable to grow suf­fi­cient quan­ti­ties of a sec­ond Sars-like virus found in the cave, labelled SHC014, to do sim­i­lar tests.

    Shi need­ed Baric’s exper­tise. She con­tact­ed him in 2013 and he agreed to help. The Wuhan Insti­tute pro­vid­ed Baric’s team with the genet­ic sequence for SHC014 so he could recre­ate the genes from the micro­scop­ic spikes that pro­trude from its sides. The Amer­i­can sci­en­tists then insert­ed SHC014’s “spike gene” into a copy of the orig­i­nal Sars virus Bar­ic had cre­at­ed in his lab and test­ed the new mutant on his human­ised mice.

    In May 2014, Eco­Health Alliance was award­ed a $3.7 mil­lion pub­licly fund­ed grant by the US Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH). More than $500,000 of it went to the Wuhan lab for equip­ment and a fur­ther $130,000 was spent chiefly on pay and ben­e­fits for Shi and her assis­tant.

    ...

    The results of Baric’s exper­i­ment with the genet­ic sequence giv­en to him by Shi were pub­lished in co-authored research in Novem­ber 2015. The com­bined Sars copy and SHC014 virus was a poten­tial mass killer. It caused severe lung dam­age in human­ised mice and was resis­tant to vac­cines devel­oped for Sars. The paper acknowl­edged this might have been an exper­i­ment that was too dan­ger­ous.
    ...

    This con­clu­sion by US inves­ti­ga­tors of a secret Chi­nese mil­i­tary research pro­gram focused on the dead­ly RaTG13 (orig­i­nal­ly dubbed 4991) was arrived at in a report pub­lished in ear­ly 2021. Of course, as we’ve seen, the RaTG13/4991 virus was actu­al­ly first men­tioned by Shi’s lab in a 2014 pub­lished paper and was fur­ther char­ac­ter­ized in a 2016 paper that men­tioned Peter Dasza­k’s Eco­Health Alliance USNIAID grant in its acknowl­edg­ments. The entire genome of RaTG13 was sequenced and used for a mas­ters the­sis pub­lished by one of Shi’s stu­dents in June of 2019. Beyond that, note the sources below for the claims that the WIV was secret­ly insert­ing furin cleav­age sites and then car­ry­ing out ani­mal pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments on these virus­es with human­ized mice: two researchers work­ing at a US lab­o­ra­to­ry who were col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Wuhan insti­tute at the time of the out­break. Yep:

    ...
    The inves­ti­ga­tors’ report was pub­lished in ear­ly 2021. It made two asser­tions: that Wuhan sci­en­tists were con­duct­ing exper­i­ments on RaTG13 from the Moi­jang mine, and that covert mil­i­tary research, includ­ing lab­o­ra­to­ry ani­mal exper­i­ments, was being done at the insti­tute before the pan­dem­ic. But the pub­lished report was brief — just 700 words — and was stripped of all sourc­ing and detail because so much of it was con­fi­den­tial.

    The Sun­day Times has spo­ken to three mem­bers of the team. The intel­li­gence they saw sug­gests the types of risky exper­i­ments under­tak­en on the Shi­tou cave Sars virus­es were also con­duct­ed in secret on RaTG13 and the oth­er Covid-19-like virus­es from the mine.

    “They were work­ing with the nine dif­fer­ent Covid vari­ants,” one of the inves­ti­ga­tors said. They believe one virus at the Wuhan insti­tute was an even clos­er match to Covid-19 than RaTG13. “We are con­fi­dent they were work­ing on a clos­er unpub­lished vari­ant — pos­si­bly col­lect­ed in Mojiang,” the source added.

    The inves­ti­ga­tors spoke to two researchers work­ing at a US lab­o­ra­to­ry who were col­lab­o­rat­ing with the Wuhan insti­tute at the time of the out­break. They said the Wuhan sci­en­tists had insert­ed furin cleav­age sites into virus­es in 2019 in exact­ly the way pro­posed in Daszak’s failed fund­ing appli­ca­tion to Darpa.

    The inves­ti­ga­tors also saw evi­dence that the insti­tute was con­duct­ing “ser­i­al pas­sag­ing” exper­i­ments on at least one of the mine virus­es. This is a process in which lab ani­mals are infect­ed with virus­es and mon­i­tored to see which strain is harm­ful to their health. The most dam­ag­ing strain is select­ed for repeat exper­i­ments to encour­age the pathogens to mutate into some­thing more dead­ly.

    The inves­ti­ga­tors spoke to a Wuhan insti­tute insid­er who alleged ser­i­al pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments were being car­ried out on RaTG13. “Human­ised mice with the ser­i­al pas­sag­ing is a tox­ic com­bi­na­tion,” said a source. “It speeds up the nat­ur­al muta­tion process. So instead of tak­ing years to mutate, it can take weeks or months. It guar­an­tees that you accel­er­ate the nat­ur­al process.”
    ...

    And note how the one US inves­ti­ga­tor, Dr Steven Quay, asserts that these inves­ti­ga­tors sus­pect even Peter Daszak was kept in the dark about furin cleave site and ani­mal pas­sage GoF research being done on RaTG13 and oth­er ‘secret’ virus­es from the Mojiang mine. Exper­i­ments that were lit­er­al­ly part of the 2018 grant pro­pos­al that was reject­ed by DARPA, just with a dif­fer­ent virus! So some­how Daszak was kept in dark while these two unnamed US researchers who were col­lab­o­rat­ing with the WIV some­how knew about this:

    ...
    Dr Steven Quay, a US sci­en­tist who advised the State Depart­ment on its inves­ti­ga­tion, believes the Wuhan institute’s secre­cy about the mine virus nev­er made sense. “There has nev­er been an exam­ple of a bat virus direct­ly infect­ing humans and killing,” he said. Sars was a bat virus that infect­ed peo­ple via an inter­me­di­ary ani­mal. “If those min­ers died from a bat virus, that was the first time in the his­to­ry of human sci­ence that that hap­pened. And the Chi­nese didn’t pub­lish it,” he added. The inves­ti­ga­tors think Daszak was kept in the dark about this part of the work.

    Quay believes Covid-19 was cre­at­ed by insert­ing a furin cleav­age site into one of the mine virus­es and then ser­i­al pas­sag­ing it through human­ised mice. He sub­mit­ted a state­ment to the US Sen­ate explain­ing the process. “You infect the mice, wait a week or so, and then recov­er the virus from the sick­est mice. Then you repeat. In a mat­ter of weeks this direct­ed evo­lu­tion will pro­duce a virus that can kill every human­ised mouse.”

    This explains why from the begin­ning of the out­break, he says, the pan­dem­ic virus was so remark­ably well adapt­ed to infect humans.
    ...

    Also note how Shi’s lab appeared to be learn­ing its cut­ting-edge chimera-cre­at­ing exper­i­ments from Ralph Bar­ic, and it was Bar­ic’s tech­niques that were to be used in a May 2016 report to the US gov­ern­ment from Daszak describ­ing how the WIV was plan­ning on cre­at­ing a chimera cre­at­ed by comb­ing bat coro­n­avirus­es with MERS. This alarmed the US gov­ern­ment because Daszak was describ­ing what was then still-banned GoF exper­i­ments. And yet Daszak argued that, no, it was­n’t a GoF exper­i­ment because the exper­i­ment was unlike­ly to make a virus more vir­u­lent than the orig­i­nal virus­es. That result­ed in a ‘com­pro­mise’, where the exper­i­ments were approved, but only if they did­n’t result in a virus that was more than 10 times as vir­u­lent as the orig­i­nal virus­es. So the US gov­ern­ment gave a ‘winky wink’ green light to what were basi­cal­ly GoF exper­i­ments con­duct­ed in Shi’s lab in 2016, the same year we are now told the secret Chi­nese mil­i­tary exper­i­ments with Shi’s lab alleged­ly began:

    ...
    The Wuhan insti­tute began step­ping up its own lab work using Baric’s tech­niques. It cre­at­ed two new mutants by fus­ing virus­es with the WIV1 pathogen it had found in the Shi­tou cave. These exper­i­ments were men­tioned in Daszak’s progress report for the year to May 2016, which he sub­mit­ted to the US gov­ern­ment fun­ders. The same report dis­closed the insti­tute planned to cre­ate an infec­tious ver­sion of the camel pathogen Mers by com­bin­ing it with bat virus­es. Mers had killed 35 per cent of peo­ple infect­ed dur­ing a 2012 out­break in Sau­di Ara­bia.

    This trig­gered alarm bells for the US gov­ern­ment because it would have involved the type of gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments that were still barred. Accord­ing to doc­u­ments obtained by free­dom of infor­ma­tion cam­paign­ers, Daszak argued the Mers exper­i­ment was not gain of func­tion because it was unlike­ly to make the virus more path­o­gen­ic. A com­pro­mise was reached where­by the sci­en­tists would stop work and report to US offi­cials if they cre­at­ed a new mutant virus that grew ten times faster than the nat­ur­al virus it was cre­at­ed from.

    That same year, Daszak announced to a New York con­fer­ence that Shi was mov­ing “clos­er and clos­er” to obtain­ing a virus “that could real­ly become path­o­gen­ic in peo­ple”.

    By 2017, accord­ing to a paper pub­lished by Shi, her sci­en­tists had sought to cre­ate eight mutant virus­es from the Sars-like coro­n­avirus­es found in the Shi­tou cave. Two of the mutant virus­es were found to infect human cells. Most of this work was car­ried out in the institute’s biosafe­ty lev­el 2 (BSL‑2) lab­o­ra­to­ries, which took only light pre­cau­tions that have been com­pared to those used in a den­tal surgery.

    ...

    The US embassy found out about the exper­i­ments in Wuhan and sent diplo­mats with sci­en­tif­ic exper­tise to inspect the insti­tute in Jan­u­ary 2018, accord­ing to diplo­mat­ic cables leaked to The Wash­ing­ton Post. They observed “a seri­ous short­age of appro­pri­ate­ly trained tech­ni­cians and inves­ti­ga­tors need­ed to safe­ly oper­ate this high-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ry”.
    ...

    It was this peri­od in 2017 when we are told that Shi’s lab car­ried out what Richard Ebright describes as the most dan­ger­ous coro­n­avirus exper­i­ment ever under­tak­en. High­ly infec­tion chimeric mutants cre­at­ed with W1V1 and inject­ed into the noses of human­ized mice with incred­i­ble result­ing in viral loads up to 10,000 times greater than the W1V1 virus, killing 75 per­cent of the mice. Exper­i­ments were part­ly-fund­ed with Eco­Health Alliance funds, and yet, in Peter Dasza­k’s April 2018 annu­al progress report to the NIH, no men­tion of the mouse deaths and referred to “mild Sars-like clin­i­cal signs”. Keep in mind the ‘com­pro­mise’ Daszak arrived at with the NIH to get the approval for these exper­i­ments: they could­n’t cre­at­ed a virus that was more than 10-times more vir­u­lent than the orig­i­nal virus. Was that why Daszak cov­ered up the poten­cy? Either way, these exper­i­ments car­ried out in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Eco­Health Alliance in 2017 was being cov­ered up by Daszak in that 2018 report:

    ...
    Around the same time, the Wuhan insti­tute took anoth­er per­ilous leap for­ward with its work on the Shi­tou virus­es. It began what Pro­fes­sor Richard Ebright describes as the most dan­ger­ous coro­n­avirus exper­i­ment ever under­tak­en. The sci­en­tists select­ed three lab-grown mutant virus­es, cre­at­ed by mix­ing Sars-like virus­es with WIV1, which had all been shown to infect human cells. These mutants were then inject­ed into the noses of albi­no mice with human lungs.

    The aim was to see whether the virus­es had the poten­tial to spark a pan­dem­ic if they were fused togeth­er, as they might do nat­u­ral­ly in a bat colony. The orig­i­nal WIV1 virus was inject­ed into anoth­er group of mice as a com­par­i­son.

    The mice were mon­i­tored in their cages over two weeks. The results were shock­ing. The mutant virus that fused WIV1 with SHC014 killed 75 per cent of the rodents and was three times as lethal as the orig­i­nal WIV1. In the ear­ly days of the infec­tion, the mice’s human-like lungs were found to con­tain a viral load up to 10,000 times greater than the orig­i­nal WIV1 virus.

    ...

    The exper­i­ment was part-fund­ed by EcoHealth’s grant mon­ey, but the FOI doc­u­ments show that, while the Wuhan institute’s exper­i­ments were described in Daszak’s April 2018 annu­al progress report to the NIH, he did not refer to the deaths of the human­ised mice.

    There was also no men­tion of the mouse deaths in the grant renew­al appli­ca­tion Daszak filed to the NIH lat­er that year. In this account, he said the mice had expe­ri­enced “mild Sars-like clin­i­cal signs” when they were infect­ed with the mutant virus. It had actu­al­ly killed six of the eight infect­ed human­ised mice.

    Daszak even­tu­al­ly pro­vid­ed details of the experiment’s dead­ly results to the US author­i­ties in a report after the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic. He now says his 2018 state­ment about the “mild” ill­ness was based on pre­lim­i­nary results — even though the exper­i­ment in which the mice died had tak­en place sev­er­al months before he issued the state­ment.
    ...

    Also note the inter­est­ing tim­ing of Dasza­k’s April 2018 progress report that left out the human­ized mouse deaths in rela­tion to the March 2018 pitch Daszak made to DARPA for more US fund­ing. It was a pitch for $14 mil­lion over three years that would entail Shi and Bar­ic cre­at­ing large num­bers of new chimeric virus­es from W1V1 and SHC014. One of the exper­i­ments involved the cre­ation of a furin cleav­age site. DARPA reject­ed the pitch:

    ...
    By March 2018, the Wuhan insti­tute was keen to press ahead with more exper­i­ments. Daszak applied for more fund­ing from the US. He made a pitch for $14 mil­lion over three years from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which is respon­si­ble for emerg­ing tech­nol­o­gy for use by the mil­i­tary.

    The appli­ca­tion, enti­tled Defuse — which names Daszak, Shi and Bar­ic — pro­posed the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry find large num­bers of new Sars virus­es and mix some of them with their two dead­ly strains from the Shi­tou cave — WIV1 and SHC014 — to see what would hap­pen. Darpa declined to fund the research.

    One spe­cif­ic exper­i­ment involved insert­ing a furin cleav­age site, a tiny sec­tion of a virus’s genet­ic order that makes them more infec­tious, into the pathogens. Daszak and the Wuhan lab­o­ra­to­ry say they did not go ahead with the work. But when Covid-19 emerged the fol­low­ing year, it was notable for being the first Sars-like coro­n­avirus with a furin cleav­age site.

    Last week, Daszak denied the Eco­Health-relat­ed exper­i­ments were dan­ger­ous. He said the NIH did not view the exper­i­ments as gain of func­tion and that lab­o­ra­to­ry safe­ty rules in Chi­na were fol­lowed at all times. The NIH said it “has nev­er approved any research that would make a coro­n­avirus more dan­ger­ous to humans”.
    ...

    Then we get to the alleged evi­dence of a shad­ow project being run at the WIV. Shi’s lab and the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment hid the fact that three of the six who fell ill on the Mojiang mine­shaft in 2012 died from Eco­Health Alliance and the US gov­ern­ment, pre­sum­ably to research the dead­ly virus in secret. It’s unclear why it is that inves­ti­ga­tors have con­clud­ed that Daszak did­n’t know about those three min­ers’ deaths. That seems to just be an asser­tion at this point. Then, in 2016, Shi pub­lished a sci­en­tif­ic paper on the dis­cov­ery of new coro­n­avirus­es at the site, includ­ing RaTG13/4991. But, again, the RaTG13/4991 virus was actu­al­ly first men­tioned by Shi’s lab in a 2014 pub­lished paper. And that 2016 paper describ­ing the dis­cov­ery of 4991 not only point­ed out how 4991 stuck out from the rest from an evo­lu­tion­ary per­spec­tive, but it also men­tioned Peter Dasza­k’s Eco­Health Alliance USNIAID grant in its acknowl­edg­ments. The entire genome of RaTG13 was even­tu­al­ly sequenced and used for a mas­ters the­sis pub­lished by one of Shi’s stu­dents in June of 2019. It’s hard to see how RaTG13/4991 was some­how being kept hid­den from Shi’s US col­lab­o­ra­tors:

    ...
    While the US fun­ders had been kept informed about the work on the cave virus­es, inves­ti­ga­tors believe the Wuhan insti­tute was run­ning a shad­ow project that it kept secret, even from Daszak.

    The root of this project goes back to an inci­dent that alleged­ly drew the atten­tion of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary to the work of sci­en­tists in Wuhan. In 2012, the Wuhan institute’s researchers inves­ti­gat­ed an aban­doned cop­per mine with a large bat colony in the Mojiang region of south Chi­na. Six men clear­ing out bat guano there were struck down by a mys­tery ill­ness that caused fever, coughs and pneu­mo­nia.

    All the men required hos­pi­tal treat­ment and three died. Tests on the men for var­i­ous ill­ness­es came back neg­a­tive but they test­ed pos­i­tive for anti­bod­ies to an unknown coro­n­avirus.

