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Supplement to FTR #‘s 1157, 1158 and 1159

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Peter Daszak

COMMENT: The poten­tial­ly lethal­ly dev­as­tat­ing impli­ca­tions of what this group is under­tak­ing needs empha­sis.

This post sup­ple­ments and is intend­ed to call atten­tion to FTR #‘s 1157, 1158 and 1159.

A con­sum­mate­ly impor­tant arti­cle about Daszak and the Eco­Health Alliance pro­vides trou­bling insights into the uneven pro­fes­sion­al track record of Daszak and the pro­found involve­ment of the orga­ni­za­tion he heads with the Pen­ta­gon and oth­er U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty estab­lish­ment insti­tu­tions.

Eco­Health Alliance looks dis­turbing­ly like an orga­ni­za­tion that may front for ele­ments and indi­vid­u­als involved with bio­log­i­cal war­fare research.

With Covid-19 tear­ing our civ­i­liza­tion apart, we must scru­ti­nize groups like this much, much more care­ful­ly than has been done to date.

“Peter Daszak, Pres­i­dent of Eco­Health Alliance, is a top sci­en­tif­ic col­lab­o­ra­torgrantwriter and spokesper­son for virus hunters and gain-of-func­tion/­d­ual-use researchers, in labs both mil­i­tary and civil­ian.

Daszak works with dozens of high-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ries around the world that col­lect pathogens and use genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy to make them more infec­tious, con­ta­gious, lethal or drug-resis­tant. These include labs con­trolled by the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense, in coun­tries in the for­mer Sovi­et Union, the Mid­dle East, South East Asia and Africa.

Many of these labs are staffed by for­mer bio­log­i­cal weapons sci­en­tists. (See Arms Watch’s reports.) Before the Bio­log­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion was rat­i­fied, this research was called what it is: bio­log­i­cal weapons research. Now, it’s euphemisti­cal­ly called gain-of-func­tion or dual-use research. 

Gain-of-func­tion research to alter coro­n­avirus­es for the infec­tion of humans goes back to 1999 or ear­li­er, years before the first nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break. On behalf of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, often the mil­i­tary, Daszak scours the globe for ani­mal pathogens and brings them back to the lab to be cat­a­logued, inves­ti­gat­ed and manip­u­lat­ed. . . .”

Key points of analy­sis and dis­cus­sion include:

  1. Eco­Health Alliance con­tracts with the Pen­ta­gon in Tan­za­nia, South Africa, Geor­gia and Malaysia, as well as the U.S.
  2. ” . . . . A recent Wired mag­a­zine arti­cle quot­ing Daszak described how a virus col­lect­ed in 2012 was found to be a 96-per­cent match to SARS-CoV­‑2 in 2020 . . . ‘a lack of fund­ing meant they couldn’t fur­ther inves­ti­gate the virus strain now known to be 96 per­cent genet­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar to the virus that caus­es Covid-19’ . . . .”
  3. Dasza­k’s claim that they could­n’t fur­ther inves­ti­gate that virus because of a lack of fund­ing is dubi­ous, in that recent grants to the orga­ni­za­tion are on top of ” . . . . $100.9 mil­lion that Eco­Health Alliance has received in gov­ern­ment grants and con­tracts since 2003. . . .”
  4. Daszak does not explain how that virus (dis­cov­ered in 2012) turned into SARS-CoV­‑2. ” . . . . Some sci­en­tists say it would take 50 years for RaTG13 [the virus in question–D.E.] to turn into SARS-CoV­‑2. . . .”
  5. Daszak is heav­i­ly net­worked with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty: ” . . . . the Depart­ment of Home­land Security’s Nation­al Bio­sur­veil­lance Inte­gra­tion Cen­ter (NBIC)  . . . . gave Daszak’s Eco­Health Alliance a $2.2‑million con­tract (2016–2019) to cre­ate a ‘Ground Truth Net­work’ of ‘sub­ject mat­ter experts’ who could pro­vide ‘con­tex­tu­al infor­ma­tion per­tain­ing to bio­log­i­cal events.’ . . . .”
  6. The intel­lec­tu­al and pro­fes­sion­al track record of Daszak and Eco­Health Alliance is porous. Eco­Health Alliance float­ed a canard about Ebo­la poten­tial­ly trav­el­ing to the U.S. ” . . . . an Eco­Health Alliance spokesper­son, spread a false (not to men­tion racist and xeno­pho­bic) nar­ra­tive, one that sub­se­quent­ly would be thor­ough­ly debunked, that bush­meat smug­gled to the U.S. from Africa could trans­mit Ebo­la to Amer­i­cans. . . .”
  7. Daszak missed the boat bad­ly with regard to SARS: ” . . . . It is com­mon­ly accept­ed that the SARS pan­dem­ic began in 2002, when humans caught a bat virus from civet cats at a wet mar­ket in Guang­dong, Chi­na. But Daszak and his col­lab­o­ra­tors admit they have no evi­dence to explain how the virus leapt from bats to civets to humans. . . .”
  8. ” . . . . SARS-CoV was found in civets at the Guang­dong wet mar­ket, but civets aren’t the nat­ur­al reser­voir of this virus. Bats are. Only the civets at the market—and no farm-raised or wild civets—carried the virus. None of the ani­mal traders han­dling the civets at the mar­ket had SARS. . . .”
  9. ” . . . . When Daszak and his col­lab­o­ra­tors at the WIV searched the cave in Yun­nan for strains of coro­n­avirus sim­i­lar to human ver­sions, no sin­gle bat actu­al­ly had SARS. Genet­ic pieces of the var­i­ous strains would have to be recom­bined to make up the human ver­sion. Adding to the con­fu­sion, Yun­nan is about 1,000 kilo­me­ters from Guang­dong. . . .”
  10. ” . . . . So, how did virus­es from bats in Yun­nan com­bine to become dead­ly to humans, and then trav­el to civets and peo­ple in Guang­dong, with­out caus­ing any ill­ness­es along the way dur­ing this 1,000 kilo­me­ter trip? . . .
  11. Daszak and the Eco­Health Alliance were deeply involved with a USAID and NIH fund­ed joint WIV/University of North Car­oli­na project we have cov­ered exten­sive­ly in past pro­grams” . . . . The two insti­tu­tions also worked as col­lab­o­ra­tors under anoth­er $2.6‑million grant, ‘Risk of Viral Emer­gence from Bats,’ and under Eco­Health Alliance’s largest sin­gle source of fund­ing, a $44.2 mil­lion sub-grant from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Davis for the PREDICT project (2015–2020). . . .”
  12. ” . . . . It’s the $44.2‑million PREDICT grant that Eco­Health Alliance used to fund the gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ment by WIV sci­en­tist Zhengli Shi and the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill’s Ralph Bar­ic. Shi and Bar­ic used genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy to cre­ate a ‘new bat SARS-like virus . . . that can jump direct­ly from its bat hosts to humans.’ . . .”
  13. ” . . . . The work . . . pub­lished in Nature in 2015 dur­ing the NIH’s mora­to­ri­um on gain-of-func­tion research, was grand­fa­thered in because it was ini­ti­at­ed before the mora­to­ri­um (offi­cial­ly called the U.S. Gov­ern­ment Delib­er­a­tive Process Research Fund­ing Pause on Select­ed Gain-of-Func­tion Research Involv­ing Influen­za, MERS and SARS Virus­es), and because the request by Shi and Bar­ic to con­tin­ue their research dur­ing the mora­to­ri­um was approved by the NIH. . . .”
  14. ” . . . . As a con­di­tion of pub­li­ca­tion, Nature, like most sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals, requires authors to sub­mit new DNA and RNA sequences to Gen­Bank, the U.S. Nation­al Cen­ter for Biotech­nol­o­gy Infor­ma­tion Data­base. Yet the new SARS-like virus Shi and Bar­ic cre­at­ed wasn’t deposit­ed in Gen­Bank until May 2020. . . .
  15. ” . . . . why is the gov­ern­ment focus­ing on just one of Eco­Health Alliance’s projects, when the orga­ni­za­tion has received $100.9 mil­lion in grants, pri­mar­i­ly from the Depart­ment of Defense, to sam­ple, store and study bat coro­n­avirus­es at labs around the world? Coro­n­avirus­es, both those that have been col­lect­ed from ani­mals and those that have been cre­at­ed through genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, at all of these labs should be com­pared with SARS-CoV­‑2. . . . .”
  16. ” . . . . Daszak’s col­lab­o­ra­tors work­ing under con­tracts with the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS) aren’t allowed to con­duct gain-of-func­tion research unless specif­i­cal­ly approved to do so by the Poten­tial Pan­dem­ic Pathogen Care and Over­sight (P3CO) com­mit­tee. This com­mit­tee was set up as a con­di­tion for lift­ing the 2014–2017 mora­to­ri­um on gain-of-func­tion research. The P3CO com­mit­tee oper­ates in secret. Not even a mem­ber­ship list has been released. . . .
  17. Exem­pli­fy­ing Eco­Health Alliance’s work is a Pen­ta­gon con­tract with Tan­za­nia, research­ing CCHF–Crimean-Congo Hem­or­rhag­ic Fever. ” . . . . Eco­Health Alliance has a $5‑million Pen­ta­gon con­tract, ‘Crimean-Con­go Hem­or­rhag­ic Fever: Reduc­ing an Emerg­ing Health Threat in Tan­za­nia.’  Crimean-Con­go Hem­or­rhag­ic Fever (CCHF) is a tick-borne dis­ease, orig­i­nal­ly only infect­ing ani­mals. . . . There was only ever one case of CCHF in Tan­za­nia, and that was in 1986. . . . Gain-of-func­tion research on CCHF is being con­duct­ed at the U.S. Depart­ment of Agriculture’s Nation­al Bio and Agro-Defense Facil­i­ty (NBAF) . . . . (The Nation­al Bio and Agro Defense Facil­i­ty will take over the mis­sion of the Plum Island Ani­mal Dis­ease Cen­ter and become the lead facil­i­ty for For­eign Ani­mal Dis­ease research.) . . .
  18. ” . . . .Tan­za­nia is the ori­gin of chikun­gun­ya, a mos­qui­to-borne virus that the U.S. has long cul­ti­vat­ed as a poten­tial bio­log­i­cal weapon. accord­ing to a patent held by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas for a ‘chimeric’ chikun­gun­ya virus cre­at­ed through genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy: ‘The 39 doc­u­ment­ed lab­o­ra­to­ry infec­tions report­ed by HHS in 1981 strong­ly sug­gest that Chikun­gun­ya virus is infec­tious via aerosol route. Chikun­gun­ya virus was being weaponized by the U.S. Army army when the offen­sive pro­gram was ter­mi­nat­ed.’ Tan­za­nia is one of the coun­tries where bat coro­n­avirus­es were col­lect­ed for the PREDICT project. . . .”

“Peter ‘Show Me the Mon­ey’ Daszak Pulls in Big Bucks, through Eco­Health Alliance, for Risky Virus ‘Research’” by Alex­is Baden-May­er; About Mag­a­zine; 9/19/2020.

Peter Daszak, Pres­i­dent of Eco­Health Alliance, is a top sci­en­tif­ic col­lab­o­ra­torgrantwriter and spokesper­son for virus hunters and gain-of-func­tion/­d­ual-use researchers, in labs both mil­i­tary and civil­ian.

Daszak works with dozens of high-con­tain­ment lab­o­ra­to­ries around the world that col­lect pathogens and use genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy to make them more infec­tious, con­ta­gious, lethal or drug-resis­tant. These include labs con­trolled by the U.S. Depart­ment of Defense, in coun­tries in the for­mer Sovi­et Union, the Mid­dle East, South East Asia and Africa.

Many of these labs are staffed by for­mer bio­log­i­cal weapons sci­en­tists. (See Arms Watch’s reports.)

Before the Bio­log­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion was rat­i­fied, this research was called what it is: bio­log­i­cal weapons research. Now, it’s euphemisti­cal­ly called gain-of-func­tion or dual-use research.

Gain-of-func­tion research to alter coro­n­avirus­es for the infec­tion of humans goes back to 1999 or ear­li­er, years before the first nov­el coro­n­avirus out­break.

On behalf of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, often the mil­i­tary, Daszak scours the globe for ani­mal pathogens and brings them back to the lab to be cat­a­logued, inves­ti­gat­ed and manip­u­lat­ed.