    It has been pos­si­ble, how­ev­er, to piece togeth­er what hap­pened from a master’s the­sis by a medic at the hos­pi­tal that treat­ed the men and a PhD paper by a stu­dent of the direc­tor of the Chi­nese Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

    The inci­dent hap­pened while the insti­tute was work­ing on EcoHealth’s Pre­dict pro­gramme, which was aimed at find­ing this type of virus crossover between ani­mals and humans. But the Wuhan insti­tute with­held infor­ma­tion about the mine deaths from Eco­Health and the US gov­ern­ment. Shi’s team spent four years strip­ping the Mojiang mine, col­lect­ing 1,300 sam­ples from the bats, and dis­cov­ered 293 coro­n­avirus­es.

    The work on the mine appears to have end­ed in May 2015. A year lat­er, Shi pub­lished a sci­en­tif­ic paper refer­ring to the dis­cov­ery at the site of a coro­n­avirus that was from a lin­eage of Sars nev­er seen before. She called it RaBtCoV/4991.

    The paper did not men­tion the deaths of the min­ers or that the sci­en­tists had found in the mine eight oth­er Sars coro­n­avirus­es from the same pre­vi­ous­ly undis­cov­ered fam­i­ly.

    After the pan­dem­ic began, the 4991 virus took on ever-greater sig­nif­i­cance. It was iden­ti­fied as the clos­est known rel­a­tive to Covid-19. It meant the nine virus­es found in the mine were the only mem­bers of Covid-19’s lin­eage known to have exist­ed pri­or to the pan­dem­ic. When the Wuhan insti­tute was forced to admit the exis­tence of 4991 — hav­ing list­ed a sec­tion of its genome sequence on an inter­na­tion­al data­base in 2016 — it changed the name to RaTG13, which meant it could not eas­i­ly be linked to the mine.
    ...

    And note the tim­ing of alleged shad­ow exper­i­ments at the WIV con­duct­ed at the behest of the Chi­nese mil­i­tary: accord­ing to an unnamed inves­tiga­tive source, the secret mil­i­tary-fund­ed exper­i­ments on RaTG13/4991 began in 2016. This would have been at the same time the Eco­Health Alliance col­lab­o­ra­tion was ongo­ing. And don’t for­get that Daszak report­ed­ly pitched to DARPA a $14 mil­lion pro­pos­al for mix­ing the two SARS cousins brought back from the Shi­tou cave in Yun­nan province — WIV1 and SHC014 — with large num­bers of new virus­es they’ve dis­cov­ered. Was RaTG13/4991 one of those new virus­es? We don’t know, but that seems like an obvi­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    Also note how the Chi­nese mil­i­tary authors pub­lished a book in 2015 that explic­it­ly dis­cussed the biowar­fare poten­tial of SARS. That’s quite a thing to pub­lish for a mil­i­tary that we are told began secret exper­i­ments to cre­ate a SARS-like bioweapon the fol­low­ing year. And more gen­er­al­ly, what are the odds that the lab with many inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tors who are also close friends would be the lab cho­sen for this high­ly secre­tive mil­i­tary work? It seems like quite a secu­ri­ty risk. But that’s the nar­ra­tive we’re get­ting:

    ...
    One of the rea­sons there is no pub­lished infor­ma­tion on such work, accord­ing to all three inves­ti­ga­tors, is because the shad­ow project on the mine virus­es at the Wuhan insti­tute was being fund­ed by the Chi­nese mil­i­tary.

    ...

    One of the inves­ti­ga­tor sources said the secret mil­i­tary-fund­ed exper­i­ments on the mine virus, RaTG13, began in 2016. At around that time, the Wuhan insti­tute became even less open about its work and most­ly stopped reveal­ing any new coro­n­avirus­es it dis­cov­ered. In the lead-up to the pan­dem­ic, the Wuhan insti­tute fre­quent­ly exper­i­ment­ed on coro­n­avirus­es along­side the Acad­e­my of Mil­i­tary Med­ical Sci­ences, a research arm of the People’s Lib­er­a­tion Army (PLA). In pub­lished papers, mil­i­tary sci­en­tists are list­ed as work­ing for the Bei­jing Insti­tute of Micro­bi­ol­o­gy and Epi­demi­ol­o­gy, which is the mil­i­tary academy’s base.

    The mil­i­tary was also giv­en posi­tions of respon­si­bil­i­ty in the Wuhan insti­tute, accord­ing to a US Sen­ate report. A book pub­lished in 2015 by the mil­i­tary acad­e­my dis­cuss­es how Sars virus­es rep­re­sent a “new era of genet­ic weapons” that can be “arti­fi­cial­ly manip­u­lat­ed into an emerg­ing human dis­ease virus, then weaponised and unleashed”.

    The authors are PLA researchers, and one of the book’s edi­tors has col­lab­o­rat­ed on numer­ous sci­en­tif­ic papers with Wuhan sci­en­tists. They dis­cuss how Sars can be weaponised by fus­ing it with oth­er virus­es and “ser­i­al pas­sag­ing” the result­ing mutant to make it more dan­ger­ous.
    ...

    And then we get the alle­ga­tions about how Chi­na was work­ing on some sort of coro­n­avirus vac­cine in the fall of 2019. This is good time to recall that Mod­er­na claims to have been work­ing with the NIH on mRNA coro­n­avirus vac­cines as far back as 2015 and even claimed to have invent­ed the idea of using mRNA vac­cines for the beta­coro­n­avirus fam­i­ly of virus­es. So when we hear about coro­n­avirus-relat­ed vac­cine research tak­ing place at the WIV in 2019, we almost have to ask whether or not Chi­na was try­ing to keep up with the advances the US had already made on that front years ear­li­er:

    ...
    The US inves­ti­ga­tors also revealed how they had been giv­en evi­dence indi­cat­ing the insti­tute had been work­ing on a vac­cine before the pan­dem­ic. “I inter­viewed sci­en­tists in Asia who have close rela­tion­ships with the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy,” the source said. “They told me it is their belief that there was vac­cine research going on in the fall of 2019, per­ti­nent to Covid-19 vac­ci­na­tion.”
    ...

    And that’s all part of the evolv­ing nar­ra­tive we’re see­ing emerge about the ori­gins of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus. A nar­ra­tive describ­ing a years-long close col­lab­o­ra­tive rela­tion­ship between the WIV and the US gov­ern­ment that went all the way up to that March 2018 pro­pos­al for cre­at­ing chimeric virus­es with human furin cleav­age sites and run­ning ani­mal pas­sag­ing exper­i­ments on human­ized mice and then end­ed. At that point, it was all a dia­bol­i­cal secret Chi­nese biowar­fare scheme that went hor­ri­bly awry. It’s a high­ly con­ve­nient nar­ra­tive for the US gov­ern­ment. Except for the dif­fi­cul­ty in swal­low­ing it. That part is incon­ve­nient.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 16, 2023, 12:41 am
  3. fol­low­ing up on last week’s Times of Lon­don piece that appeared to be the roll out of an updat­ed nar­ra­tive from the US gov­ern­ment about the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2 — a nar­ra­tive that pins the blame for the pan­dem­ic on a pur­port­ed secret shad­ow project start­ed in 2016 between Shi Zhengli’s lab at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) and the Chi­nese mil­i­tary — here’s an arti­cle by Michael Shel­len­berg­er, Matt Taib­bi, and Alex Gutentag pub­lished a few days lat­er on the Pub­lic Sub­stack account that appears to be part of the media cam­paign to push this new nar­ra­tive. The piece is par­tic­u­lar­ly focused on the con­clu­sion that three mem­bers of Shi Zhengli’s lab were the ‘patient zeros’ for the pan­dem­ic. It’s not the first time we’ve seen reports com­ing out based on US gov­ern­ment sources high­light­ing these three ill work­ers, with Michael R Gor­don pub­lish­ing a piece on this back in May of 2021 in Wall Street Jour­nal. But it’s a detail that has tak­en on greater sig­nif­i­cance now that the ‘secret Chi­nese biowar­fare exper­i­ments run out of Shi Zhengli’s lab’ nar­ra­tive is under­way. And, in turn, all of the evi­dence of exis­tence of this virus pre-Novem­ber 2019 has to be sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ignored, like the reports of ill ath­letes with COVID-like symp­toms arriv­ing at the Mil­i­tary World Games in Wuhan in Octo­ber of 2019. These three lab work­ers are set to be defined as the ‘patient zeroes’, hence this new report filled with unnamed gov­ern­ment sources who are now for the first time iden­ti­fy­ing the three lab work­ers: Ben Hu, Yu Ping, and Yan Zhu. An anony­mous source says they are “100%” cer­tain the three came down with COVID19, based on the log­ic that peo­ple in their 30s don’t get severe cas­es of the flu. As Jamie Met­zl, a for­mer mem­ber of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion expert advi­so­ry com­mit­tee on human genome edit­ing put it, “It’s a game chang­er if it can be proven that Hu got sick with COVID-19 before any­one else. That would be the ‘smok­ing gun.’ Hu was the lead hands-on researcher in Shi’s lab.” And that’s how this is being treat­ed, like ‘smok­ing gun’ evi­dence.

    The arti­cle also indi­cates that the Direc­torate of Nation­al Intel­li­gence is expect­ed to release pre­vi­ous­ly clas­si­fied mate­r­i­al, which may include the names of these three lab work­ers. Beyond that, the arti­cle men­tions how a bill signed by Pres­i­dent Biden ear­li­er this year specif­i­cal­ly called for the release of the names and roles of the sick researchers at the WIV, their symp­toms and date of symp­tom onset, and whether these researchers had been involved with or exposed to coro­n­avirus research. Yes, there was lit­er­al­ly a law passed this year call­ing for the iden­ti­ties of these three work­ers to get released. And that’s why we should expect to be hear­ing a lot more about Ben Hu, Yu Ping, and Yan Zhu and the coro­n­avirus research they were work­ing on. And much less about the years of US gov­ern­ment sup­port for that research:

    Public.substack

    First Peo­ple Sick­ened By COVID-19 Were Chi­nese Sci­en­tists At Wuhan Insti­tute Of Virol­o­gy, Say US Gov­ern­ment Sources

    The three sci­en­tists were engaged in “gain-of-func­tion” research on SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es when they fell ill

    Michael Shel­len­berg­er, Matt Taib­bi, and Alex Gutentag
    Jun 13, 2023

    After years of offi­cial pro­nounce­ments to the con­trary, sig­nif­i­cant new evi­dence has emerged that strength­ens the case that the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus acci­den­tal­ly escaped from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV).

    Accord­ing to mul­ti­ple U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials inter­viewed as part of a lengthy inves­ti­ga­tion by Pub­lic and Rack­et, the first peo­ple infect­ed by the virus, “patients zero,” includ­ed Ben Hu, a researcher who led the WIV’s “gain-of-func­tion” research on SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es, which increas­es the infec­tious­ness of virus­es.

    ...

    Pub­lic offi­cials in the U.S. and oth­er coun­tries have repeat­ed­ly sug­gest­ed that uncov­er­ing the pandemic’s ori­gin may not be pos­si­ble. “We may nev­er know,” said Antho­ny Fau­ci, the for­mer direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, who over­saw pan­dem­ic response for two admin­is­tra­tions.

    Now, answers increas­ing­ly look with­in reach. Sources with­in the US gov­ern­ment say that three of the ear­li­est peo­ple to become infect­ed with SARS-CoV­‑2 were Ben Hu, Yu Ping, and Yan Zhu. All were mem­bers of the Wuhan lab sus­pect­ed to have leaked the pan­dem­ic virus.

    As such, not only do we know there were WIV sci­en­tists who had devel­oped COVID-19-like ill­ness­es in Novem­ber 2019, but also that they were work­ing with the clos­est rel­a­tives of SARS-CoV­‑2, and insert­ing gain-of-func­tion fea­tures unique to it.

    When a source was asked how cer­tain they were that these were the iden­ti­ties of the three WIV sci­en­tists who devel­oped symp­toms con­sis­tent with COVID-19 in the fall of 2019, we were told, “100%”

    “Ben Hu is essen­tial­ly the next Shi Zhengli,” said Ali­na Chan, a mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist at the Broad Insti­tute of MIT and Har­vard, and coau­thor with Matt Rid­ley of Viral: The Search for the Ori­gin of Covid19. Shi is known as “the bat woman of Chi­na,” and led the gain-of-func­tion research at the WIV. “He was her star pupil. He had been mak­ing chimeric SARS-like virus­es and test­ing these in human­ized mice. If I had to guess who would be doing this risky virus research and most at risk of get­ting acci­den­tal­ly infect­ed, it would be him.”

    Hu and Yu researched the nov­el lin­eage of SARS-like virus­es from which SARS-CoV­‑2 hails, and in 2019 coau­thored a paper with Shi Zhengli that described SARS-like lin­eages they had stud­ied over the years.

    Jamie Met­zl, a for­mer mem­ber of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion expert advi­so­ry com­mit­tee on human genome edit­ing who raised ques­tions start­ing in ear­ly 2020 about a pos­si­ble research-relat­ed pan­dem­ic ori­gin, said, “It’s a game chang­er if it can be proven that Hu got sick with COVID-19 before any­one else. That would be the ‘smok­ing gun.’ Hu was the lead hands-on researcher in Shi’s lab.”

    Sources tell Pub­lic and Rack­et that oth­er news orga­ni­za­tions are chas­ing aspects of this sto­ry. On Sat­ur­day, The Times of Lon­don quot­ed an anony­mous U.S. State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tor say­ing, “It has become increas­ing­ly clear that the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy was involved in the cre­ation, pro­mul­ga­tion, and cov­er-up of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic.”

    Pub­lic and Rack­et are the first pub­li­ca­tions to reveal the names of the three sick WIV work­ers and place them direct­ly in the lab that col­lect­ed and exper­i­ment­ed with SARS-like virus­es poised for human emer­gence.

    Next week, the Direc­torate of Nation­al Intel­li­gence is expect­ed to release pre­vi­ous­ly clas­si­fied mate­r­i­al, which may include the names of the three WIV sci­en­tists who were the like­ly among the first to be sick­ened by SARS-CoV­‑2.

    A bill signed by Pres­i­dent Biden ear­li­er this year specif­i­cal­ly called for the release of the names and roles of the sick researchers at the WIV, their symp­toms and date of symp­tom onset, and whether these researchers had been involved with or exposed to coro­n­avirus research.

    On Dec. 29, 2017, two years before the pan­dem­ic began, Chi­nese state-run tele­vi­sion aired a video that includes a scene of Ben Hu watch­ing a lab work­er han­dle spec­i­mens. Nei­ther are wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear. The same video shows WIV sci­en­tists hunt­ing for bat virus­es with lit­tle pro­tec­tive gear. “If they were wor­ried about being infect­ed in the field, they would need full body suits with no gaps” to be safe, said Chan. “That’s the only way.”

    The WIV research with live SARS-like virus­es was per­formed at too low of a safe­ty lev­el, “BSL‑2,” explains Chan, “When we now know that the pan­dem­ic virus is even capa­ble of escap­ing from a BSL‑3 lab and infect­ing ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed young lab work­ers.”

    While sci­en­tists jus­ti­fy such research as nec­es­sary for devel­op­ing vac­cines, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma banned fed­er­al fund­ing for gain-of-func­tion research of con­cern in 2014, because experts had come to the con­sen­sus that it was too dan­ger­ous. How­ev­er, the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health and NIAID head­ed by Fran­cis Collins and Fau­ci, and a major U.S. gov­ern­ment grantee, Eco­Health Alliance, deemed their work on SARS-like virus­es as not falling under the gain-of-func­tion research of con­cern def­i­n­i­tions and fund­ed this project in Chi­na and South­east Asia.

    In March 2018, the WIV, the Eco­Health Alliance, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na applied for a $14 mil­lion grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency DARPA to engi­neer “furin cleav­age sites” into SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es to study how this affect­ed their abil­i­ty to grow and cause dis­ease.

    Sci­en­tists say the key piece of the COVID-19 virus, which made it so trans­mis­si­ble com­pared to its clos­est rel­a­tives, was its unique furin cleav­age site.

    DARPA reject­ed the grant, but it now appears the WIV went for­ward with the research any­way. The Times of Lon­don report­ed that US col­lab­o­ra­tors of the WIV had come for­ward and said the Wuhan sci­en­tists had put furin cleav­age sites into SARS-like virus­es in 2019.

    Hu co-authored mul­ti­ple papers on coro­n­avirus research, includ­ing a 2017 paper on chimeric bat coro­n­avirus­es with Peter Daszak, the head of Eco­Health Alliance, which was fund­ed in part by the NIH and the USAID Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic Threats PREDICT Pro­gram. Data pri­vate­ly shared with the NIH revealed that these chimeric SARS-like virus­es grew far more quick­ly and caused more severe dis­ease in human­ized mice in the lab.

    When the WIV put out their first paper about the pan­dem­ic virus, they failed to point out the nov­el furin cleav­age site despite hav­ing had plans to and alleged­ly putting such gain-of-func­tion fea­tures into SARS-like virus­es in their lab. “It’s as if these sci­en­tists pro­posed putting horns on hors­es, but when a uni­corn shows up in their city a year lat­er they write a paper describ­ing every part of it except its horn,” said Chan.

    Pub­lic sent emails and made phone calls to the NIH, WIV, Eco­Health Alliance, Daszak, Hu, and Shi over the last sev­er­al days and did not hear back.