Daszak and oth­ers jus­ti­fy their research this way: If/When an out­break of a new virus occurs, they can com­pare it to the ones in their labs, and maybe glean how the nov­el virus emerged. A recent Wired mag­a­zine arti­cle quot­ing Daszak described how a virus col­lect­ed in 2012 was found to be a 96-per­cent match to SARS-CoV­‑2 in 2020:

“The search for the source of SARS – which killed more than 770 peo­ple two decades ago – has giv­en us a head­start for the cur­rent hunt. Wear­ing haz­mat suits and equipped with mist nets, a team from the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy, togeth­er with the ecol­o­gist and pres­i­dent of Eco­Health Alliance Peter Daszak, ven­tured into lime­stone caves to col­lect fae­ces and blood sam­ples from thou­sands of roost­ing bats before test­ing them for nov­el coro­n­avirus­es in the lab. ‘At the time, we were look­ing for SARS-relat­ed virus­es, and this one was 20 per­cent dif­fer­ent,’ says Daszak. ‘We thought it’s inter­est­ing, but not high-risk. So we didn’t do any­thing about it and put it in the freez­er.’ The group has found around 500 bat-borne virus­es in Chi­na over the last 16 years, but only flagged those that most resem­bled SARS to the author­i­ties – a lack of fund­ing meant they couldn’t fur­ther inves­ti­gate the virus strain now known to be 96 per­cent genet­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar to the virus that caus­es Covid-19.”

Inter­est­ing though that sto­ry is, it fails to explain how SARS-CoV­‑2 evolved. Some sci­en­tists say it would take 50 years for RaTG13 [the virus in question–D.E.] to turn into SARS-CoV­‑2. Oth­ers pro­pose the­o­ries on how the virus might have evolved so quick­ly, yet still sus­pect that it escaped from the Wuhan lab.

Cer­tain­ly, to learn that the clos­est known rel­a­tive to SARS-CoV­‑2 has been in the care of the gain-of-func­tion researchers at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) for sev­en years does noth­ing to allay sus­pi­cions that the virus infect­ed humans only after being tin­kered with in a lab.

Still, the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases is going all-in on virus hunt­ing. The insti­tute just announced a five-year, $82-mil­lion invest­ment in a new glob­al net­work of Cen­ters for Research in Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases, includ­ing gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ments to “deter­mine what genet­ic or oth­er changes make [ani­mal] pathogens capa­ble of infect­ing humans.”

Daszak’s Eco­Health Alliance will receive $7.5 mil­lion from this grant. This is on top of $100.9 mil­lion that Eco­Health Alliance has received in gov­ern­ment grants and con­tracts since 2003. (What was that Daszak said about how “a lack of fund­ing meant they couldn’t fur­ther inves­ti­gate the virus strain now known to be 96-per­cent genet­i­cal­ly sim­i­lar to the virus that caus­es Covid-19”)?

Crit­ics of virus hunt­ing say sci­en­tists like Daszak could make a greater con­tri­bu­tion to human health by going after the virus­es that com­mon­ly infect humans, not the ones that nev­er have. Accord­ing to a 2018 Smith­son­ian Mag­a­zine report:

“Not every­one thinks that dis­cov­er­ing virus­es and their hotspots is the best way to pre­vent pan­demics. Dr. Robert B. Tesh, a virol­o­gist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas Med­ical Branch, says we don’t under­stand enough about zoonot­ic virus­es to cre­ate pre­dic­tive mod­els. ‘A lot of the stuff they pro­duce is hype. … It’s more PR than sci­ence.’”

Daszak’s research might be more hype and pub­lic rela­tions than sci­ence, but the Depart­ment of Home­land Security’s Nation­al Bio­sur­veil­lance Inte­gra­tion Cen­ter (NBIC) has cho­sen to rely on it. NBIC gave Daszak’s Eco­Health Alliance a $2.2‑million con­tract (2016–2019) to cre­ate a “Ground Truth Net­work” of “sub­ject mat­ter experts” who could pro­vide “con­tex­tu­al infor­ma­tion per­tain­ing to bio­log­i­cal events.”

The con­text Daszak invari­ably pro­vides is a com­pelling one. Destruc­tion of forests and oth­er encroach­ments on wildlife habi­tats, espe­cial­ly the hunt­ing of wild ani­mals and the sale of live ani­mals in wet mar­kets, is  forc­ing humans and ani­mals into uncom­fort­able prox­im­i­ty. This is bad for vul­ner­a­ble and endan­gered species, as well as for humans who are at increas­ing risk for con­tract­ing nov­el zoonot­ic dis­eases.

Who isn’t shocked and appalled to learn that peo­ple eat bats, or that mar­velous­ly strange and adorable ani­mals you’ve nev­er heard of―pangolins, civet cats―have had their habi­tats destroyed and are now being sold for meat at live ani­mal mar­kets?

Daszak’s fram­ing of the issue―what has come to be known as the One Health approach―has been hearti­ly embraced by the U.S. mil­i­tary.

But what if the sto­ries being spun by Daszak and his fel­low gov­ern­ment-sup­port­ed sub­ject mat­ter experts aren’t sup­port­ed by the evi­dence?

Let’s look at Eco­Health Alliance’s sto­ry about Ebo­la and bush­meat.

False nar­ra­tive, trag­ic out­comes

From 2011 to 2014, Eco­health Alliance had a $164,480 pur­chase order con­tract from the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol in Pitts­burgh for “Bush­meat.” No more infor­ma­tion than that is avail­able on that con­tract (HHSD2002011M41641P), but the mon­ey like­ly fund­ed a paper Daszak and his col­leagues pub­lished in 2012.

The 2012 paper, “Zoonot­ic Virus­es Asso­ci­at­ed with Ille­gal­ly Import­ed Wildlife Prod­ucts,” was used in August 2014, at the height of the West African Ebo­la pan­dem­ic, as the basis for a Newsweek arti­cle titled, “Smug­gled Bush­meat Is Ebola’s Back Door to Amer­i­ca.”

The arti­cle, which quot­ed an Eco­Health Alliance spokesper­son, spread a false (not to men­tion racist and xeno­pho­bic) nar­ra­tive, one that sub­se­quent­ly would be thor­ough­ly debunked, that bush­meat smug­gled to the U.S. from Africa could trans­mit Ebo­la to Amer­i­cans.

In Jan­u­ary 2015, a meet­ing of the UK Bush­meat Work­ing Group con­vened. The group coun­tered Daszak’s mis­in­for­ma­tion with the facts, in an arti­cle titled, “Ebo­la and Bush­meat: Myth and Real­i­ty.” The arti­cle stat­ed:

“As the Ebo­la virus can remain viable in untreat­ed car­cass­es for up to 3–4 days, there is a risk of trans­port­ing it to bush­meat mar­kets (although there is no evi­dence of this to date). How­ev­er, the risk of trans­mit­ting Ebo­la in bush­meat over­seas to Europe or the USA is extreme­ly low, giv­en the  total  trav­el  time  and  the  fact  that  these  car­cass­es  are  usu­al­ly  smoked  (which prob­a­bly inac­ti­vates the virus). The risk of spread to new areas lies with the move­ment of infect­ed peo­ple, not infect­ed meat.”

Trag­i­cal­ly, the mis­in­for­ma­tion about bush­meat as a pri­ma­ry cause of Ebo­la trans­mis­sion had already been com­mu­ni­cat­ed to West Africans in the midst of the cri­sis, through inter­na­tion­al health orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing Daszak’s fun­der, the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion (CDC). Daszak’s mis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign over­shad­owed the truth—that the only way Ebo­la was actu­al­ly being trans­mit­ted dur­ing the pan­dem­ic was via con­tact with the bod­i­ly flu­ids of peo­ple sick with Ebo­la, or with their corpses.

Per­pet­u­at­ing myth­i­cal the­o­ries

The SARS pan­dem­ic is anoth­er instance where Daszak’s the­o­ries didn’t pan out.

It is com­mon­ly accept­ed that the SARS pan­dem­ic began in 2002, when humans caught a bat virus from civet cats at a wet mar­ket in Guang­dong, Chi­na. But Daszak and his col­lab­o­ra­tors admit they have no evi­dence to explain how the virus leapt from bats to civets to humans.

SARS-CoV was found in civets at the Guang­dong wet mar­ket, but civets aren’t the nat­ur­al reser­voir of this virus. Bats are. Only the civets at the market—and no farm-raised or wild civets—carried the virus. None of the ani­mal traders han­dling the civets at the mar­ket had SARS.

When Daszak and his col­lab­o­ra­tors at the WIV searched the cave in Yun­nan for strains of coro­n­avirus sim­i­lar to human ver­sions, no sin­gle bat actu­al­ly had SARS. Genet­ic pieces of the var­i­ous strains would have to be recom­bined to make up the human ver­sion. Adding to the con­fu­sion, Yun­nan is about 1,000 kilo­me­ters from Guang­dong.

So, how did virus­es from bats in Yun­nan com­bine to become dead­ly to humans, and then trav­el to civets and peo­ple in Guang­dong, with­out caus­ing any ill­ness­es along the way dur­ing this 1,000 kilo­me­ter trip?

No one knows. Just like no one knows how SARS-CoV­‑2, the virus that caus­es COVID-19, leapt from bats to pan­golins to humans.

(The most recent study, “Broad host range of SARS-CoV­‑2 pre­dict­ed by com­par­a­tive and struc­tur­al analy­sis of ACE2 in ver­te­brates” in the Pro­ceed­ings of the Nation­al Acad­e­my of Sci­ences, showed that the SARS-CoV­‑2, which infects human cells through bind­ing of the viral Spike pro­tein to ACE2, has a “very high” bind­ing affin­i­ty to ACE2 in “Old World” mon­keys apes, and humans. But in bats, the bind­ing affin­i­ty is “low” and in pan­golins it is “very low.” The authors also not­ed that “nei­ther exper­i­men­tal infec­tion nor in vit­ro infec­tion with SARS-CoV­‑2 has been report­ed for pan­golins.”)

Daszak con­tin­ues to tell his bat-ori­gin sto­ry, but the sci­ence doesn’t back it up.

That―along with the fact that dozens of labs con­duct “gain-of-func­tion” research on bat coro­n­avirus­es and there are trou­bling safe­ty issues at these labs―is why the Nation­al Insti­tutes of Health (NIH) is inves­ti­gat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that SARS-CoV­‑2 escaped from a lab.

Inquir­ing minds at the NIH want to know . . . 

On July 8, the NIH sent a let­ter to Daszak ask­ing Eco­Health Alliance to arrange for an inspec­tion of the WIV by an out­side team that would exam­ine the facility’s lab and records “with spe­cif­ic atten­tion to address­ing the ques­tion of whether WIV staff had SARS-CoV­‑2 in their pos­ses­sion pri­or to Decem­ber 2019.”

The WIV and the Wuhan Uni­ver­si­ty School of Pub­lic Health are list­ed as sub­con­trac­tors for Eco­Health Alliance under a $3.7‑million NIH grant titled, “Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence.” The two insti­tu­tions also worked as col­lab­o­ra­tors under anoth­er $2.6‑million grant, “Risk of Viral Emer­gence from Bats,” and under Eco­Health Alliance’s largest sin­gle source of fund­ing, a $44.2 mil­lion sub-grant from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Davis for the PREDICT project (2015–2020).

It’s the $44.2‑million PREDICT grant that Eco­Health Alliance used to fund the gain-of-func­tion exper­i­ment by WIV sci­en­tist Zhengli Shi and the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na at Chapel Hill’s Ralph Bar­ic. Shi and Bar­ic used genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy to cre­ate a “new bat SARS-like virus . . . that can jump direct­ly from its bat hosts to humans.”

Daszak described the work being done by Shi and Bar­ic in a 2019 inter­view:

“You can manip­u­late them [coro­n­avirus­es] in the lab pret­ty eas­i­ly. Spike pro­tein dri­ves a lot of what hap­pens with the coro­n­avirus, zoonot­ic risk. So, you can get the sequence, you can build the pro­tein, and we work with Ralph Bar­ic at UNC to do this. Insert it into a back­bone of anoth­er virus, and do some work in the lab.”