    It is unclear who in the U.S. gov­ern­ment had access to the intel­li­gence about the sick WIV work­ers, how long they had it, and why it was not shared with the pub­lic. “You would expect the coun­try of ori­gin to be defen­sive,” said Chan, “but you wouldn’t expect a coun­try receiv­ing the virus to be with­hold­ing key evi­dence.”

    On Jan­u­ary 15, 2021, five days before Pres­i­dent Joe Biden took office, the U.S. State Depart­ment pub­lished a fact sheet that point­ed to the like­li­hood of a lab leak as the cause of a pan­dem­ic.

    Already, the State Depart­ment in 2021 sus­pect­ed that the WIV had lied to the pub­lic. “The U.S. gov­ern­ment has rea­son to believe that sev­er­al researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first iden­ti­fied case of the out­break, with symp­toms con­sis­tent with both COVID-19 and com­mon sea­son­al ill­ness­es. That rais­es ques­tions about the cred­i­bil­i­ty of WIV senior researcher Shi Zhengli’s pub­lic claim that there was ‘zero infec­tion’ among the WIV’s staff and stu­dents by SARS-CoV­‑2 or SARS-relat­ed virus­es.”

    In Feb­ru­ary of this year, the Direc­tor of the FBI, Christo­pher Wray, told a reporter that “the FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic are most like­ly a poten­tial lab inci­dent in Wuhan.”

    The Times of Lon­don report­ed that State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors “found evi­dence that researchers work­ing on these exper­i­ments were tak­en to hos­pi­tal with Covid-like symp­toms in Novem­ber 2019.” As pre­vi­ous­ly report­ed in Van­i­ty Fair, some of the infor­ma­tion State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tors found in 2021 was “sit­ting in the U.S. intel­li­gence community’s own files, unan­a­lyzed.”

    “Ever since I put out my [May 2020] preprint [research paper] say­ing that an acci­den­tal lab ori­gin was pos­si­ble, I was crit­i­cized as a con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist,” said Chan. “If this info had been made pub­lic in May of 2020, I doubt that many in the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty and the media would have spent the last three years rav­ing about a rac­coon dog or pan­golin in a wet mar­ket.”

    ...

    Pub­li­ca­tions rang­ing from the Wash­ing­ton Post to the Inter­cept to the Wall Street Jour­nal have uncov­ered sug­ges­tive details, includ­ing the fact that the NIH award­ed fund­ing for at least 18 gain-of-func­tion research projects between 2012 and 2020, and NIH sci­en­tists in 2016 express­ing con­cern about sup­pos­ed­ly paused hybrid “chimera” virus research.

    Had the infor­ma­tion come out ear­li­er, gov­ern­ments may have respond­ed to the pan­dem­ic dif­fer­ent­ly. After Pub­lic shared the infor­ma­tion with Chan, she said, “I feel vin­di­cat­ed, but I’m frus­trat­ed. If you knew that this was like­ly a lab-enhanced pathogen, there are so many things you could have done dif­fer­ent­ly. This whole pan­dem­ic could have been reshaped.”

    Said Met­zl, “Had US gov­ern­ment offi­cials includ­ing Dr. Fau­ci stat­ed from day one that a COVID-19 research-relat­ed ori­gin was a very real pos­si­bil­i­ty, and made clear that we had lit­tle idea what virus­es were being held at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, what work was being done there, and who was doing that work, our nation­al and glob­al con­ver­sa­tions would have been dra­mat­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent. The time has come for a full account­ing.”

    ———–

    “First Peo­ple Sick­ened By COVID-19 Were Chi­nese Sci­en­tists At Wuhan Insti­tute Of Virol­o­gy, Say US Gov­ern­ment Sources” by Michael Shel­len­berg­er, Matt Taib­bi, and Alex Gutentag; Public.substack; 06/13/2023

    “Accord­ing to mul­ti­ple U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials inter­viewed as part of a lengthy inves­ti­ga­tion by Pub­lic and Rack­et, the first peo­ple infect­ed by the virus, “patients zero,” includ­ed Ben Hu, a researcher who led the WIV’s “gain-of-func­tion” research on SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es, which increas­es the infec­tious­ness of virus­es.”

    The anony­mous offi­cials are talk­ing to the media with a sto­ry to tell. A sto­ry that pur­port­ed­ly lays out the smok­ing gun evi­dence that the virus emerged from Shi Zhengli’s lab at the WIV. Accord­ing to these US gov­ern­ment sources, three mem­bers of that lab were among the first peo­ple in Wuhan to come down with COVID19 in mid-Novem­ber of 2019. It’s basi­cal­ly the same sto­ry we first heard back in May of 2021 when the WSJ first report­ed on these three mem­bers of Shi’s lab get­ting ill, but with a few addi­tion­al details. This is a good time to recall that SkyNews 2021 doc­u­men­tary that fea­tured an alleged Chi­nese defec­tor, Wei Jing­sheng, who claims to have been alert­ing US offi­cials about a pos­si­ble viral out­break in Wuhan in Octo­ber of 2019 and spec­u­lat­ing that the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Par­ty was using the Mil­i­tary World Games as a bio­log­i­cal war­fare super­spread­er event. It was just one of a num­ber of sto­ries hint­ing at the virus cir­cu­lat­ing months before Decem­ber 2019, includ­ing the reports of ill ath­letes at the Mil­i­tary World Games. All of those sto­ries are going to have to be ignored for this new nar­ra­tive to take hold:

    ...
    Pub­lic offi­cials in the U.S. and oth­er coun­tries have repeat­ed­ly sug­gest­ed that uncov­er­ing the pandemic’s ori­gin may not be pos­si­ble. “We may nev­er know,” said Antho­ny Fau­ci, the for­mer direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, who over­saw pan­dem­ic response for two admin­is­tra­tions.

    Now, answers increas­ing­ly look with­in reach. Sources with­in the US gov­ern­ment say that three of the ear­li­est peo­ple to become infect­ed with SARS-CoV­‑2 were Ben Hu, Yu Ping, and Yan Zhu. All were mem­bers of the Wuhan lab sus­pect­ed to have leaked the pan­dem­ic virus.

    As such, not only do we know there were WIV sci­en­tists who had devel­oped COVID-19-like ill­ness­es in Novem­ber 2019, but also that they were work­ing with the clos­est rel­a­tives of SARS-CoV­‑2, and insert­ing gain-of-func­tion fea­tures unique to it.

    When a source was asked how cer­tain they were that these were the iden­ti­ties of the three WIV sci­en­tists who devel­oped symp­toms con­sis­tent with COVID-19 in the fall of 2019, we were told, “100%”
    ...

    And as this arti­cle points out, it’s not the only arti­cle slat­ed to be pub­lished on this top­ic on the near future. Instead, these unnamed US inves­ti­ga­tors are bring­ing this nar­ra­tive to mul­ti­ple media out­lets, includ­ing last week’s Times of Lon­don arti­cle alleg­ing a secret shad­ow project being run by Shi Zhengli’s lab in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Chi­nese mil­i­tary. And next week, the US Direc­torate of Nation­al Intel­li­gence is expect­ed to release pre­vi­ous­ly clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion includ­ing the names of these three WIV work­ers. Names that were already just pub­lished in this report:

    ...
    Sources tell Pub­lic and Rack­et that oth­er news orga­ni­za­tions are chas­ing aspects of this sto­ry. On Sat­ur­day, The Times of Lon­don quot­ed an anony­mous U.S. State Depart­ment inves­ti­ga­tor say­ing, “It has become increas­ing­ly clear that the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy was involved in the cre­ation, pro­mul­ga­tion, and cov­er-up of the Covid-19 pan­dem­ic.”

    Pub­lic and Rack­et are the first pub­li­ca­tions to reveal the names of the three sick WIV work­ers and place them direct­ly in the lab that col­lect­ed and exper­i­ment­ed with SARS-like virus­es poised for human emer­gence.

    Next week, the Direc­torate of Nation­al Intel­li­gence is expect­ed to release pre­vi­ous­ly clas­si­fied mate­r­i­al, which may include the names of the three WIV sci­en­tists who were the like­ly among the first to be sick­ened by SARS-CoV­‑2.

    ...

    It is unclear who in the U.S. gov­ern­ment had access to the intel­li­gence about the sick WIV work­ers, how long they had it, and why it was not shared with the pub­lic. “You would expect the coun­try of ori­gin to be defen­sive,” said Chan, “but you wouldn’t expect a coun­try receiv­ing the virus to be with­hold­ing key evi­dence.”
    ...

    And then there’s the fact that the US gov­ern­ment passed a law specif­i­cal­ly call­ing for the released of the names and roles of these sick WIV work­ers. This is the like offi­cial con­sen­sus nar­ra­tive for the US gov­ern­ment:

    ...
    A bill signed by Pres­i­dent Biden ear­li­er this year specif­i­cal­ly called for the release of the names and roles of the sick researchers at the WIV, their symp­toms and date of symp­tom onset, and whether these researchers had been involved with or exposed to coro­n­avirus research.
    ...

    And as part of that nar­ra­tive, we’re going to be see­ing fre­quent ref­er­ences to how the research at the WIV was con­duct­ed in BSL‑2 con­di­tions. And while those facts aren’t real­ly in dis­pute at this point, it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that the WIV was effec­tive­ly built and trained by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty. Beyond that, the safe­ty pro­to­cols used for the exper­i­ments being con­duct­ed by Shi’s lab prob­a­bly would­n’t have been a secret to the WIV’s Eco­Health Alliance col­lab­o­ra­tors. Also recall the June 2019 Mas­ters The­sis focused on the RatG13/4991 virus — the clos­est known nat­ur­al viral cousin to SARS-CoV­‑2 — pub­lished by a stu­dent in Shi’s lab that described the BSL‑2 con­di­tions used for the project. That includes the BSL‑2 con­di­tions that were used for work involv­ing the cre­ation of chimeric bat coro­n­avirus­es that was pub­lished in 2017 and co-authored by Peter Daszak. So while those BSL‑2 con­di­tions were indeed prob­lem­at­ic, they weren’t a secret:

    ...
    On Dec. 29, 2017, two years before the pan­dem­ic began, Chi­nese state-run tele­vi­sion aired a video that includes a scene of Ben Hu watch­ing a lab work­er han­dle spec­i­mens. Nei­ther are wear­ing pro­tec­tive gear. The same video shows WIV sci­en­tists hunt­ing for bat virus­es with lit­tle pro­tec­tive gear. “If they were wor­ried about being infect­ed in the field, they would need full body suits with no gaps” to be safe, said Chan. “That’s the only way.”

    The WIV research with live SARS-like virus­es was per­formed at too low of a safe­ty lev­el, “BSL‑2,” explains Chan, “When we now know that the pan­dem­ic virus is even capa­ble of escap­ing from a BSL‑3 lab and infect­ing ful­ly vac­ci­nat­ed young lab work­ers.”

    ...

    Hu co-authored mul­ti­ple papers on coro­n­avirus research, includ­ing a 2017 paper on chimeric bat coro­n­avirus­es with Peter Daszak, the head of Eco­Health Alliance, which was fund­ed in part by the NIH and the USAID Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic Threats PREDICT Pro­gram. Data pri­vate­ly shared with the NIH revealed that these chimeric SARS-like virus­es grew far more quick­ly and caused more severe dis­ease in human­ized mice in the lab.
    ...

    And then we get to this very inter­est­ing detail dis­cussed in the Times of Lon­don piece: in March of 2018, a project was pro­posed by the WIV, Eco­Health Alliance, and Ralph Bar­ic’s lab at Chapel Hill to engi­neer “furin cleav­age sites” into SARS-like virus­es. DARPA reject­ed the grant but we are told the WIV went ahead with the research any­way. It’s clear­ly being put for­ward as key point in the ‘Chi­na did it!’ nar­ra­tive being con­struct­ed by the US government...and yet it simul­ta­ne­ous­ly just under­scores how deeply involved the US gov­ern­ment was in Shi Zhengli’s research. We are expect­ed to believe that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment had its top biowar­fare lab make a pitch to DARPA for the kind of work that was alleged­ly going on in par­al­lel with secret mil­i­tary exper­i­ments on hid­den virus­es:

    ...
    While sci­en­tists jus­ti­fy such research as nec­es­sary for devel­op­ing vac­cines, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma banned fed­er­al fund­ing for gain-of-func­tion research of con­cern in 2014, because experts had come to the con­sen­sus that it was too dan­ger­ous. How­ev­er, the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health and NIAID head­ed by Fran­cis Collins and Fau­ci, and a major U.S. gov­ern­ment grantee, Eco­Health Alliance, deemed their work on SARS-like virus­es as not falling under the gain-of-func­tion research of con­cern def­i­n­i­tions and fund­ed this project in Chi­na and South­east Asia.

    In March 2018, the WIV, the Eco­Health Alliance, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na applied for a $14 mil­lion grant from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency DARPA to engi­neer “furin cleav­age sites” into SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es to study how this affect­ed their abil­i­ty to grow and cause dis­ease.

    Sci­en­tists say the key piece of the COVID-19 virus, which made it so trans­mis­si­ble com­pared to its clos­est rel­a­tives, was its unique furin cleav­age site.

    DARPA reject­ed the grant, but it now appears the WIV went for­ward with the research any­way. The Times of Lon­don report­ed that US col­lab­o­ra­tors of the WIV had come for­ward and said the Wuhan sci­en­tists had put furin cleav­age sites into SARS-like virus­es in 2019.
    ...

    So as we can see, this ‘patient zero’ nar­ra­tive is rapid­ly tak­ing shape, with more details pre­sum­ably on the way after the Direc­torate of Nation­al Intel­li­gence releas­es more clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion. Along with more arti­cles cit­ing unnamed gov­ern­ment sources insist­ing on how these new­ly declas­si­fied details fur­ther sup­port the “100%” con­clu­sions of the US gov­ern­men­t’s inves­ti­ga­tion. We’re clear­ly out of the “we have no idea how this hap­pened” stage of the coverup and have now entered the “we know entire­ly what hap­pened, trust us on this one” phase.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 17, 2023, 4:33 pm
  4. @Pterrafractyl–

    Apart from the indi­ca­tions of “Con­scious­ness of guilt” high­light­ed in, among oth­er pro­grams, FTR#1256 (https://spitfirelist.com/for-the-record/ftr1256-pandemics-inc-part‑6/), none of the nar­ra­tive takes into account a fun­da­men­tal ele­ment of the dis­cus­sion:

    “Syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy rais­es risk of new bioweapons, US report warns” by Ian Sam­ple; The Guardian; 06/19/2018

    The rapid rise of syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, a futur­is­tic field of sci­ence that seeks to mas­ter the machin­ery of life, has raised the risk of a new gen­er­a­tion of bioweapons, accord­ing a major US report into the state of the art. . . .

    “ . . . Advances in the area mean that sci­en­tists now have the capa­bil­i­ty to recre­ate dan­ger­ous virus­es from scratch; make harm­ful bac­te­ria more dead­ly; and mod­i­fy com­mon microbes so that they churn out lethal tox­ins once they enter the body. . . In the report, the sci­en­tists describe how syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, which gives researchers pre­ci­sion tools to manip­u­late liv­ing organ­isms, ‘enhances and expands’ oppor­tu­ni­ties to cre­ate bioweapons. . . . Today, the genet­ic code of almost any mam­malian virus can be found online and syn­the­sised. ‘The tech­nol­o­gy to do this is avail­able now,’ said [Michael] Impe­ri­ale. “It requires some exper­tise, but it’s some­thing that’s rel­a­tive­ly easy to do, and that is why it tops the list. . . .”

    The entire debate is anachro­nis­tic.

    Keep up the great work!

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | June 20, 2023, 4:02 pm
  5. Some­times the nar­ra­tive just won’t budge, despite all the efforts. We got a reminder of that ear­ly this month with the recent declas­si­fi­ca­tion of a US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty report on the ori­gins of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic. A report that more or less down­plays the many asser­tions we heard dur­ing last mon­th’s full court press push in the media hint­ing at US intel­li­gence that reveals the ori­gins of the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus as the fruits of a secret Chi­nese mil­i­tary biowar­fare col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli’s lab. As the fol­low­ing ProP­ub­li­ca piece describes, the declas­si­fied report specif­i­cal­ly address­es the activ­i­ty at the Wuhan Insti­tu­tion of Virol­o­gy (WIV) in Novem­ber of 2019 that has become a focal point for the ‘WIV lab leak’ nar­ra­tive: the three ill WIV work­ers and WIV safe­ty train­ing that took place that month. Accord­ing to the declas­si­fied report, the three ill work­ers had symp­toms that were not con­sis­tent with COVID19 and the safe­ty train­ing that month was just run-of-the-mill.

    So instead of indi­cat­ing a big new nar­ra­tive that we were going to be hear­ing from the US gov­ern­ment, all those reports instead seem to reflect the ongo­ing divi­sions with­in the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and a pub­lic rela­tions nar­ra­tive fight play­ing out. A pub­lic nar­ra­tive fight that had a big new twist this week, seem­ing­ly acci­den­tal­ly: the House Repub­li­cans on the sub­com­mit­tee prob­ing the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic released a sub­com­mit­tee report last week focused on the ques­tion of what the research com­mu­ni­ty actu­al­ly sus­pect­ed in the ear­ly months of the pan­dem­ic. Specif­i­cal­ly, the now noto­ri­ous “The prox­i­mal ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2” let­ter to Nature Med­i­cine back in March of 2020 that attempt­ed to pre­empt any seri­ous dis­cus­sion of a pos­si­ble lab leak. The released sub­com­mit­tee report con­tains a num­ber of cropped images of email and Slack exchanges between the authors of that Nature let­ter. But it also turns out the PDF doc­u­ment still con­tains the full image infor­ma­tion for those cropped images, mean­ing any­one with the prop­er soft­ware can take the PDF and recov­er the com­plete images of those email and Slack screen­shots. Which is pre­cise­ly what The Inter­cept pro­ceed­ed to do. As the uncropped screen­shots make clear, the the pos­si­bil­i­ty of “lab leak” or some sort of lab based ori­gin weighed heav­i­ly on the authors, along with pres­sure from “on high” to squash any dis­cus­sion of the pos­si­bil­i­ty.

    Was the release of this PDF report con­tain­ing these damn­ing con­ver­sa­tions tru­ly a mis­take? Or is this just the lat­est phase in the ongo­ing nar­ra­tive bat­tle? Time will tell, but the nar­ra­tive bat­tle only seems to be heat­ing up at this point. Ok, first, here’s that ProP­ub­li­ca report on the sur­pris­ing tame declas­si­fied intel­li­gence report:

    ProP­ub­li­ca

    Intel­li­gence Report Says Safe­ty Train­ing at Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment Lab Com­plex in Wuhan Before the Pan­dem­ic Appears Rou­tine

    The view of the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty con­trasts with a 2022 report by the Repub­li­can over­sight staff of a Sen­ate com­mit­tee that saw the train­ing as a response to a biosafe­ty prob­lem.

    by ProP­ub­li­ca
    July 7, 11 a.m. EDT

    A recent­ly declas­si­fied intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty report on the ori­gin of COVID-19 has tak­en a benign view of biosafe­ty train­ing that took place at a gov­ern­ment lab in Wuhan, Chi­na, in Novem­ber 2019, not long before the pan­dem­ic began there.

    The safe­ty train­ing for staff at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy was an aspect of an inter­im report by the Repub­li­can over­sight staff of a Sen­ate com­mit­tee that last year con­clud­ed the pan­dem­ic was “more like­ly than not, the result of a research-relat­ed inci­dent.” Last Octo­ber, ProP­ub­li­ca and Van­i­ty Fair delved into the inner work­ings of the team that pro­duced that inter­im report and some out­side experts’ views of its find­ings.

    The intel­li­gence report was issued in June in response to a law, passed unan­i­mous­ly, that required the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence to declas­si­fy infor­ma­tion regard­ing the ori­gins of COVID-19. The report con­firmed pri­or news accounts that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty is divid­ed about the cause of the pan­dem­ic, but it did not pro­vide specifics about how dif­fer­ent agen­cies reached their con­clu­sions. While some believe the virus like­ly first infect­ed a human through a research-relat­ed acci­dent, oth­ers say it’s more like­ly that the con­ta­gion nat­u­ral­ly spilled over from ani­mal to human. The report stat­ed that “all agen­cies con­tin­ue to assess that both a nat­ur­al and lab­o­ra­to­ry-asso­ci­at­ed ori­gin remain plau­si­ble.”

    Last year’s report by the Repub­li­can over­sight staff of the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor & Pen­sions Com­mit­tee point­ed to a Novem­ber 2019 safe­ty train­ing at the WIV, as well as patents and pro­cure­ments, as evi­dence of biosafe­ty-relat­ed prob­lems at the lab com­plex around the time the virus emerged in Wuhan. On Nov. 19, 2019, a senior Chi­nese gov­ern­ment safe­ty offi­cial arrived at the WIV to dis­cuss a “com­plex and grave sit­u­a­tion cur­rent­ly fac­ing [bio]security work,” the report said. On the same day that the offi­cial arrived, the WIV sought to pro­cure a cost­ly air incin­er­a­tor. The fol­low­ing month, WIV researchers applied for a patent for an improved device to con­tain haz­ardous gas­es inside a bio­log­i­cal cham­ber, like ones used to trans­port infect­ed ani­mals.

    In con­trast, the intel­li­gence report said the Novem­ber 2019 safe­ty train­ing appeared to be run-of-the-mill rather than a response to a biose­cu­ri­ty breach. “We do not know of a spe­cif­ic biosafe­ty inci­dent at the WIV that spurred the pan­dem­ic and the WIV’s biosafe­ty train­ing appears rou­tine, rather than an emer­gency response by China’s lead­er­ship,” said the report, which was draft­ed by the nation­al intel­li­gence offi­cer for weapons of mass destruc­tion and pro­lif­er­a­tion and coor­di­nat­ed with the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. The intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty agen­cies agreed on the under­ly­ing facts in the report but drew dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions from that infor­ma­tion, accord­ing to an offi­cial famil­iar with the report.

    The intel­li­gence report is brief and does not men­tion the incin­er­a­tor or device patent. It said that WIV offi­cials in mid-2019 were “eval­u­at­ing and imple­ment­ing biosafe­ty improve­ments, train­ing, and pro­cure­ments” in the con­text of Chi­nese biose­cu­ri­ty leg­is­la­tion.

    Some WIV sci­en­tists have genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered coro­n­avirus­es, the report said, but the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has no infor­ma­tion “indi­cat­ing that any WIV genet­ic engi­neer­ing work has involved SARS-CoV­‑2, a close prog­en­i­tor, or a back­bone virus that is close­ly-relat­ed enough to have been the source of the pan­dem­ic.”

    At the same time, the intel­li­gence report did point to biosafe­ty con­cerns. “Some WIV researchers prob­a­bly did not use ade­quate biosafe­ty pre­cau­tions at least some of the time pri­or to the pan­dem­ic in han­dling SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es, increas­ing the risk of acci­den­tal expo­sure to virus­es,” the report said.

    The intel­li­gence report con­firmed pre­vi­ous news reports that sev­er­al WIV researchers became sick in fall 2019, though it stat­ed this was not proof that the sci­en­tists were infect­ed through their work. The intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty “con­tin­ues to assess that this infor­ma­tion nei­ther sup­ports nor refutes either hypoth­e­sis of the pandemic’s ori­gins because the researchers’ symp­toms could have been caused by a num­ber of dis­eases and some of the symp­toms were not con­sis­tent with COVID-19,” the report stat­ed.

    The U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion has a four-point rat­ing sys­tem for bio­labs based on the threats posed by the infec­tious organ­isms agents allowed there. Biosafe­ty lev­el 4, or BSL‑4, labs are the most restric­tive and designed to han­dle the most dan­ger­ous pathogens. Accord­ing to the intel­li­gence report, as of Jan­u­ary 2019, WIV researchers were per­form­ing exper­i­ments with coro­n­avirus­es in BSL‑2 labs, which have far few­er safe­guards, despite know­ing of “these virus’ abil­i­ty to direct­ly infect humans.”

    “Sep­a­rate­ly, the WIV’s plan to con­duct analy­sis of poten­tial epi­dem­ic virus­es from pan­golin sam­ples in fall 2019, sug­gests the researchers sought to iso­late live virus­es,” the intel­li­gence report said.

    While not reveal­ing the evi­dence under­ly­ing its assess­ments, the report laid out the divi­sions with­in the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. The Nation­al Intel­li­gence Coun­cil and “four oth­er IC agen­cies” assess that the nat­ur­al spillover of a virus from an infect­ed ani­mal is the most like­ly cause of the pan­dem­ic, accord­ing to the intel­li­gence report. The report did not name the oth­er four intel­li­gence agen­cies.

    Two fed­er­al intel­li­gence agen­cies — the Depart­ment of Ener­gy and the FBI — have land­ed on the oth­er side of the bit­ter debate over the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic, assess­ing that a lab­o­ra­to­ry-asso­ci­at­ed inci­dent is the most like­ly cause of the pan­dem­ic. The Wall Street Jour­nal report­ed in Feb­ru­ary that the Depart­ment of Ener­gy, which had pre­vi­ous­ly been unde­cid­ed about how the pan­dem­ic began, had come to sup­port the lab-leak posi­tion with “low con­fi­dence” in response to new intel­li­gence; the FBI reached its con­clu­sion with “mod­er­ate con­fi­dence.” The intel­li­gence report doesn’t men­tion the con­fi­dence lev­els of any agency.

    While the Depart­ment of Ener­gy and the FBI agree that the pan­dem­ic most like­ly result­ed from a lab inci­dent, the agen­cies reached the same con­clu­sion for “dif­fer­ent rea­sons,” accord­ing to the intel­li­gence report. But the report didn’t say what those rea­sons were.

    Although the March law required the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence to declas­si­fy “any and all infor­ma­tion” relat­ing to poten­tial links between the WIV and the ori­gin of COVID-19, an annex to the report remains clas­si­fied. Accord­ing to the report, this was nec­es­sary “to pro­tect sources and meth­ods.”

    ...

    ———–

    “Intel­li­gence Report Says Safe­ty Train­ing at Chi­nese Gov­ern­ment Lab Com­plex in Wuhan Before the Pan­dem­ic Appears Rou­tine” by ProP­ub­li­ca; ProP­ub­li­ca; 07/07/2023

    “The intel­li­gence report was issued in June in response to a law, passed unan­i­mous­ly, that required the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence to declas­si­fy infor­ma­tion regard­ing the ori­gins of COVID-19. The report con­firmed pri­or news accounts that the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty is divid­ed about the cause of the pan­dem­ic, but it did not pro­vide specifics about how dif­fer­ent agen­cies reached their con­clu­sions. While some believe the virus like­ly first infect­ed a human through a research-relat­ed acci­dent, oth­ers say it’s more like­ly that the con­ta­gion nat­u­ral­ly spilled over from ani­mal to human. The report stat­ed that “all agen­cies con­tin­ue to assess that both a nat­ur­al and lab­o­ra­to­ry-asso­ci­at­ed ori­gin remain plau­si­ble.””

    As we can see, the recent­ly declas­si­fied intel­li­gence report was a sur­pris­ing­ly non-accusato­ry doc­u­ment. Sur­pris­ing giv­en the media push we wit­nessed last month with reports assert­ing the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has evi­dence of a secret Chi­nese biowar­fare pro­gram oper­at­ing out of Shi Zhengli’s lab and the fact that the inter­im report by the Repub­li­can over­sight staff of a Sen­ate com­mit­tee last year con­clud­ed the safe­ty train­ing at the WIV in Novem­ber 2019 pan­dem­ic was “more like­ly than not, the result of a research-relat­ed inci­dent”. But instead of fol­low­ing up on those alle­ga­tions, the declas­si­fied report dis­miss­es the Novem­ber 2019 safe­ty train­ing as just run-of-mill and not reflec­tive of an emer­gency response:

    ...
    The safe­ty train­ing for staff at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy was an aspect of an inter­im report by the Repub­li­can over­sight staff of a Sen­ate com­mit­tee that last year con­clud­ed the pan­dem­ic was “more like­ly than not, the result of a research-relat­ed inci­dent.” Last Octo­ber, ProP­ub­li­ca and Van­i­ty Fair delved into the inner work­ings of the team that pro­duced that inter­im report and some out­side experts’ views of its find­ings.

    ...

    Last year’s report by the Repub­li­can over­sight staff of the Sen­ate Health, Edu­ca­tion, Labor & Pen­sions Com­mit­tee point­ed to a Novem­ber 2019 safe­ty train­ing at the WIV, as well as patents and pro­cure­ments, as evi­dence of biosafe­ty-relat­ed prob­lems at the lab com­plex around the time the virus emerged in Wuhan. On Nov. 19, 2019, a senior Chi­nese gov­ern­ment safe­ty offi­cial arrived at the WIV to dis­cuss a “com­plex and grave sit­u­a­tion cur­rent­ly fac­ing [bio]security work,” the report said. On the same day that the offi­cial arrived, the WIV sought to pro­cure a cost­ly air incin­er­a­tor. The fol­low­ing month, WIV researchers applied for a patent for an improved device to con­tain haz­ardous gas­es inside a bio­log­i­cal cham­ber, like ones used to trans­port infect­ed ani­mals.

    In con­trast, the intel­li­gence report said the Novem­ber 2019 safe­ty train­ing appeared to be run-of-the-mill rather than a response to a biose­cu­ri­ty breach. “We do not know of a spe­cif­ic biosafe­ty inci­dent at the WIV that spurred the pan­dem­ic and the WIV’s biosafe­ty train­ing appears rou­tine, rather than an emer­gency response by China’s lead­er­ship,” said the report, which was draft­ed by the nation­al intel­li­gence offi­cer for weapons of mass destruc­tion and pro­lif­er­a­tion and coor­di­nat­ed with the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty. The intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty agen­cies agreed on the under­ly­ing facts in the report but drew dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions from that infor­ma­tion, accord­ing to an offi­cial famil­iar with the report.

    The intel­li­gence report is brief and does not men­tion the incin­er­a­tor or device patent. It said that WIV offi­cials in mid-2019 were “eval­u­at­ing and imple­ment­ing biosafe­ty improve­ments, train­ing, and pro­cure­ments” in the con­text of Chi­nese biose­cu­ri­ty leg­is­la­tion.

    ...

    Although the March law required the direc­tor of nation­al intel­li­gence to declas­si­fy “any and all infor­ma­tion” relat­ing to poten­tial links between the WIV and the ori­gin of COVID-19, an annex to the report remains clas­si­fied. Accord­ing to the report, this was nec­es­sary “to pro­tect sources and meth­ods.”
    ...

    As we also saw, those ill WIV work­ers have become one of the focal points of the new nar­ra­tive about secret Chi­nese mil­i­tary biowar­fare exper­i­ments. The report sim­i­lar­ly assert­ed that the symp­toms of the three ill WIV work­ers were not con­sis­tent with COVID19:

    ...
    Some WIV sci­en­tists have genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered coro­n­avirus­es, the report said, but the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty has no infor­ma­tion “indi­cat­ing that any WIV genet­ic engi­neer­ing work has involved SARS-CoV­‑2, a close prog­en­i­tor, or a back­bone virus that is close­ly-relat­ed enough to have been the source of the pan­dem­ic.”

    At the same time, the intel­li­gence report did point to biosafe­ty con­cerns. “Some WIV researchers prob­a­bly did not use ade­quate biosafe­ty pre­cau­tions at least some of the time pri­or to the pan­dem­ic in han­dling SARS-like coro­n­avirus­es, increas­ing the risk of acci­den­tal expo­sure to virus­es,” the report said.

    The intel­li­gence report con­firmed pre­vi­ous news reports that sev­er­al WIV researchers became sick in fall 2019, though it stat­ed this was not proof that the sci­en­tists were infect­ed through their work. The intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty “con­tin­ues to assess that this infor­ma­tion nei­ther sup­ports nor refutes either hypoth­e­sis of the pandemic’s ori­gins because the researchers’ symp­toms could have been caused by a num­ber of dis­eases and some of the symp­toms were not con­sis­tent with COVID-19,” the report stat­ed.
    ...

    It’s basi­cal­ly a 180 rever­sal from nar­ra­tives we were see­ing pushed by ele­ments of the US gov­ern­ment and intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty last month. An intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty that still remains divid­ed in terms of their offi­cial best guess as to the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic. Are we see­ing some sort of pub­lic rela­tions turf war play out? It’s look­ing like that’s the case. And that brings us to anoth­er sto­ry about 180 COVID nar­ra­tive rever­sals: The Inter­cept appears to have obtained rock sol­id evi­dence of some­thing we’ve had rea­son to sus­pect all along. Evi­dence that the lead­ing virol­o­gists who authored the “The prox­i­mal ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2” let­ter to Nature Med­i­cine back in March of 2020 that attempt­ed to pre­empt any seri­ous dis­cus­sion of a pos­si­ble lab leak were actu­al­ly very open to a lab leak at the time. That evi­dence came in the form of a PDF doc­u­ment released by House Repub­li­cans serv­ing on the com­mit­ting prob­ing the pan­demic’s ori­gins. The report con­tained lim­it­ed cropped images of emails and Slack exchanges between the authors as they were for­mu­lat­ing that Nature let­ter. But it turns out those cropped images in the report still con­tained the com­plete images of the emails and Slack exchanges, which could be recov­ered using var­i­ous PDF manip­u­la­tion tech­niques. Which is exact­ly what The Inter­cept pro­ceed­ed to do, expos­ing a num­ber of high­ly reveal­ing con­ver­sa­tions and a com­plete 180 rever­sal:

    The Inter­cept

    House Repub­li­cans Acci­den­tal­ly Released a Trove of Damn­ing Covid Doc­u­ments

    New doc­u­ments show a sci­en­tist call­ing a lab leak “high­ly like­ly” — after draft­ing a paper claim­ing the oppo­site.

    Ryan Grim
    July 12 2023, 5:18 p.m.

    WASHINGTON, DC —

    House Repub­li­cans on the sub­com­mit­tee prob­ing the ori­gin of the Covid-19 virus appear to have inad­ver­tent­ly released a trove of new doc­u­ments relat­ed to their inves­ti­ga­tion that shed light on delib­er­a­tions among the sci­en­tists who draft­ed a key paper in Feb­ru­ary and March of 2020. The paper, pub­lished in Nature Med­i­cine on March 17, 2020, was titled “The Prox­i­mal Ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2” and played a lead­ing role in cre­at­ing a pub­lic impres­sion of a sci­en­tif­ic con­sen­sus that the virus had emerged nat­u­ral­ly in a Chi­nese “wet mar­ket.”