The work, “A SARS-like clus­ter of cir­cu­lat­ing bat coro­n­avirus­es shows poten­tial for human emer­gence,” pub­lished in Nature in 2015 dur­ing the NIH’s mora­to­ri­um on gain-of-func­tion research, was grand­fa­thered in because it was ini­ti­at­ed before the mora­to­ri­um (offi­cial­ly called the U.S. Gov­ern­ment Delib­er­a­tive Process Research Fund­ing Pause on Select­ed Gain-of-Func­tion Research Involv­ing Influen­za, MERS and SARS Virus­es), and because the request by Shi and Bar­ic to con­tin­ue their research dur­ing the mora­to­ri­um was approved by the NIH.

As a con­di­tion of pub­li­ca­tion, Nature, like most sci­en­tif­ic jour­nals, requires authors to sub­mit new DNA and RNA sequences to Gen­Bank, the U.S. Nation­al Cen­ter for Biotech­nol­o­gy Infor­ma­tion Data­base. Yet the new SARS-like virus Shi and Bar­ic cre­at­ed wasn’t deposit­ed in Gen­Bank until May 2020.

Why stop with Wuhan?

NIH is right to require that the WIV’s lab and records be opened to out­side inspec­tors.

But why is the gov­ern­ment focus­ing on just one of Eco­Health Alliance’s projects, when the orga­ni­za­tion has received $100.9 mil­lion in grants, pri­mar­i­ly from the Depart­ment of Defense, to sam­ple, store and study bat coro­n­avirus­es at labs around the world?

Coro­n­avirus­es, both those that have been col­lect­ed from ani­mals and those that have been cre­at­ed through genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy, at all of these labs should be com­pared with SARS-CoV­‑2.

Daszak’s col­lab­o­ra­tors work­ing under con­tracts with the Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices (HHS) aren’t allowed to con­duct gain-of-func­tion research unless specif­i­cal­ly approved to do so by the Poten­tial Pan­dem­ic Pathogen Care and Over­sight (P3CO) com­mit­tee. This com­mit­tee was set up as a con­di­tion for lift­ing the 2014–2017 mora­to­ri­um on gain-of-func­tion research.

The P3CO com­mit­tee oper­ates in secret. Not even a mem­ber­ship list has been released. The only infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed to the pub­lic is that Assis­tant Sec­re­tary for Pre­pared­ness and Response Robert Kadlec appoint­ed HHS Senior Sci­ence Advi­sor Chris­t­ian Has­sell as its chair.

It’s time to open the records of the PC3O committee’s delib­er­a­tions and deci­sions to exam­ine all gain-of-func­tion research on coro­n­avirus­es. And every lab manip­u­lat­ing these virus­es should have their coro­n­avirus­es com­pared to SARS-CoV­‑2.

The Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduc­tion Agency (DTRA) for its Coop­er­a­tive Bio­log­i­cal Engage­ment Pro­gram (now called the Bio­log­i­cal Threat Reduc­tion Pro­gram) isn’t sup­posed to fund gain-of-func­tion (what they call “dual-use”) research at all.  It’s time to deter­mine whether this pro­hi­bi­tion on “dual-use” fund­ing has been adhered to, espe­cial­ly in light of the invest­ments the Pen­ta­gon is mak­ing across the globe in the con­struc­tion of new lab­o­ra­to­ries for the “con­sol­i­da­tion and secur­ing of pathogens.”

DTRA’s mis­sion was to dis­man­tle the bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­grams of hos­tile or desta­bi­lized coun­tries. Instead it is being used to devel­op new bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­grams in dozens of coun­tries around the world.

Even if these pro­grams are pure­ly defen­sive, they pro­lif­er­ate, around the globe, pathogens with pan­dem­ic poten­tial, even though it’s been dif­fi­cult to keep these dan­ger­ous germs under con­trol here in the U.S. (See “The Glob­al Pro­lif­er­a­tion of High-Con­tain­ment Bio­log­i­cal Lab­o­ra­to­ries: Under­stand­ing the Phe­nom­e­non and Its Impli­ca­tions,” and the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­i­ty Office’s reports, “Bio­log­i­cal Select Agents and Tox­ins: Actions Need­ed to Improve Man­age­ment of DOD’s Biosafe­ty and Biose­cu­ri­ty Pro­gram,” and “High-con­tain­ment Lab­o­ra­to­ries: Com­pre­hen­sive and Up-to-Date Poli­cies and Stronger Over­sight Mech­a­nisms Need­ed to Improve Safe­ty”).

EcoHealth’s ten­ta­cles reach far an wide

Eco­Health Alliance is very much involved in the Pentagon’s pro­lif­er­a­tion of high-con­tain­ment bio­log­i­cal lab­o­ra­to­ries. It is con­duct­ing DTRA-fund­ed work in the fol­low­ing coun­tries, which are all par­tic­i­pants in the Pentagon’s Bio­log­i­cal Threat Reduc­tion Pro­gram.

Tan­za­nia: In Tan­za­nia, a coun­try that is con­sid­ered only “part­ly free,” which has a his­to­ry of for­eign med­ical exper­i­men­ta­tion and which didn’t rat­i­fy the Bio­log­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion until 2019, Eco­Health Alliance has a $5‑million Pen­ta­gon con­tract, “Crimean-Con­go Hem­or­rhag­ic Fever: Reduc­ing an Emerg­ing Health Threat in Tan­za­nia.”

Crimean-Con­go Hem­or­rhag­ic Fever (CCHF) is a tick-borne dis­ease, orig­i­nal­ly only infect­ing ani­mals, that was dis­cov­ered by Ottis and Cal­ista Causey while work­ing for the Rock­e­feller Foun­da­tion in Nige­ria. There was only ever one case of CCHF in Tan­za­nia, and that was in 1986.

Gain-of-func­tion research on CCHF is being con­duct­ed at the U.S. Depart­ment of Agriculture’s Nation­al Bio and Agro-Defense Facil­i­ty (NBAF) to deter­mine the “mech­a­nisms of CCHF trans­mis­sion includ­ing devel­op­ment of CCHF tick and ani­mal infec­tion meth­ods and CCHF tick-ani­mal trans­mis­sion mod­els.” (The Nation­al Bio and Agro Defense Facil­i­ty will take over the mis­sion of the Plum Island Ani­mal Dis­ease Cen­ter and become the lead facil­i­ty for For­eign Ani­mal Dis­ease research.)

The Nation­al Bio and Agro Defense Facil­i­ty Biosafe­ty Lev­el 4 (BSL4) Zoonot­ic and Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­ease team’s CCHF Virus Sur­veil­lance Project is inves­ti­gat­ing “the inter­face between tick vec­tors, live­stock and pas­toral­ist and resource-poor farm­ing com­mu­ni­ties in Tan­za­nia” as well as the disease’s “mol­e­c­u­lar patho­gen­e­sis.”

Tan­za­nia is the ori­gin of chikun­gun­ya, a mos­qui­to-borne virus that the U.S. has long cul­ti­vat­ed as a poten­tial bio­log­i­cal weapon. accord­ing to a patent held by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas for a “chimeric” chikun­gun­ya virus cre­at­ed through genet­ic engi­neer­ing and syn­thet­ic biol­o­gy:

“The 39 doc­u­ment­ed lab­o­ra­to­ry infec­tions report­ed by HHS in 1981 strong­ly sug­gest that Chikun­gun­ya virus is infec­tious via aerosol route. Chikun­gun­ya virus was being weaponized by the U.S. Army army when the offen­sive pro­gram was ter­mi­nat­ed.”

Tan­za­nia is one of the coun­tries where bat coro­n­avirus­es were col­lect­ed for the PREDICT project.

Tan­za­nia has one Biosafe­ty Lev­el 3 (BSL3) lab­o­ra­to­ry, the pri­vate­ly owned Ifakara Health Insti­tute, which is part­ner­ing with PREDICT to launch “con­cur­rent sur­veil­lance of wildlife and peo­ple in at-risk areas for viral spillover and spread.”

South Africa: In South Africa, which had a noto­ri­ous apartheid-era bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gram, Eco­Health Alliance has a $5‑million Pen­ta­gon con­tract (2019–2024), “Reduc­ing the Threat of Rift Val­ley Fever Through Ecol­o­gy, Epi­demi­ol­o­gy and Socio-eco­nom­ics.” This is on top of a $4.9‑million grant (2014–2019), “Under­stand­ing Rift Val­ley Fever in the Repub­lic of South Africa.”

The last human out­break of Rift Val­ley Fever in South Africa occurred in 2010, when the gov­ern­ment report­ed 237 con­firmed cas­es, includ­ing 26 deaths from 9 provinces. But there were also a few cas­es in 2018 among farm­work­ers who slaugh­tered infect­ed ani­mals dur­ing an out­break in live­stock. The fever can spread from ani­mals to humans if they come into con­tact with the blood and oth­er body flu­ids of an infect­ed ani­mal.

The U.S. mil­i­tary has con­duct­ed offen­sive bio­log­i­cal weapons research on Rift Val­ley Fever.

South Africa’s bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gram includ­ed the weaponiza­tion of Rift Val­ley Fever virus obtained from the U.S. gov­ern­ment.

Known as Project Coast, South Africa’s bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gram mur­dered anti-apartheid activists with nar­cotics and poi­sons, and attempt­ed a geno­cide of the black major­i­ty by spread­ing AIDS and by devel­op­ing pathogens and vac­cines that would selec­tive­ly attack black peo­ple with ill­ness, death and infer­til­i­ty.

Dr. Wouter Bas­son, the project’s top sci­en­tist, told Pre­to­ria High Court in South Africa that the U.S. Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency threat­ened him with death, pre­sum­ably to pre­vent him from reveal­ing the deep con­nec­tions between Project Coast and the U.S., which had forced Pres­i­dent F. W. de Klerk to shut down the project and destroy its records. Bas­son named the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol as his source of eight ship­ments of Ebo­la, Mar­burg and Rift Val­ley virus­es, but claimed that he had obtained the virus­es by pos­ing as a med­ical researcher and hid­ing his affil­i­a­tion with the South African Defense Forces.

Sur­veys of bats in South Africa found no evi­dence of bats being nat­ur­al car­ri­ers of Rift Val­ley Fever virus, but exper­i­ments have shown that bats can be infect­ed with it in a lab­o­ra­to­ry set­ting.

A bat coro­n­avirus col­lect­ed in South Africa in 2011 was thought to be the clos­est known rel­a­tive of the MERS-CoV virus that emerged in Sau­di Ara­bia in 2012, until a 100-per­cent match for MERS-CoV was detect­ed by Daszak and his col­leagues in viral RNA frag­ments from an Egypt­ian tomb bat found near the home of one of the first MERS vic­tims in Sau­di Ara­bia.

Liberia: In Liberia, which didn’t rat­i­fy the Bio­log­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion until 2016, Eco­Health Alliance has a $4.91-million Pen­ta­gon con­tract, “Reduc­ing the Threat from High-risk Pathogens Caus­ing Febrile Ill­ness in Liberia.”

Febrile ill­ness­es include Ebo­la, which has been the sub­ject of some of the most con­tro­ver­sial dual-use research.

While the U.S. has a sor­did his­to­ry of bio­log­i­cal weapons exper­i­men­ta­tion on its own peo­ple— with con­sci­en­tious objec­tors, mil­i­tary “vol­un­teers,” and the gen­er­al pub­lic as fre­quent subjects—there were some bio­log­i­cal weapons tests the Depart­ment of Defense con­sid­ered too uneth­i­cal to per­form with­in the con­ti­nen­tal U.S.. Those tests were con­duct­ed in oth­er coun­tries, includ­ing Liberia.

Like­wise, mir­ror­ing med­ical exper­i­men­ta­tion on African Amer­i­cans, there is a his­to­ry of colo­nial med­ical exper­i­men­ta­tion in Liberia going back to 1926 when the Fire­stone tire com­pa­ny financed sur­veys of local dis­eases they feared could cur­tail the prof­itabil­i­ty of their rub­ber plan­ta­tions.

More recent­ly, a failed Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed Ebo­la drug tri­al caused many Liberi­ans to sus­pect that the sub­se­quent Ebo­la out­break was the fault of Tek­mi­ra, the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny that cre­at­ed TKM-100802. Doubt sur­round­ed the offi­cial sto­ry, pro­mot­ed by Daszak, that the West African Ebo­la out­break hap­pened because bats flew in with the Ebo­la Zaire virus from 2,500 miles away.