    The paper was the sub­ject of a hear­ing on Capi­tol Hill on Tues­day, which coin­cid­ed with the release of a report by the sub­com­mit­tee devot­ed to the “Prox­i­mal Ori­gin” paper. It con­tains lim­it­ed screen­shots of emails and Slack mes­sages among the authors, lay­ing out its case that the sci­en­tists believed one thing in pri­vate — that lab escape was like­ly — while work­ing to pro­duce a paper say­ing the oppo­site in pub­lic.

    The new­ly exposed doc­u­ments include full emails and pages of Slack chats that were cropped for the report, expos­ing the “Prox­i­mal Ori­gin” authors’ real-time think­ing. Accord­ing to the meta­da­ta in the PDF of the report, it was cre­at­ed using “Acro­bat PDF­Mak­er 23 for Word,” indi­cat­ing that the report was orig­i­nal­ly draft­ed as a Word doc­u­ment. Word, how­ev­er, retains the orig­i­nal image when an image is cropped, as do many oth­er apps. Microsoft’s doc­u­men­ta­tion cau­tions that “Cropped parts of the pic­ture are not removed from the file, and can poten­tial­ly be seen by oth­ers,” going on to note: “If there is sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion in the area you’re crop­ping out make sure you delete the cropped areas.”

    When this Word doc­u­ment was con­vert­ed to a PDF, the orig­i­nal, uncropped images were like­wise car­ried over. The Inter­cept was able to extract the orig­i­nal, com­plete images from the PDF using freely avail­able tools, fol­low­ing the work of a Twit­ter sleuth.

    All the files can be found here. A spokesper­son for com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans declined to com­ment.

    Much of Tuesday’s hear­ing focused on a crit­i­cal few days in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary 2020, begin­ning with a con­fer­ence call Feb­ru­ary 1 that includ­ed the even­tu­al authors of the paper and Drs. Antho­ny Fau­ci, then head of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, and Fran­cis Collins, then head of its par­ent agency, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health. Lat­er min­utes showed that the con­sen­sus among the experts leaned toward a lab escape. Yet with­in days, they were cir­cu­lat­ing a draft — includ­ing to Fau­ci and Collins — that came to the oppo­site con­clu­sion, the first draft of which had been fin­ished the same day of the con­fer­ence call. How and why that rapid turn­around occurred has been the sub­ject of much debate and inter­ro­ga­tion.

    The authors have said, and repeat­ed dur­ing Tuesday’s hear­ing, that new data had changed their minds, but the new Slack mes­sages and emails show that their ini­tial incli­na­tion toward a lab escape remained long past that time.

    Among the sci­en­tists tes­ti­fy­ing Tues­day was lead paper author Kris­t­ian Ander­sen of Scripps Research. In a Slack exchange on Feb­ru­ary 2, 2020, between Ander­sen and Andrew Ram­baut of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Edinburgh’s Insti­tute of Evo­lu­tion­ary Biol­o­gy in the School of Bio­log­i­cal Sci­ences, it becomes clear how seri­ous­ly the authors took the hypoth­e­sis that Covid may have leaked from a lab, rather than emerged through nat­ur­al means, before they ulti­mate­ly became ded­i­cat­ed to pub­licly dis­miss­ing it.

    “I believe RaTG13 is from Yua­nan, which is about as far away from Wuhan as you can be and still be in Chi­na,” Ander­sen wrote, refer­ring to a virus that pro­duced Covid-like symp­toms in min­ers in 2013, a strain that was lat­er stored and researched at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. “What are the chances of find­ing a virus­es that are 96% iden­ti­cal giv­en that dis­tance? Seems strange giv­en how many SARS-like virus­es we have in bats.”

    Ram­baut respond­ed on Slack sug­gest­ing they back off such inter­ro­ga­tion. “I per­son­al­ly think we should get away from all the strange coin­ci­dence stuff. I agree it smells real­ly fishy but with­out a smok­ing gun it will not do us any good,” he wrote. “The truth is nev­er going to come out (if [lab] escape is the truth). Would need irrefutable evi­dence. My posi­tion is that the nat­ur­al evo­lu­tion is entire­ly plau­si­ble and we will have to leave it at that. Lab pas­sag­ing might also gen­er­ate this muta­tion but we have no evi­dence that that hap­pened.”

    [See screen­shot of Andrew Ram­baut’s Slack mes­sage]

    Still, said Ram­baut, even though the truth would nev­er emerge if a lab was respon­si­ble, the researchers had a respon­si­bil­i­ty, pri­vate­ly at least, to see what lessons could be learned to pre­vent a future lab escape. “I think it would be good idea to lay out these argu­ments for lim­it­ed dis­sem­i­na­tion. And quite frankly so we can learn from it even if it wasn’t an escape,” he added.

    That same day, after hav­ing put togeth­er the first draft of the paper, Ander­sen respond­ed to two col­leagues who want­ed to con­clu­sive­ly rule out the lab sce­nario: “The main issue is that acci­den­tal escape is in fact high­ly likely–it’s not some fringe the­o­ry.”

    ...

    At Tuesday’s hear­ing, Ander­sen said repeat­ed­ly that Fau­ci and Collins had no role in influ­enc­ing the paper. But Fauci’s shad­ow hangs over the con­ver­sa­tion. “The idea of engi­neer­ing and bioweapon is def­i­nite­ly not going away and I’m still get­ting pinged by jour­nal­ists,” Ander­sen wrote on Feb­ru­ary 5, 2020. “I have noticed some of them start­ing to ask more broad­ly about ‘lab escape’ and for now I have just ignored them — there might be a time where we need to tack­le that more direct­ly head on, but I’ll let the likes of Jere­my [Far­rar] and Tony [Fau­ci] fig­ure out how to do that.”

    Far­rar, a British bio­med­ical researcher, was not list­ed as an author on the paper but was fre­quent­ly referred to by Democ­rats dur­ing the hear­ing as the “father” of it. In the mes­sages, he is seen shar­ing drafts of the paper with Fau­ci and Collins and ask­ing the authors for edits, at one point in mid-Feb­ru­ary ask­ing that a lab sce­nario be down­grad­ed in their paper from “unlike­ly” to “improb­a­ble” — a change that Ander­sen, the lead author, agreed to.

    An email in the cache from Eddie Holmes, anoth­er one of the authors, alludes to “pres­sure from on high.” In reply to an email that isn’t includ­ed in the subcommittee’s report or the doc­u­ments, Holmes writes, “Any­way, it’s done. Sor­ry the last bit had to be done with­out you…pressure from on high.” In pre­vi­ous exchanges, offi­cials with the com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment at the NIH had been ask­ing about the sta­tus of the sub­mis­sion. Tak­en as a whole, the mes­sages under­cut the claims that the NIH took a hands-off approach to the paper.

    [See screen­shot of Eddie Holmes’s email]

    The new doc­u­ments also include a mes­sage from Nature — where the authors pitched the “Prox­i­mal Ori­gin” paper before send­ing to Nature Med­i­cine — explain­ing its rejec­tion. Despite the paper lean­ing heav­i­ly toward a nat­ur­al emer­gence and down­play­ing the poten­tial of a lab leak, one Nature review­er found that even leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab escape would fuel con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists, a Nature edi­tor wrote to the authors. “Once the authors pub­lish their new pan­golin sequences, a lab ori­gin will be extreme­ly unlike­ly,” the review­er had writ­ten.

    Ander­sen pushed back against the rejec­tion, assur­ing the Nature edi­tor that their project had start­ed with the goal of beat­ing back “con­spir­a­cy” the­o­ries, but that the data and evi­dence made it impos­si­ble. “Had that been the case, we would of course have includ­ed that — but the more sequences we see from pan­golins (and we have been analyzing/discussing these very care­ful­ly) the more unlike­ly it seems that they’re the inter­me­di­ate hosts,” Ander­sen respond­ed in an email on Feb­ru­ary 20, 2020. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly none of this helps refute a lab ori­gin and the pos­si­bil­i­ty must be con­sid­ered as a seri­ous sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ry (which is what we do) and not dis­missed out of hand as anoth­er ‘con­spir­a­cy’ the­o­ry. We all real­ly, real­ly wish that we could do that (that’s how this got start­ed), but unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s not pos­si­ble giv­en the data.”

    The group edit­ed their paper fur­ther to more strong­ly dis­miss the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab leak for its lat­er sub­mis­sion to Nature Med­i­cine. The journal’s pub­li­ca­tion of the paper just a month lat­er effec­tive­ly end­ed debate for a year or more as to the ori­gin of the pan­dem­ic.

    ———–

    “House Repub­li­cans Acci­den­tal­ly Released a Trove of Damn­ing Covid Doc­u­ments” by Ryan Grim; The Inter­cept; 07/12/2023

    “Much of Tuesday’s hear­ing focused on a crit­i­cal few days in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary 2020, begin­ning with a con­fer­ence call Feb­ru­ary 1 that includ­ed the even­tu­al authors of the paper and Drs. Antho­ny Fau­ci, then head of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases, and Fran­cis Collins, then head of its par­ent agency, the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health. Lat­er min­utes showed that the con­sen­sus among the experts leaned toward a lab escape. Yet with­in days, they were cir­cu­lat­ing a draft — includ­ing to Fau­ci and Collins — that came to the oppo­site con­clu­sion, the first draft of which had been fin­ished the same day of the con­fer­ence call. How and why that rapid turn­around occurred has been the sub­ject of much debate and inter­ro­ga­tion.”

    A com­plete rever­sal of the expert con­sen­sus. The lead­ing virol­o­gists who even­tu­al­ly authored the “The prox­i­mal ori­gin of SARS-CoV­‑2” Nature Med­i­cine let­ter dis­miss­ing any pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab leak were actu­al­ly high­ly sus­pi­cious of a lab leak just a month ear­li­er. That’s what the avail­able evi­dence points towards. Evi­dence that was appar­ent­ly acci­den­tal­ly released by con­gress in the form of a con­gres­sion­al report that con­tained a num­ber of cropped images of emails and Slack mes­sages from ear­ly Feb­ru­ary 2020. Cropped images that were recov­ered by The Inter­cept show­ing con­ver­sions that run high­ly con­trary to the pub­lic mes­sage that was released the fol­low­ing month. Who knows if this was an inten­tion­al ‘whoops’ by Con­gress, but it hap­pened:

    ...
    The new­ly exposed doc­u­ments include full emails and pages of Slack chats that were cropped for the report, expos­ing the “Prox­i­mal Ori­gin” authors’ real-time think­ing. Accord­ing to the meta­da­ta in the PDF of the report, it was cre­at­ed using “Acro­bat PDF­Mak­er 23 for Word,” indi­cat­ing that the report was orig­i­nal­ly draft­ed as a Word doc­u­ment. Word, how­ev­er, retains the orig­i­nal image when an image is cropped, as do many oth­er apps. Microsoft’s doc­u­men­ta­tion cau­tions that “Cropped parts of the pic­ture are not removed from the file, and can poten­tial­ly be seen by oth­ers,” going on to note: “If there is sen­si­tive infor­ma­tion in the area you’re crop­ping out make sure you delete the cropped areas.”

    When this Word doc­u­ment was con­vert­ed to a PDF, the orig­i­nal, uncropped images were like­wise car­ried over. The Inter­cept was able to extract the orig­i­nal, com­plete images from the PDF using freely avail­able tools, fol­low­ing the work of a Twit­ter sleuth.

    All the files can be found here. A spokesper­son for com­mit­tee Repub­li­cans declined to com­ment.

    The authors have said, and repeat­ed dur­ing Tuesday’s hear­ing, that new data had changed their minds, but the new Slack mes­sages and emails show that their ini­tial incli­na­tion toward a lab escape remained long past that time.
    ...

    And note how Kris­t­ian Ander­sen did­n’t just see a lab leak as plau­si­ble but described it as “high­ly like­ly” in response to col­leagues who want­ed to con­clu­sive­ly rule out the sce­nario:

    ...
    Among the sci­en­tists tes­ti­fy­ing Tues­day was lead paper author Kris­t­ian Ander­sen of Scripps Research. In a Slack exchange on Feb­ru­ary 2, 2020, between Ander­sen and Andrew Ram­baut of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Edinburgh’s Insti­tute of Evo­lu­tion­ary Biol­o­gy in the School of Bio­log­i­cal Sci­ences, it becomes clear how seri­ous­ly the authors took the hypoth­e­sis that Covid may have leaked from a lab, rather than emerged through nat­ur­al means, before they ulti­mate­ly became ded­i­cat­ed to pub­licly dis­miss­ing it.

    “I believe RaTG13 is from Yua­nan, which is about as far away from Wuhan as you can be and still be in Chi­na,” Ander­sen wrote, refer­ring to a virus that pro­duced Covid-like symp­toms in min­ers in 2013, a strain that was lat­er stored and researched at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. “What are the chances of find­ing a virus­es that are 96% iden­ti­cal giv­en that dis­tance? Seems strange giv­en how many SARS-like virus­es we have in bats.”

    Ram­baut respond­ed on Slack sug­gest­ing they back off such inter­ro­ga­tion. “I per­son­al­ly think we should get away from all the strange coin­ci­dence stuff. I agree it smells real­ly fishy but with­out a smok­ing gun it will not do us any good,” he wrote. “The truth is nev­er going to come out (if [lab] escape is the truth). Would need irrefutable evi­dence. My posi­tion is that the nat­ur­al evo­lu­tion is entire­ly plau­si­ble and we will have to leave it at that. Lab pas­sag­ing might also gen­er­ate this muta­tion but we have no evi­dence that that hap­pened.”

    [See screen­shot of Andrew Ram­baut’s Slack mes­sage]

    Still, said Ram­baut, even though the truth would nev­er emerge if a lab was respon­si­ble, the researchers had a respon­si­bil­i­ty, pri­vate­ly at least, to see what lessons could be learned to pre­vent a future lab escape. “I think it would be good idea to lay out these argu­ments for lim­it­ed dis­sem­i­na­tion. And quite frankly so we can learn from it even if it wasn’t an escape,” he added.

    That same day, after hav­ing put togeth­er the first draft of the paper, Ander­sen respond­ed to two col­leagues who want­ed to con­clu­sive­ly rule out the lab sce­nario: “The main issue is that acci­den­tal escape is in fact high­ly likely–it’s not some fringe the­o­ry.”
    ...

    Then there’s Eddie Holmes’s ref­er­ence to “pres­sure from on high”. Pres­sures pre­sum­ably from some­one high­er up at the NIH:

    ...
    At Tuesday’s hear­ing, Ander­sen said repeat­ed­ly that Fau­ci and Collins had no role in influ­enc­ing the paper. But Fauci’s shad­ow hangs over the con­ver­sa­tion. “The idea of engi­neer­ing and bioweapon is def­i­nite­ly not going away and I’m still get­ting pinged by jour­nal­ists,” Ander­sen wrote on Feb­ru­ary 5, 2020. “I have noticed some of them start­ing to ask more broad­ly about ‘lab escape’ and for now I have just ignored them — there might be a time where we need to tack­le that more direct­ly head on, but I’ll let the likes of Jere­my [Far­rar] and Tony [Fau­ci] fig­ure out how to do that.”

    Far­rar, a British bio­med­ical researcher, was not list­ed as an author on the paper but was fre­quent­ly referred to by Democ­rats dur­ing the hear­ing as the “father” of it. In the mes­sages, he is seen shar­ing drafts of the paper with Fau­ci and Collins and ask­ing the authors for edits, at one point in mid-Feb­ru­ary ask­ing that a lab sce­nario be down­grad­ed in their paper from “unlike­ly” to “improb­a­ble” — a change that Ander­sen, the lead author, agreed to.

    An email in the cache from Eddie Holmes, anoth­er one of the authors, alludes to “pres­sure from on high.” In reply to an email that isn’t includ­ed in the subcommittee’s report or the doc­u­ments, Holmes writes, “Any­way, it’s done. Sor­ry the last bit had to be done with­out you…pressure from on high.” In pre­vi­ous exchanges, offi­cials with the com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment at the NIH had been ask­ing about the sta­tus of the sub­mis­sion. Tak­en as a whole, the mes­sages under­cut the claims that the NIH took a hands-off approach to the paper.
    ...

    Final­ly, note how the “pres­sure from on high” was com­ing from anoth­er source: the anony­mous review­ers for their “Prox­i­mal Ori­gin” Nature let­ter:

    ...
    The new doc­u­ments also include a mes­sage from Nature — where the authors pitched the “Prox­i­mal Ori­gin” paper before send­ing to Nature Med­i­cine — explain­ing its rejec­tion. Despite the paper lean­ing heav­i­ly toward a nat­ur­al emer­gence and down­play­ing the poten­tial of a lab leak, one Nature review­er found that even leav­ing open the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab escape would fuel con­spir­a­cy the­o­rists, a Nature edi­tor wrote to the authors. “Once the authors pub­lish their new pan­golin sequences, a lab ori­gin will be extreme­ly unlike­ly,” the review­er had writ­ten.