In Jan­u­ary 2014, the Phase I tri­al for TKM-100802 was launched, but put on clin­i­cal hold by the U.S. Food & Drug Admin­is­tra­tion due to high cytokine release in par­tic­i­pants. In a dose-esca­la­tion, healthy vol­un­teer study, one (of two) par­tic­i­pants dosed at the high­est lev­el of 0·5 mg/kg expe­ri­enced cytokine release syn­drome. Cytokine release syn­drome is a pro-inflam­ma­to­ry reac­tion that occurs when acti­vat­ed lym­pho­cytes and/or myeloid cells release sol­u­ble immune medi­a­tors fol­low­ing admin­is­tra­tion of cer­tain ther­a­peu­tic agents, espe­cial­ly mon­o­clon­al anti­bod­ies. Onset can be rapid (with­in hours of admin­is­tra­tion) and can be life-threat­en­ing.

Ulti­mate­ly, TKM-100802 proved use­less for Ebo­la patients, but the Pentagon’s $140-mil­lion invest­ment, and the boost Tekmira’s stock expe­ri­enced on spec­u­la­tion that Ebo­la would soon spawn the next $1‑billion drug,  made many investors rich.

Sus­pi­cions were raised because the TKM-100802 Phase I tri­al on healthy vol­un­teers began in Jan­u­ary 2014, before the first cas­es of the Ebo­la out­break in March 2014.

Lat­er, the World Health Organization’s Pierre For­men­ty traced the first case back to late Decem­ber 2013, in Melian­dou, Guinea. There, 50 meters from the home of patient zero, anoth­er researcher, Fabi­an Leen­dertz, found DNA frag­ments that matched the Angolan free-tailed bat, a species known to sur­vive exper­i­men­tal infec­tions with Ebo­la. Then, Daszak’s Eco­Health team found viral RNA frag­ments of Ebo­la Zaire in a greater long-fin­gered bat, cap­tured in 2016 in Liberia’s San­niquel­lie-Mahn Dis­trict, which bor­ders Guinea. There was a 1982 arti­cle in Annals of Virol­o­gy in which a trio of Ger­mans report­ed find­ing Ebo­la anti­bod­ies in 26 of 433 Liberi­ans (6 per­cent).

Bats aren’t the only place to look for Ebo­la.

There’s a BSL‑4 lab that was han­dling Zaire Ebo­la before the pan­dem­ic in Ken­e­ma, Sier­ra Leone. This is where inter­na­tion­al law attor­ney Fran­cis Boyle, a drafter of the US Bio­log­i­cal Weapons and Anti-Ter­ror­ism Act passed into law in 1981, believes the pan­dem­ic orig­i­nat­ed.

There’s also Liberia’s Mon­key Island. As the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed, that’s where 66 chim­panzees have been since 2004, when they were aban­doned by the Amer­i­can sci­en­tists at the Liber­ian labs of the New York Blood Cen­ter. From 1974 to 2004, the New York Blood Cen­ter cap­tured wild chimps, engaged them in med­ical exper­i­men­ta­tion and then released them back into the jun­gle in a project known as Vilab II (Virol­o­gy Lab II), which main­tained a colony of 200 chimps. Vilab II was built from the rem­nants of the Liber­ian Insti­tute of Trop­i­cal Med­i­cine. Built by Fire­stone in 1946, the Liber­ian Insti­tute of Trop­i­cal Med­i­cine had once employed 60 sci­en­tists, but by 1974, med­ical doc­tor Earl Reber was there alone with eight chimps. The roots of the Liber­ian Insti­tute of Trop­i­cal Med­i­cine go back to the research begun in 1926 by Har­vard Depart­ment of Trop­i­cal Med­i­cine chief Richard Pear­son Strong.

Virus hunters like Daszak should have a keen inter­est in a pop­u­la­tion of chim­panzees that, for near­ly 100 years, has been caught, inject­ed with virus­es and then released back into the wild, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing the work of the researchers who han­dled the chimps.

The New York Blood Cen­ter is at the cen­ter of a the­o­ry on the ori­gin of HIV/AIDS, that it came from a con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed Hepati­tis B vac­cine the cen­ter dis­trib­uted to gay men from 1978–1981. The New York Blood Cen­ter also test­ed its vac­cine on Liberi­ans.

Richard Pear­son Strong is infa­mous for killing 13 men when he infect­ed a group of 24 inmates of Manila’s Bili­bid Prison with plague through a con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed cholera vac­cine. That was pri­or to his work in Liberia, which is only now being explored, and also involved exper­i­ments with humans as well as chim­panzees.

Geor­gia: Eco­Health Alliance has a $6.5‑million Pen­ta­gon grant for “Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat-borne Zoonot­ic Dis­ease Emer­gence In West­ern Asia” (2017–2022).

Arms Watch reports that this grant involves genet­ic stud­ies on coro­n­avirus­es in 5,000 bats col­lect­ed in Geor­gia, Arme­nia, Azer­bai­jan, Turkey and Jor­dan. The stud­ies were con­duct­ed at the Lugar Cen­ter, a $161-mil­lion Pen­ta­gon-fund­ed bio­lab­o­ra­to­ry in Georgia’s cap­i­tal, Tbil­isi. Rus­sia claims the Geor­gia lab is the site of a U.S. bio­log­i­cal weapons pro­gram.

Accord­ing to USASpending.gov, Eco­Health Alliance has received $2.88 mil­lion in grants for work in Geor­gia. The Lugar Cen­ter is one of the labs that hosts Eco­Health Alliance’s West­ern Asia Bat Research Net­work.

Malaysia: In Malaysia, which is only now in the process of cre­at­ing a leg­isla­tive frame­work for enforc­ing the Bio­log­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion, Eco­Health Alliance had a $1.6‑million Pen­ta­gon grant (2017–2019) for “Sero­log­i­cal Bio­sur­veil­lance for Spillover of Heni­pavirus­es and Filovirus­es at Agri­cul­tur­al and Hunt­ing Human Ani­mal Inter­faces in Penin­su­lar Malaysia.”

There are no known cas­es of filovirus infec­tions in humans in Malaysia. But Malaysia is the ori­gin of the Nipah virus, first rec­og­nized in 1999, dur­ing an out­break among farm­ers and farm­work­ers in fac­to­ry farms and slaugh­ter­hous­es pro­duc­ing pork. The virus spread to Sin­ga­pore. In all, there were 265 cas­es of acute encephali­tis with 105 deaths, and the bil­lion-dol­lar pig-farm­ing indus­try near­ly col­lapsed. No new out­breaks have been report­ed in Malaysia since 1999.