    Ander­sen pushed back against the rejec­tion, assur­ing the Nature edi­tor that their project had start­ed with the goal of beat­ing back “con­spir­a­cy” the­o­ries, but that the data and evi­dence made it impos­si­ble. “Had that been the case, we would of course have includ­ed that — but the more sequences we see from pan­golins (and we have been analyzing/discussing these very care­ful­ly) the more unlike­ly it seems that they’re the inter­me­di­ate hosts,” Ander­sen respond­ed in an email on Feb­ru­ary 20, 2020. “Unfor­tu­nate­ly none of this helps refute a lab ori­gin and the pos­si­bil­i­ty must be con­sid­ered as a seri­ous sci­en­tif­ic the­o­ry (which is what we do) and not dis­missed out of hand as anoth­er ‘con­spir­a­cy’ the­o­ry. We all real­ly, real­ly wish that we could do that (that’s how this got start­ed), but unfor­tu­nate­ly it’s not pos­si­ble giv­en the data.”

    The group edit­ed their paper fur­ther to more strong­ly dis­miss the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab leak for its lat­er sub­mis­sion to Nature Med­i­cine. The journal’s pub­li­ca­tion of the paper just a month lat­er effec­tive­ly end­ed debate for a year or more as to the ori­gin of the pan­dem­ic.
    ...

    This is a good time to recall how the authors of that Nature let­ter were Kris­t­ian G. Ander­sen, Andrew Ram­baut, W. Ian Lip­kin, Edward C. Holmes & Robert F. Gar­ry. And all but Lip­kin are co-authors on a Feb 2022 paper assert­ing two sep­a­rate zoonot­ic events in Wuhan the fall of 2019 as the like­li­est ori­gin for the pan­dem­ic. Why two zoonot­ic events instead of one? Because two events would explain the genet­ic diver­si­ty of the virus observed in the ear­li­est cas­es. It’s fur­ther evi­dence that any seri­ous­ly inves­ti­ga­tions into a man-made virus sce­nario remains high­ly con­tentious for this par­tic­u­lar research com­mu­ni­ty.

    With House Repub­li­cans and at least some seg­ment of the US intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty still clear­ly try­ing to find a way to push the ‘Chi­nese bioweapon’ nar­ra­tive, at the same time the declas­si­fied intel­li­gence report has already been released and direct­ly con­tra­dicts that nar­ra­tive, we’re pre­sum­ably going to be in store for a more intense bat­tle of the nar­ra­tives in com­ing months. So it’s worth keep­ing in mind that, at this point, the nar­ra­tive bat­tle is exclu­sive­ly between ‘did Chi­na do it?’ vs ‘no one did it’. No oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties are under seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion. Which is a pret­ty big meta-nar­ra­tive win for all par­ties involved.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 19, 2023, 5:05 pm
  6. This could get very inter­est­ing. Or be a com­plete dud: A group of fam­i­lies just filed law­suits in New York over the COVID deaths of their loved ones. The tar­gets of the law­suit? Man­hat­tan-based Eco­Health Alliance, and its pres­i­dent Peter Daszak. Accord­ing to the suit, Eco­Health Alliance knew the pan­dem­ic was the result of a lab leak from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) and worked to cov­er that up. How did the Eco­Health Alliance know that the pan­dem­ic was caused by a lab leak from the WIV? Because it helped devel­op the virus as part of its col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli’s lab at the WIV. Those are the accu­sa­tions in the new law­suit. Sig­nif­i­cant accu­sa­tions that both threat­en pow­er­ful inter­ests — like the unof­fi­cial com­po­nent of the biowar­fare estab­lish­ment that exists through dual use endeav­ors like the Eco­Health Alliance — while also pro­tect­ing them by keep­ing the focus square­ly on research in Chi­na. And that’s why this is the kind of law­suit that could get tossed out and fiz­zle right out of the gates. Or the kind of law­suit that opens up a can of worms that could be very dif­fi­cult to close:

    The New York Post

    COVID vic­tims’ fam­i­lies sue NYC-based Eco­Health for ‘fund­ing, releas­ing’ virus

    By Jacob Geanous
    August 12, 2023 11:25am Updat­ed

    The fam­i­lies of four peo­ple who died from COVID-19 are suing the Man­hat­tan-based non­prof­it that fund­ed coro­n­avirus research in Chi­na for “cre­at­ing” the bug — and “releas­ing it, either inten­tion­al­ly or acci­den­tal­ly.”

    Eco­Health Alliance and its pres­i­dent, Peter Daszak, knew the virus was dan­ger­ous and “capa­ble of caus­ing a world­wide pan­dem­ic,” accord­ing to the Aug. 2 Man­hat­tan Supreme Court law­suit.

    Despite par­tial­ly-fund­ing the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, where the virus orig­i­nat­ed, Eco­Health failed to make sure crit­i­cal safe­ty mea­sures were in place — then worked to cov­er up the ori­gins of the out­break, they claimed in court papers.

    “If we had known the source or ori­gin of this virus and had not been mis­led that it was from a pan­golin in a wet mar­ket, and rather we knew that it was a genet­i­cal­ly manip­u­lat­ed virus, and that the sci­en­tists involved were con­ceal­ing that from our clients, the out­come could have been very dif­fer­ent,” Patri­cia Finn, the vic­tims’ attor­ney, told The Post.

    The fam­i­lies of Mary Con­roy, of Penn­syl­va­nia; Emma D. Hol­ley, of Rochester, NY; Lar­ry Carr, of Crossville, Ten­nessee; and Raul Osuna, of Ben­ning­ton, Nebras­ka, are seek­ing unspec­i­fied dam­ages.

    “[The fam­i­lies of the deceased] are def­i­nite­ly in mourn­ing, but more­over they’re enraged because the truth of what real­ly hap­pened appears to be coing for­ward,” Finn added.

    Paul Rinker, of Penn­syl­va­nia, is also suing Mid­town-based Eco­Health and Daszak over the “seri­ous injuries” he suf­fered from his bout with the bug.

    Finn has also filed law­suits against Eco­Health and Daszak in Nas­sau and Rock­land Coun­ties on behalf of the fam­i­lies of four oth­er peo­ple killed by the virus, as well as two who sur­vived.

    ...

    In a June report, the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office said that Eco­Health Alliance — which doles out mon­ey giv­en to them by the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health — gave $1,413,720 to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, while a sep­a­rate inves­ti­ga­tion found the gov­ern­ment may have paid mil­lions in dupli­cat­ing grants to the Wuhan-based research insti­tu­tions through Eco­Health.

    ...

    ———-

    ” COVID vic­tims’ fam­i­lies sue NYC-based Eco­Health for ‘fund­ing, releas­ing’ virus” by Jacob Geanous; The New York Post; 08/12/2023

    “Despite par­tial­ly-fund­ing the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, where the virus orig­i­nat­ed, Eco­Health failed to make sure crit­i­cal safe­ty mea­sures were in place — then worked to cov­er up the ori­gins of the out­break they claimed in court papers.”

    The SARS-CoV­‑2 virus emerged from Shi Zhengli’s lab at the WIV from research done in part­ner­ship with Eco­Health Alliance, the Eco­Health Alliance knew it, and they all worked to cov­er it up. That’s the core of the law­suit. Or, rather, law­suits, since it sounds like this same legal time has filed sep­a­rate relat­ed suits in both Nas­sau and Rock­land Coun­ties:

    ...
    Paul Rinker, of Penn­syl­va­nia, is also suing Mid­town-based Eco­Health and Daszak over the “seri­ous injuries” he suf­fered from his bout with the bug.

    Finn has also filed law­suits against Eco­Health and Daszak in Nas­sau and Rock­land Coun­ties on behalf of the fam­i­lies of four oth­er peo­ple killed by the virus, as well as two who sur­vived.
    ...

    So giv­en that the law­suit specif­i­cal­ly claims that the virus escaped from the WIV as part of the Eco­Health Alliance-spon­sored research, and does­n’t seem to include the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab (or release) from any of the oth­er labs around the world engage in sim­i­lar coro­n­avirus research at the time, it’s going to be inter­est­ing to see if the exis­tence of oth­er labs con­duct­ing sim­i­lar kinds of research comes up at all dur­ing the course of the law­suit.

    And that brings us to the fol­low­ing Time inter­view of a fig­ure who is most assured­ly going to come up should that law­suit go to tri­al because he was a cen­tral play­er in the Eco­Health Alliance’s coro­n­avirus research net­work: Ralph Bar­ic, whose Chapel Hill lab has been lead­ing the way on coro­n­avirus research since the ear­ly 80s. And as we’ve seen, Bar­ic’s lab has also been lead­ing the way in gain-of-func­tion or gain-of-func­tion-adja­cent research, and done so in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli’s lab. Bar­ic was work­ing on devel­op­ing coro­n­avirus ther­a­peu­tics back in 2017 using gain-of-func­tion-cre­at­ed coro­n­avirus­es in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli’s lab at the WIV. And Bar­ic also helped test the Mod­er­na covid vac­cine in 2020. And as we’ve also seen, Bar­ic and Daszak were in direct com­mu­ni­ca­tion and agree­ment in the ear­ly months of the pan­dem­ic on the need for the virol­o­gy com­mu­ni­ty to com­mu­ni­cate to the pub­lic that a lab leak was high­ly unlike­ly. A stance that looks increas­ing­ly decep­tive based on recent­ly revealed emails and com­mu­ni­ca­tions. This is a law­suit that can’t real­ly hap­pen with­out an under­stand­ing of the lead­ing role Bar­ic had played in the over­all effort.

    And that’s also all part of what makes it rather remark­able that Bar­ic has been point­ing an accusato­ry fin­ger at the WIV and call­ing for a stronger inves­ti­ga­tion into Chi­na’s role in the cre­ation of the virus. Accusato­ry fin­gers are being flung in a lot of direc­tions. Includ­ing, as the fol­low­ing arti­cle notes, Chi­na’s calls for an inter­na­tion­al inves­ti­ga­tion of Bar­ic’s lab as part of the hunt for COVID’s ori­gins. Despite all that, Bar­ic is appar­ent­ly work­ing on a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine cur­rent­ly under­go­ing tri­als in pri­mates. Should the tests go well, human tri­als could be start­ed lat­er this year:

    Time

    The U.S. Sci­en­tist At the Heart of COVID-19 Lab Leak Con­spir­a­cies Is Still Try­ing to Save the World From the Next Pan­dem­ic

    By Dan Werb
    July 11, 2023 8:00 AM EDT

    Ralph Bar­ic stepped onto the audi­to­ri­um stage at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, Chapel Hill, and looked out at the sparse audi­ence that had come to hear him speak. On the large pro­jec­tor screen hang­ing behind him, the fol­low­ing words appeared: How Bad the Next Pan­dem­ic Could Be, What Might It Look Like, and Will We be Ready. The date was May 29, 2018.

    “Well, I have to admit I’m a lit­tle wor­ried about giv­ing this talk,” Bar­ic said. “The rea­son is being labelled a har­bin­ger of doom.” The screen shift­ed, and images of the four horse­men of the apocalypse—Death, Famine, War, and Plague—came into view, next to a head­shot of a smil­ing Bar­ic. “This is not me,” he con­tin­ued, “I’m not one of the four horse­men of the apoc­a­lypse.” Light laugh­ter bub­bled through the audi­ence; Bar­ic smiled. For the next 35 min­utes, he laid out his pre­dic­tion, with uncan­ny pre­ci­sion, of what the next pan­dem­ic would bring: a rush for bogus antivi­ral treat­ments, vast prof­its for com­pa­nies mak­ing per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment, a glob­al eco­nom­ic crash, and a rise in con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries claim­ing that the pan­dem­ic pathogen was designed by sci­en­tists.

    When SARS-CoV­‑2 emerged less than a year and a half lat­er, Bar­ic was among the first to raise the alarm. As ear­ly as Jan­u­ary 2020, Bar­ic felt cer­tain that the new virus’s spread was more akin to the flu than any of the human coro­n­avirus­es he had pre­vi­ous­ly encoun­tered. A time­line, he real­ized, had already been set: “The U.S.,” he says, “had three months.” By March 2020, right on the Bar­ic sched­ule, the U.S. belat­ed­ly imposed wide-rang­ing shel­ter-in-place restric­tions to pre­vent a domes­tic epi­dem­ic.

    Bar­ic, who has been research­ing coro­n­avirus­es since the 1980s, was a linch­pin of the sci­en­tif­ic response to COVID-19. He was tasked with mov­ing poten­tial cures—some of which he had been devel­op­ing for close to a decade—out of the lab­o­ra­to­ry and onto the mar­ket. Sequestered in a state-of-the-art Biosafe­ty Lev­el 3 lab at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, equipped with the mul­ti­ple redun­dan­cies and safe­ty fea­tures required by the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, Bar­ic over­saw a staff of dozens, many of whom (like Bar­ic) prac­ti­cal­ly lived at the lab.

    ****

    He and his team were besieged by requests to sup­port research groups across the globe who need­ed to run tri­als on SARS-CoV­‑2. That includ­ed devel­op­ing ani­mal mod­els to estab­lish the safe­ty and effi­ca­cy of mul­ti­ple COVID-19 vac­cines in the ear­ly days of 2020. Bar­ic and his long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Mark Deni­son, a pedi­atric clin­i­cian at Van­der­bilt Uni­ver­si­ty with a spe­cial­ty in coro­n­avirus-relat­ed dis­eases, also demon­strat­ed that remde­sivir and mol­nupi­ravir, two antivi­ral drugs orig­i­nal­ly designed for oth­er uses, were high­ly effec­tive in pre­vent­ing ill­ness; in May 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Admin­is­tra­tion (FDA) pro­vid­ed emer­gency use autho­riza­tion for remde­sivir, mak­ing it the first COVID-19 antivi­ral on the mar­ket.

    In the rough­ly three and a half years since the pan­dem­ic began, Bar­ic has pub­lished over 250 peer-reviewed studies—a dizzy­ing rate of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty amount­ing to rough­ly half of his total out­put across a 40-year career. Between May 2020 and March 2023, I spoke fre­quent­ly with him about his research, the suc­cess­es and fail­ures of the COVID-19 response, and his fears—and dreams—for the future.

    ****

    While the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic glob­al emer­gency offi­cial­ly end­ed on May 5, 2023, ques­tions about its ori­gins show no signs of abat­ing. Last Fri­day (June 23), the Biden Admin­is­tra­tion declas­si­fied a report that revealed a split with­in the U.S. gov­ern­ment on the ques­tion: five fed­er­al agen­cies have con­clud­ed that SARS-CoV­‑2 most like­ly spilled over into humans direct­ly from an ani­mal, while two others—the Ener­gy Depart­ment and the Fed­er­al Bureau of Investigation—assert that it like­ly spread indi­rect­ly through a lab­o­ra­to­ry acci­dent at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV), while there was near una­nim­i­ty across agen­cies that the virus was not man­made. The report also notes that three Chi­nese researchers at the WIV—includ­ing one whose work was fund­ed by the U.S. government—became ill with an unspec­i­fied ill­ness ear­ly in the COVID-19 out­break (accord­ing to Chi­nese author­i­ties, none test­ed pos­i­tive for SARS-CoV­‑2).

    Bar­ic, who signed onto an open let­ter pub­lished in Sci­ence in 2021 demand­ing a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2, is still frus­trat­ed by its slow pace. While he remains unsure on the ques­tion, Bar­ic finds par­tic­u­lar fault with a joint inves­ti­ga­tion by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment that was done in 2021, which dis­missed the chance of a lab leak as “extreme­ly unlike­ly.” That con­clu­sion, Bar­ic says, is pre­ma­ture, giv­en the lack of con­clu­sive data and China’s more relaxed lab­o­ra­to­ry stan­dards; he points out that while the U.S. restricts gain-of-func­tion work with dan­ger­ous pathogens to labs rat­ed at a min­i­mum of BSL‑3 (like Baric’s), “the reg­u­la­tions in Chi­na are such that you can work with SARS-like bat coro­n­avirus­es in BSL‑2 [Biosafe­ty lev­el 2] labs,” which require few­er safe­ty fea­tures.

    While none of the U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies con­clud­ed that the virus was genet­i­cal­ly engi­neered, that is unlike­ly to stop a fringe the­o­ry that has increas­ing­ly tak­en over Baric’s life. In Feb­ru­ary 2020, a month before the announce­ment of a glob­al health emer­gency, there was a sud­den surge of online inter­est about his work. That was fol­lowed by a series of attacks that began to emerge on the dark­er out­skirts of social media. “Twit­ter doesn’t want you to know this…but Dr. Ralph Bar­ic is the one who cre­at­ed Covid 19 and gave it to the lab in Wuhan Chi­na,” read a typ­i­cal tweet, sum­ming up the base­less the­o­ry that Bar­ic was part of a secret Chi­nese plot to deploy a syn­thet­i­cal­ly cre­at­ed viral bioweapon across the world.

    The the­o­ry plays on a col­lab­o­ra­tion dat­ing back to the ear­ly 2010s between Bar­ic and Shi Zhengli, the future direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the WIV. In the wake of the 2003 SARS epi­dem­ic, Shi had been spend­ing years col­lect­ing hun­dreds of coro­n­avirus strains from bat guano in caves and mine­shafts across the vast Chi­nese main­land. Around 2013, Shi agreed to send some of the SARS-relat­ed coro­n­avirus genomes that she had har­vest­ed to Baric’s lab in North Car­oli­na. Bar­ic and his team then used the genomes for a vari­ety of exper­i­ments, includ­ing gain-of-func­tion stud­ies, a broad class of bio­log­i­cal research in which the genet­ic make­up of an organ­ism is arti­fi­cial­ly mutat­ed. For those seek­ing a scape­goat for the pan­dem­ic, Baric’s experiments—which used coro­n­avirus­es that would turn out to be close­ly relat­ed to (but not direct ances­tors of) SARS-CoV‑2—proved that the virus was man­made, despite an absence of data.

    A year into the pan­dem­ic, that fringe the­o­ry went pub­lic on one of the biggest stages in the world. Sen­a­tor Rand Paul, in one of many U.S. con­gres­sion­al hear­ings that served as the back­drop for his bit­ter feud with Fau­ci, did not mince words. “For years, Dr. Ralph Bar­ic, a virol­o­gist in the U.S., has been col­lab­o­rat­ing with Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Virol­o­gy Insti­tute, shar­ing his dis­cov­er­ies about how to cre­ate super-virus­es,” Paul said on May 11, 2021. “This gain-of-func­tion research has been fund­ed by the NIH [Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health].” The impli­ca­tion was clear: inten­tion­al­ly or unwit­ting­ly, Bar­ic was com­plic­it in the cre­ation of SARS-CoV­‑2, notwith­stand­ing the total lack of evi­dence. Paul’s pro­nounce­ment put a glar­ing spot­light on Baric’s decades-long career study­ing coro­n­avirus­es. In the ensu­ing days, online search­es for “Ralph Bar­ic gain of func­tion” shot up, and with them a whole new round of online threats tar­get­ing the media-shy virol­o­gist.

    ****

    Fear of the future is noth­ing new for Bar­ic. In 1982, when he entered the field, coro­n­avirus­es were most­ly used as lab­o­ra­to­ry tools to help us under­stand viral mechan­ics. Coro­n­aviri­dae were thought to be benign, and quirky: some­how, they man­aged to have genomes much larg­er than any oth­er RNA virus, a curi­ous fact that, to hear Bar­ic tell it, means that, “they shouldn’t exist on plan­et Earth.”

    In the ear­ly 1980s, he was ful­ly aware that coro­n­avi­rol­o­gy was a sci­en­tif­ic backwater—but that’s exact­ly what he want­ed. Far from the glare of pub­lic opin­ion, Bar­ic could work at his own pace. One thing he dis­cov­ered after a decade of study was that the Coro­n­aviri­dae wasn’t, as had been pre­vi­ous­ly believed, a fam­i­ly of species-spe­cif­ic virus­es, but a mess of gen­er­al­ist strains that were adept at jump­ing between hosts—mouse, ham­ster, pri­mate, bel­u­ga whale, to name a few—when under pres­sure.

    When the 2003 SARS epi­dem­ic emerged in the Chi­nese provinces of Guangzhou and Hong Kong, the appar­ent­ly benign Coro­n­aviri­dae fam­i­ly sud­den­ly revealed itself capa­ble of pro­duc­ing a high­ly effi­cient killer.

    In light of what he had dis­cov­ered in his lab, SARS was, for Bar­ic, “a shock but not a sur­prise.” As it spread, sick­en­ing 10,000 peo­ple and killing rough­ly 800 before being ful­ly erad­i­cat­ed through pub­lic health mea­sures, Bar­ic was forced to reck­on with a new real­i­ty: coro­n­avirus­es, his benign lab­o­ra­to­ry tool, had the capac­i­ty to wreak hav­oc at a glob­al scale. For a sci­en­tist that had long ago cho­sen to work on obscure viro­log­i­cal prob­lems, it was, he says, “an exhil­a­rat­ing kind of feel­ing, with a sick­ness in the pit of your stom­ach.”

    When the MERS (Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome) coro­n­avirus spilled over in 2012, less than a decade lat­er and with a 35% mor­tal­i­ty rate, Bar­ic was faced with anoth­er stark real­iza­tion: One dead­ly coro­n­avirus epi­dem­ic is an aber­ra­tion. Two with­in 10 years—the blink of an eye in viral time—spelled out a pat­tern.

    ****

    In the mid-2010s, in the wake of MERS, Bar­ic became con­vinced that the world need­ed a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine to pro­tect human­i­ty against what­ev­er future pathogen the viral fam­i­ly next pro­duced. The first step was to see how well an exist­ing SARS-spe­cif­ic vac­cine can­di­date his team had devel­oped worked against oth­er strains. Bar­ic test­ed the vac­cine against dozens of the coro­n­avirus genomes that Shi Zhengli had har­vest­ed and sent to his lab. Against strains less than 8% genet­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from SARS, the vac­cine worked. Against those that—like MERS—surpassed that thresh­old, it failed mis­er­ably.

    Unde­terred, Bar­ic turned to syn­thet­ic virol­o­gy, which is the sci­ence of stitch­ing parts of dif­fer­ent virus­es togeth­er into arti­fi­cial cre­ations known as chimeras. Bar­ic con­sid­ered chimeras as the best way to study dead­ly pathogens while main­tain­ing a safe lab with low risk of leaks. Sub­mit­ting live SARS and MERS virus­es to gain-of-func­tion tests—like pres­sur­ing pathogens to evolve new ways of infect­ing hosts—was too edgy for him. But doing the same exper­i­ment with a chimera that com­bined a piece of a human coro­n­avirus with one that could only infect a non-human ani­mal allowed Bar­ic to test how coro­n­avirus­es evolve while avoid­ing the inad­ver­tent cre­ation of a pathogen with the capac­i­ty to repli­cate in human cells.

    Despite his cau­tion, one exper­i­ment raised eye­brows. In 2014, Baric’s team cre­at­ed a chimera that fused the spike pro­tein of one of the SARS-relat­ed bat coro­n­avirus­es that Shi had har­vest­ed, known as SHC014, with the back­bone of a mouse-adapt­ed SARS virus; in prin­ci­ple, the chimera should only have been able to infect mice. Baric’s team then intro­duced the chimera into human cell colonies and found that, under pres­sure, it was able to repli­cate in human res­pi­ra­to­ry cells while also evad­ing antivi­ral drugs pro­tec­tive against SARS. It was proof of how close the coro­n­avirus fam­i­ly was to pro­duc­ing a strain that could spill over into humans. From Baric’s per­spec­tive, that made it a valu­able piece of research, and ham­mered home the need for a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine. Oth­ers, though, were alarmed.

    Marc Lip­sitch, direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Com­mu­ni­ca­ble Dis­ease Dynam­ics at the Har­vard T.H. Chan School of Pub­lic Health, is among the more stri­dent voic­es call­ing for bet­ter reg­u­la­tion of research on “enhanced pathogens of pan­dem­ic poten­tial,” or ePPP, a small sub­set of gain-of-func­tion research car­ried out with human pathogens. When I spoke with him, Lip­sitch read­i­ly acknowl­edged the val­ue of Baric’s work, but also said that he believes the deci­sion to intro­duce the SHC014 chimera into human cells crossed a line. “Ralph’s done a lot of dif­fer­ent kinds of exper­i­ments,” says Lip­sitch, “some of which I’ve pub­licly said should get fund­ing and be allowed to con­tin­ue, and some of which I think he should not con­tin­ue, at least not with­out care­ful review.” For Lip­sitch, the deci­sion to run an ePPP exper­i­ment ulti­mate­ly boils down to the urgency of the threat and whether alter­na­tive path­ways exist. “I’m open to learn­ing more,” he says, “but I have not yet heard an argu­ment for why tak­ing some part of a bat virus and recom­bin­ing it with some part of a human virus, and assess­ing its abil­i­ty to infect human cells, is an impor­tant part of pan­dem­ic pre­pared­ness.”

    A decade lat­er, as the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic unfold­ed, the long-sim­mer­ing debate around gain-of-func­tion research spilled into pub­lic view, and Baric’s work became an easy tar­get. After Rand Paul’s fiery con­gres­sion­al hear­ing speech opened the flood­gates, the Chi­nese government—increasingly under pres­sure about the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic and sens­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to deflect blame—followed suit. In an open let­ter to the direc­tor of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion released on Aug. 25, 2021, China’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Unit­ed Nations demand­ed that Baric’s lab be sub­ject to a “trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion with full access” to trace the ori­gins of COVID-19. That placed Bar­ic in rar­efied air: a scape­goat for politi­cians in both the U.S. and Chi­na.

    Four months lat­er, the right-wing radio host Glenn Beck appeared on Tuck­er Carl­son Tonight, wav­ing doc­u­ments that he pur­port­ed had been smug­gled out of Chi­na and which sup­plied Baric’s motive. “I’ll try not to sound crazy and tie this togeth­er,” Beck said, before describ­ing a get-rich-quick scheme involv­ing vac­cine patents, Bar­ic, Antho­ny Fau­ci, Mod­er­na, the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, and a cabal of oth­er shad­owy fig­ures seek­ing to unleash a glob­al pan­dem­ic for per­son­al prof­it. When Beck final­ly shared them, the doc­u­ments con­tained no evi­dence that Bar­ic had deliv­ered an engi­neered super-virus to the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy. Rather, they includ­ed an email from Bar­ic to Shi with trav­el logis­tics for a poten­tial vis­it to Wuhan in 2018, along with mes­sages from late 2019 between Bar­ic and oth­er virol­o­gists react­ing with increas­ing alarm as the clus­ters of pneu­mo­nia in Wuhan metas­ta­sized into the glob­al pan­dem­ic.

    Regard­less of its flim­si­ness, the nar­ra­tive had its effects. Kizzmekia Cor­bett, a virol­o­gist who led test­ing of Moderna’s COVID-19 vac­cine at the NIH’s Vac­cine Research Cen­ter, had a front row seat to the ris­ing stres­sors Bar­ic faced. Like many at the tip of the spear of Oper­a­tion Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vac­cine and antivi­ral ini­tia­tive, Cor­bett need­ed Bar­ic and his team to run the safe­ty and effi­ca­cy tri­al for Moderna’s vac­cine using their chimeric coro­n­avirus strains, human res­pi­ra­to­ry cell cul­tures, and end­less sup­ply of lab mice. “In the height of the pan­dem­ic,” Cor­bett recalls, “every­body need­ed those mouse mod­els,” along with the assays Bar­ic had designed to test whether the vac­cines could neu­tral­ize SARS-CoV­‑2.

    Requests for sup­port quick­ly piled up from across the world, keep­ing Bar­ic and his team at their lab­o­ra­to­ry night and day. “There’s a point where you’re doing your sci­ence for fun or to ask real­ly cool ques­tions,” says Cor­bett, “and then a pan­dem­ic hap­pens and it becomes a ser­vice to the world, and that’s so much pres­sure.”

    Cor­bett first met Bar­ic in 2009 when she was a junior doc­tor­al trainee in his lab. Back then, he struck her as intel­lec­tu­al­ly omniv­o­rous, his lab made up of a sprawl­ing set of tan­gen­tial­ly con­nect­ed virol­o­gy projects over­seen by about 30 researchers (“I felt like I might get lost in it,” Cor­bett recalls), with Bar­ic at the cen­ter, both good-natured and obses­sive over minute details of the work.

    ...

    ****

    When Bar­ic start­ed study­ing coro­n­avirus­es in the 1980s, only two strains were known to infect humans, nei­ther of which were dead­ly. In the midst of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, reports of two oth­er nov­el human coro­n­avirus­es emerged, includ­ing a pig-relat­ed alpha­coro­n­avirus among Hait­ian school­child­ren and a dog-relat­ed strain in a hos­pi­tal­ized infant in Malaysia (nei­ther are close­ly relat­ed to SARS-CoV­‑2). That makes nine human pathogens and count­ing, with three capa­ble of caus­ing mass death. The rapid accel­er­a­tion of coro­n­avirus spillover events is why Bar­ic remains so obsessed with a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine.

    After over a decade of fail­ure, the pan­dem­ic gave Bar­ic a whole new path to cre­at­ing one. While he rarely lets his emo­tions get the bet­ter of him, Bar­ic trips over his words when he talks about mRNA vac­ci­nol­o­gy, which uses strands of syn­thet­i­cal­ly pro­grammed mes­sen­ger RNA to gen­er­ate an immune response. When he saw the results of the COVID-19 mRNA vac­cines in his mouse mod­els, and when they were lat­er repli­cat­ed in human tri­als, he was deeply moved. “It was outstanding—not out­stand­ing, it was aston­ish­ing,” he says. With ear­li­er vac­cine plat­forms, he con­tin­ues, “per­for­mance drops off five‑, 10-fold,” among old­er and immuno­com­pro­mised peo­ple. “With these mRNA vac­cines, there was no loss of func­tion,” mean­ing they could effec­tive­ly pro­tect every­one, both young and old.

    Bar­ic is now advanc­ing an mRNA vac­cine that stitch­es togeth­er spike pro­tein com­po­nents plucked from dif­fer­ent 12 coro­n­avirus­es, includ­ing SARS, SARS‑2, and their clos­est rel­a­tives, which rep­re­sent the strains most adept at infect­ing humans. It’s a sci­en­tif­ic bet that the next coro­n­avirus to threat­en us will resem­ble one we’ve encoun­tered before.

    Bar­ic is care­ful to tem­per talk of a sil­ver bul­let. Because they prize breadth over speci­fici­ty, pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cines won’t be near­ly as effec­tive against a future pathogen com­pared to the COVID-19 vac­cines, which only tar­get one strain. What they will do is buy us valu­able time. When a new coro­n­avirus out­break occurs, Bar­ic explains, a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine could be rapid­ly deployed for a tech­nique called “ring vac­ci­na­tion.” Used suc­cess­ful­ly to con­trol Ebo­la out­breaks in Guinea and Sier­ra Leone, ring vac­ci­na­tion involves quick­ly inoc­u­lat­ing close con­tacts of index patients, there­by shut­ting down a virus’s path to the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion. The goal isn’t total erad­i­ca­tion, but slow­ing the new pathogen’s advance through our species while strain-spe­cif­ic cures can be devel­oped and deployed.

    Bar­ic plans to test his pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine can­di­date on pri­mates in the com­ing months, with human tri­als lat­er in the year if results remain promis­ing. Mean­while, he con­tin­ues to nav­i­gate increas­ing skep­ti­cism of—and, some­times, unbri­dled hos­til­i­ty to—the brand of virol­o­gy that has defined his long career.

    The pub­lic debate around gain-of-func­tion research has become polar­ized into two oppos­ing camps, with sci­en­tists cast in lead­ing roles as either pan­dem­ic-avert­ing heroes or lab-leak­ing vil­lains. Bar­ic rejects that easy bina­ry. Instead, he points out that gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments, even the most con­tro­ver­sial ones, such as the exper­i­ment done in 2011 that trans­formed an avian flu strain into a dead­ly air­borne pathogen (which pre­cip­i­tat­ed a broad shut­down of gain-of-func­tion research by the NIH) are fund­ed by gov­ern­ments. That, Bar­ic says, makes gov­ern­ments, rather than sci­en­tists, pri­mar­i­ly respon­si­ble for choos­ing which exper­i­ments to run and how close­ly to mon­i­tor them. A draft report from Jan­u­ary 2023 by the U.S. Nation­al Sci­en­tif­ic Advi­so­ry Board for Biose­cu­ri­ty, a fed­er­al­ly-appoint­ed com­mit­tee advis­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment on gain-of-func­tion research, backs up that view: among their rec­om­men­da­tions are that gov­ern­ment be more open about why cer­tain gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments that might be risky to humans are fund­ed.

    Lip­sitch, for his part, sees greater trans­paren­cy from every­one involved—funders and sci­en­tists alike—as the best way to move life-sav­ing sci­ence for­ward and low­er the tem­per­a­ture on the issue. “There have been some very crazy things said, and some very offen­sive things,” he says, “but it’s real­ly in the sci­en­tif­ic community’s self-inter­est to explain what they think the val­ue of these stud­ies is, to engage with the idea that some of them may be dan­ger­ous, and to admit that lab acci­dents hap­pen.”

    ...

    Bar­ic believes dis­in­for­ma­tion risks wip­ing out the incred­i­ble sci­en­tif­ic advances made dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. “The pub­lic health com­mu­ni­ty has not fig­ured out how to deal with these echo cham­bers,” he says, “because false infor­ma­tion traf­fics much faster on the inter­net and in social media than facts.” Sur­vey­ing the dam­age to the COVID-19 vac­cines he helped bring to the world, Bar­ic is pes­simistic. “It looks like Amer­i­can sci­ence is going to get shred­ded,” he says, “for a pan­dem­ic that start­ed in Chi­na.”

    Still, for all the gloom, Bar­ic prefers to reflect on the absur­di­ty of his sit­u­a­tion rather than sink into despair. When I sug­gest to him that despite the con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, there are many peo­ple hap­py that he became a sci­en­tist in the first place, he can’t resist a final self-mock­ing dig: “A fair num­ber that prob­a­bly wished I hadn’t,” he says, laugh­ing. “Let’s be hon­est.”

    ————–

    “The U.S. Sci­en­tist At the Heart of COVID-19 Lab Leak Con­spir­a­cies Is Still Try­ing to Save the World From the Next Pan­dem­ic” by Dan Werb; Time; 07/11/2023

    “A decade lat­er, as the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic unfold­ed, the long-sim­mer­ing debate around gain-of-func­tion research spilled into pub­lic view, and Baric’s work became an easy tar­get. After Rand Paul’s fiery con­gres­sion­al hear­ing speech opened the flood­gates, the Chi­nese government—increasingly under pres­sure about the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic and sens­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to deflect blame—followed suit. In an open let­ter to the direc­tor of the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion released on Aug. 25, 2021, China’s per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the Unit­ed Nations demand­ed that Baric’s lab be sub­ject to a “trans­par­ent inves­ti­ga­tion with full access” to trace the ori­gins of COVID-19. That placed Bar­ic in rar­efied air: a scape­goat for politi­cians in both the U.S. and Chi­na.

    Chi­na called for an inves­ti­ga­tion of Bar­ci’s lab as part of the inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of COVID-19. It’s not some­thing we’ve heard much about. Will the new law­suits change that?

    But even more direct­ly relat­ed to the law­suit is Bar­ic’s own crit­i­cisms of the rel­a­tive­ly lax BSL‑2 safe­ty pro­to­cols that Shi Zhengli’s lab was report­ed­ly con­duct­ing these exper­i­ments under, along with his insis­tence that gov­ern­ments are the main respon­si­ble par­ties in this sto­ry. These were exper­i­ments done in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the inter­na­tion­al research part­ner­ship fund­ed by the US gov­ern­ment and head­ed up by Eco­Health Alliance, after all. An inter­na­tion­al research part­ner­ship in which Bar­ic has long played a key role:

    ...
    Bar­ic, who signed onto an open let­ter pub­lished in Sci­ence in 2021 demand­ing a thor­ough inves­ti­ga­tion of the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2, is still frus­trat­ed by its slow pace. While he remains unsure on the ques­tion, Bar­ic finds par­tic­u­lar fault with a joint inves­ti­ga­tion by the World Health Orga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment that was done in 2021, which dis­missed the chance of a lab leak as “extreme­ly unlike­ly.” That con­clu­sion, Bar­ic says, is pre­ma­ture, giv­en the lack of con­clu­sive data and China’s more relaxed lab­o­ra­to­ry stan­dards; he points out that while the U.S. restricts gain-of-func­tion work with dan­ger­ous pathogens to labs rat­ed at a min­i­mum of BSL‑3 (like Baric’s), “the reg­u­la­tions in Chi­na are such that you can work with SARS-like bat coro­n­avirus­es in BSL‑2 [Biosafe­ty lev­el 2] labs,” which require few­er safe­ty fea­tures.

    ...

    The pub­lic debate around gain-of-func­tion research has become polar­ized into two oppos­ing camps, with sci­en­tists cast in lead­ing roles as either pan­dem­ic-avert­ing heroes or lab-leak­ing vil­lains. Bar­ic rejects that easy bina­ry. Instead, he points out that gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments, even the most con­tro­ver­sial ones, such as the exper­i­ment done in 2011 that trans­formed an avian flu strain into a dead­ly air­borne pathogen (which pre­cip­i­tat­ed a broad shut­down of gain-of-func­tion research by the NIH) are fund­ed by gov­ern­ments. That, Bar­ic says, makes gov­ern­ments, rather than sci­en­tists, pri­mar­i­ly respon­si­ble for choos­ing which exper­i­ments to run and how close­ly to mon­i­tor them. A draft report from Jan­u­ary 2023 by the U.S. Nation­al Sci­en­tif­ic Advi­so­ry Board for Biose­cu­ri­ty, a fed­er­al­ly-appoint­ed com­mit­tee advis­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment on gain-of-func­tion research, backs up that view: among their rec­om­men­da­tions are that gov­ern­ment be more open about why cer­tain gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments that might be risky to humans are fund­ed.
    ...

    And keep in mind that Bar­ic’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli’s lab goes back to at least 2013, when SARS-relat­ed viral genomes col­lect­ed in Chi­na were sent to Bar­ic’s lab, at which point those genomes were used in a vari­ety of exper­i­ments that includ­ed gain-of-func­tion stud­ies. You can’t real­ly sep­a­rate what hap­pened at the WIV from the research at Bar­ic’s lab:

    ...
    The the­o­ry plays on a col­lab­o­ra­tion dat­ing back to the ear­ly 2010s between Bar­ic and Shi Zhengli, the future direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases at the WIV. In the wake of the 2003 SARS epi­dem­ic, Shi had been spend­ing years col­lect­ing hun­dreds of coro­n­avirus strains from bat guano in caves and mine­shafts across the vast Chi­nese main­land. Around 2013, Shi agreed to send some of the SARS-relat­ed coro­n­avirus genomes that she had har­vest­ed to Baric’s lab in North Car­oli­na. Bar­ic and his team then used the genomes for a vari­ety of exper­i­ments, includ­ing gain-of-func­tion stud­ies, a broad class of bio­log­i­cal research in which the genet­ic make­up of an organ­ism is arti­fi­cial­ly mutat­ed. For those seek­ing a scape­goat for the pan­dem­ic, Baric’s experiments—which used coro­n­avirus­es that would turn out to be close­ly relat­ed to (but not direct ances­tors of) SARS-CoV‑2—proved that the virus was man­made, despite an absence of data.
    ...

    And as we can also see, Bar­ic’s col­lab­o­ra­tion with Shi Zhengli’s lab did­n’t just involve the study of coro­n­avirus­es. It also involved the study of coro­n­avirus vac­cines. In fact, that now noto­ri­ous study involviong the cre­ation of a chimeric virus using the SHC014 virus and a mouse-adapt­ed SARS virus — which was allowed to con­tin­ue even after the 2014 US GoF research ban — was part of this vac­cine devel­op­ment work. Work that appar­ent­ly con­vinced Bar­ic of the need to devel­op a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine. Bar­ic now pre­dicts he’ll begin human tri­als on such a vac­cine lat­er this year:

    ...
    In the mid-2010s, in the wake of MERS, Bar­ic became con­vinced that the world need­ed a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine to pro­tect human­i­ty against what­ev­er future pathogen the viral fam­i­ly next pro­duced. The first step was to see how well an exist­ing SARS-spe­cif­ic vac­cine can­di­date his team had devel­oped worked against oth­er strains. Bar­ic test­ed the vac­cine against dozens of the coro­n­avirus genomes that Shi Zhengli had har­vest­ed and sent to his lab. Against strains less than 8% genet­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from SARS, the vac­cine worked. Against those that—like MERS—surpassed that thresh­old, it failed mis­er­ably.

    Unde­terred, Bar­ic turned to syn­thet­ic virol­o­gy, which is the sci­ence of stitch­ing parts of dif­fer­ent virus­es togeth­er into arti­fi­cial cre­ations known as chimeras. Bar­ic con­sid­ered chimeras as the best way to study dead­ly pathogens while main­tain­ing a safe lab with low risk of leaks. Sub­mit­ting live SARS and MERS virus­es to gain-of-func­tion tests—like pres­sur­ing pathogens to evolve new ways of infect­ing hosts—was too edgy for him. But doing the same exper­i­ment with a chimera that com­bined a piece of a human coro­n­avirus with one that could only infect a non-human ani­mal allowed Bar­ic to test how coro­n­avirus­es evolve while avoid­ing the inad­ver­tent cre­ation of a pathogen with the capac­i­ty to repli­cate in human cells.

    Despite his cau­tion, one exper­i­ment raised eye­brows. In 2014, Baric’s team cre­at­ed a chimera that fused the spike pro­tein of one of the SARS-relat­ed bat coro­n­avirus­es that Shi had har­vest­ed, known as SHC014, with the back­bone of a mouse-adapt­ed SARS virus; in prin­ci­ple, the chimera should only have been able to infect mice. Baric’s team then intro­duced the chimera into human cell colonies and found that, under pres­sure, it was able to repli­cate in human res­pi­ra­to­ry cells while also evad­ing antivi­ral drugs pro­tec­tive against SARS. It was proof of how close the coro­n­avirus fam­i­ly was to pro­duc­ing a strain that could spill over into humans. From Baric’s per­spec­tive, that made it a valu­able piece of research, and ham­mered home the need for a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine. Oth­ers, though, were alarmed.

    ...

    Bar­ic is now advanc­ing an mRNA vac­cine that stitch­es togeth­er spike pro­tein com­po­nents plucked from dif­fer­ent 12 coro­n­avirus­es, includ­ing SARS, SARS‑2, and their clos­est rel­a­tives, which rep­re­sent the strains most adept at infect­ing humans. It’s a sci­en­tif­ic bet that the next coro­n­avirus to threat­en us will resem­ble one we’ve encoun­tered before.

    ...

    Bar­ic plans to test his pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine can­di­date on pri­mates in the com­ing months, with human tri­als lat­er in the year if results remain promis­ing. Mean­while, he con­tin­ues to nav­i­gate increas­ing skep­ti­cism of—and, some­times, unbri­dled hos­til­i­ty to—the brand of virol­o­gy that has defined his long career.
    ...

    And while it’s unclear if this law­suit will include any alle­ga­tions of injuries from the mRNA vac­cines them­selves, and not just the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus, it’s also worth not­ing that Bar­ic was appar­ent­ly play­ing a lead­ing role in Oper­a­tion Warp Speed. And it was in that role that Bar­ic was deeply impressed by the abil­i­ty of mRNA vac­cines to include an immune response in elder­ly and immuno­com­pro­mised indi­vid­u­als that isn’t trig­gered by more tra­di­tion­al vac­cines. It’s the kind of obser­va­tion that is being tout­ed as a clear pos­i­tive fea­ture by Bar­ic and oth­er today, but could be seen in a very dif­fer­ent light as the research into vac­cine side effects con­tin­ues to play out, along with any asso­ci­at­ed law­suits:

    ...
    Regard­less of its flim­si­ness, the nar­ra­tive had its effects. Kizzmekia Cor­bett, a virol­o­gist who led test­ing of Moderna’s COVID-19 vac­cine at the NIH’s Vac­cine Research Cen­ter, had a front row seat to the ris­ing stres­sors Bar­ic faced. Like many at the tip of the spear of Oper­a­tion Warp Speed, the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vac­cine and antivi­ral ini­tia­tive, Cor­bett need­ed Bar­ic and his team to run the safe­ty and effi­ca­cy tri­al for Moderna’s vac­cine using their chimeric coro­n­avirus strains, human res­pi­ra­to­ry cell cul­tures, and end­less sup­ply of lab mice. “In the height of the pan­dem­ic,” Cor­bett recalls, “every­body need­ed those mouse mod­els,” along with the assays Bar­ic had designed to test whether the vac­cines could neu­tral­ize SARS-CoV­‑2.

    ...

    After over a decade of fail­ure, the pan­dem­ic gave Bar­ic a whole new path to cre­at­ing one. While he rarely lets his emo­tions get the bet­ter of him, Bar­ic trips over his words when he talks about mRNA vac­ci­nol­o­gy, which uses strands of syn­thet­i­cal­ly pro­grammed mes­sen­ger RNA to gen­er­ate an immune response. When he saw the results of the COVID-19 mRNA vac­cines in his mouse mod­els, and when they were lat­er repli­cat­ed in human tri­als, he was deeply moved. “It was outstanding—not out­stand­ing, it was aston­ish­ing,” he says. With ear­li­er vac­cine plat­forms, he con­tin­ues, “per­for­mance drops off five‑, 10-fold,” among old­er and immuno­com­pro­mised peo­ple. “With these mRNA vac­cines, there was no loss of func­tion,” mean­ing they could effec­tive­ly pro­tect every­one, both young and old.
    ...

    And then we get to this rather notable his­toric per­spec­tive: when Bar­ic first start work­ing in this area, coro­n­avirus­es were thought of as benign, quirky virus­es with lit­tle poten­tial to ignite a dead­ly pan­dem­ic. That was in fact part of their appeal as a plat­form for learn­ing about how virus­es work. It was only after years of this kind research that we saw the first coro­n­avirus­es capa­ble of cre­at­ing dead­ly pan­demics emerge. Is that a coin­ci­dence? That ques­tion is implic­it­ly at the heart of this law­suit:

    ...
    Fear of the future is noth­ing new for Bar­ic. In 1982, when he entered the field, coro­n­avirus­es were most­ly used as lab­o­ra­to­ry tools to help us under­stand viral mechan­ics. Coro­n­aviri­dae were thought to be benign, and quirky: some­how, they man­aged to have genomes much larg­er than any oth­er RNA virus, a curi­ous fact that, to hear Bar­ic tell it, means that, “they shouldn’t exist on plan­et Earth.”

    In the ear­ly 1980s, he was ful­ly aware that coro­n­avi­rol­o­gy was a sci­en­tif­ic backwater—but that’s exact­ly what he want­ed. Far from the glare of pub­lic opin­ion, Bar­ic could work at his own pace. One thing he dis­cov­ered after a decade of study was that the Coro­n­aviri­dae wasn’t, as had been pre­vi­ous­ly believed, a fam­i­ly of species-spe­cif­ic virus­es, but a mess of gen­er­al­ist strains that were adept at jump­ing between hosts—mouse, ham­ster, pri­mate, bel­u­ga whale, to name a few—when under pres­sure.

    When the 2003 SARS epi­dem­ic emerged in the Chi­nese provinces of Guangzhou and Hong Kong, the appar­ent­ly benign Coro­n­aviri­dae fam­i­ly sud­den­ly revealed itself capa­ble of pro­duc­ing a high­ly effi­cient killer.

    In light of what he had dis­cov­ered in his lab, SARS was, for Bar­ic, “a shock but not a sur­prise.” As it spread, sick­en­ing 10,000 peo­ple and killing rough­ly 800 before being ful­ly erad­i­cat­ed through pub­lic health mea­sures, Bar­ic was forced to reck­on with a new real­i­ty: coro­n­avirus­es, his benign lab­o­ra­to­ry tool, had the capac­i­ty to wreak hav­oc at a glob­al scale. For a sci­en­tist that had long ago cho­sen to work on obscure viro­log­i­cal prob­lems, it was, he says, “an exhil­a­rat­ing kind of feel­ing, with a sick­ness in the pit of your stom­ach.”

    When the MERS (Mid­dle East Res­pi­ra­to­ry Syn­drome) coro­n­avirus spilled over in 2012, less than a decade lat­er and with a 35% mor­tal­i­ty rate, Bar­ic was faced with anoth­er stark real­iza­tion: One dead­ly coro­n­avirus epi­dem­ic is an aber­ra­tion. Two with­in 10 years—the blink of an eye in viral time—spelled out a pat­tern.

    ...

    When Bar­ic start­ed study­ing coro­n­avirus­es in the 1980s, only two strains were known to infect humans, nei­ther of which were dead­ly. In the midst of the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, reports of two oth­er nov­el human coro­n­avirus­es emerged, includ­ing a pig-relat­ed alpha­coro­n­avirus among Hait­ian school­child­ren and a dog-relat­ed strain in a hos­pi­tal­ized infant in Malaysia (nei­ther are close­ly relat­ed to SARS-CoV­‑2). That makes nine human pathogens and count­ing, with three capa­ble of caus­ing mass death. The rapid accel­er­a­tion of coro­n­avirus spillover events is why Bar­ic remains so obsessed with a pan-coro­n­avirus vac­cine.
    ...

    And then, final­ly, there’s this anec­dote that can’t help but fuel dark spec­u­la­tion: the eeri­ly pre­scient pre­dic­tions Bar­ic made back in May of 2018, includ­ing the pre­dic­tion that the upcom­ing pan­dem­ic was designed by sci­en­tists:

    ...
    Ralph Bar­ic stepped onto the audi­to­ri­um stage at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, Chapel Hill, and looked out at the sparse audi­ence that had come to hear him speak. On the large pro­jec­tor screen hang­ing behind him, the fol­low­ing words appeared: How Bad the Next Pan­dem­ic Could Be, What Might It Look Like, and Will We be Ready. The date was May 29, 2018.

    “Well, I have to admit I’m a lit­tle wor­ried about giv­ing this talk,” Bar­ic said. “The rea­son is being labelled a har­bin­ger of doom.” The screen shift­ed, and images of the four horse­men of the apocalypse—Death, Famine, War, and Plague—came into view, next to a head­shot of a smil­ing Bar­ic. “This is not me,” he con­tin­ued, “I’m not one of the four horse­men of the apoc­a­lypse.” Light laugh­ter bub­bled through the audi­ence; Bar­ic smiled. For the next 35 min­utes, he laid out his pre­dic­tion, with uncan­ny pre­ci­sion, of what the next pan­dem­ic would bring: a rush for bogus antivi­ral treat­ments, vast prof­its for com­pa­nies mak­ing per­son­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment, a glob­al eco­nom­ic crash, and a rise in con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries claim­ing that the pan­dem­ic pathogen was designed by sci­en­tists.
    ...

    Were those eeri­ly pre­scient May 2018 com­ments mere­ly a reflec­tion of Bar­ic’s insights about the unfold­ing risks fac­ing the world? Or were they part of some sort of self-ful­fill­ing prophe­cy that result­ed from his col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Eco­Health Alliance? That’s pre­sum­ably what this new law­suit is going to be inves­ti­gat­ing. Along with all the oth­er law­suits that inevitably emerge as this all plays out.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 18, 2023, 4:30 pm

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