Nipah virus, a zoonot­ic pathogen for which no treat­ments exist, is the inspi­ra­tion for the film “Con­ta­gion.” The virus can only be exper­i­ment­ed on in BSL‑4 lab­o­ra­to­ries. The Nation­al Bio and Agro-Defence Facil­i­ty in Kansas will be the first bio­con­tain­ment facil­i­ty in the U.S. where research on Nipah and Ebo­la (a filovirus) can be con­duct­ed on live­stock.

In 2019, Nipah Malaysia was among the dead­ly virus strains shipped from Canada’s Nation­al Micro­bi­ol­o­gy Lab to the WIV.

Heni­pavirus­es, in the paramyx­ovirus fam­i­ly, were the first emerg­ing dis­eases linked to bats. In June 2012, in the same Chi­nese cave (actu­al­ly an old cop­per mine where work­ers doing cleanup had become sick and died) in which Daszak’s WIV col­leagues found SARS-CoV‑2’s most close­ly relat­ed coro­n­avirus, anoth­er fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor of Daszak’s, Zhiqiang Wu of the Chi­nese Acad­e­my of Med­ical Sci­ences, found a new heni­pavirus-like pathogen in a rat, nam­ing it the “Mojiang paramyx­ovirus,” after the coun­ty in Yun­nan province where it was found.

Malaysia was the planned site of a BSL‑4 lab­o­ra­to­ry run by the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­ny Emer­gent Bioso­lu­tions for the pro­duc­tion of a halal ver­sion of the Bio­Thrax vac­cine. But that project failed.

In addi­tion to the Pen­ta­gon fund­ing, Dazsak obtained $1.7 mil­lion in grants (2002–2005) from NIH’s Fog­a­r­ty Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for “Anthro­pogenic Change & Emerg­ing Zoonot­ic Paramyx­ovirus­es.” In 2012–2014, Daszak had a $569,700 grant from the Nation­al Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice for “Devel­op­ment of a Great Ape Health Unit in Sabah, Malaysia.”

Daszak has a new Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases grant, “Under­stand­ing Risk of Zoonot­ic Virus Emer­gence in EID Hotspots of South­east Asia,” for $1.5 mil­lion (2020). The grant is for an “Emerg­ing Infec­tious Dis­eases – South East Asia Research Col­lab­o­ra­tion Hub (EID-SEARCH)” that “brings lead­ers in emerg­ing dis­ease research from the U.S., Thai­land, Sin­ga­pore and the three major Malaysian admin­is­tra­tive regions togeth­er to build an ear­ly warn­ing sys­tem to safe­guard against pan­dem­ic dis­ease threats. This team will iden­ti­fy nov­el virus­es from South­east Asian wildlife [and] char­ac­ter­ize their capac­i­ty to infect and cause ill­ness in peo­ple…”

Oth­er Pen­ta­gon con­tracts: Eco­Health Alliance had a $1‑million Pen­ta­gon con­tract (2017–2019) for an Inbound Bio-event Infor­ma­tion Sys­tem (IBIS), “a web-based appli­ca­tion and ear­ly warn­ing sys­tem for glob­al infec­tious dis­ease bio-events that threat­en the U.S. via inter­na­tion­al trans­porta­tion net­works.”

Eco­Health Alliance also had anoth­er $4.5‑million Pen­ta­gon con­tract (HDTRA115C0041) for 2015–2017. No oth­er infor­ma­tion is avail­able on this con­tract oth­er than that it is for “Applied Research/Exploratory Devel­op­ment” in the “Phys­i­cal, Engi­neer­ing, and Life Sci­ences (except Biotech­nol­o­gy).”

Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty Con­tracts: Eco­Health Alliance has a $566,300 con­tract (2019–2021) with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty for the Rapid Eval­u­a­tion of Pathogens to Pre­vent Epi­demics in Live­stock (REPEL) project “to apply bio­log­i­cal-based, pathogen agnos­tic med­ical coun­ter­mea­sure vac­cine and diag­nos­tic plat­forms to devel­op for­eign ani­mal and emerg­ing zoonot­ic live­stock dis­ease vac­cines.”

Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices Fund­ing: Daszak obtained a $300,000-grant in 2012 from NIH’s Fog­a­r­ty Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for research on “Com­par­a­tive Spillover Dynam­ics of Avian Influen­za In Endem­ic Coun­tries.” While most of the research list­ed in the “results” sec­tion of the grant are flu-relat­ed, it also includes the WIV’s  paper, “Iso­la­tion and Char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of a Bat SARS-like Coro­n­avirus that Uses the ACE2 Recep­tor.”

Daszak was giv­en $3.7 mil­lion in grants (2002–2012) from NIH’s Fog­a­r­ty Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter for “The Ecol­o­gy, Emer­gence And Pan­dem­ic Poten­tial of Nipah Virus in Bangladesh.”

The grants Daszak used to sup­port the work of the WIV were a $3.7‑million grant (2014–2020) “Under­stand­ing the Risk of Bat Coro­n­avirus Emer­gence,” and a $2.6‑million grant (2008–2012) “Risk of Viral Emer­gence From Bats,” each from the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases.

U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment (USAID) fund­ing: In Thai­land, Eco­Health Alliance has a $647,200-grant for “One Health Work­force – Next Gen­er­a­tion” (2019–2020).

Alex­is Baden-May­er is polit­i­cal direc­tor for the Organ­ic Con­sumers Asso­ci­a­tion (OCA).

Discussion

4 comments for “Supplement to FTR #‘s 1157, 1158 and 1159”

  1. More on Daszak, reac­tion to appt to Lancet Com­mis­sion from GMWatch, 09/23/2020, “Sci­en­tists out­raged by Peter Daszak lead­ing enquiry into pos­si­ble COVID lab leak”:

    Dan Sirotkin, co-author of the first peer-reviewed paper to sug­gest a pos­si­ble lab ori­gin for Covid-19, put it more colour­ful­ly: “Hav­ing Peter Daszak lead this is like hav­ing Goebbels chase war crim­i­nals.”

    https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/19538

    Posted by Bigfoot | November 10, 2020, 10:34 am
  2. @BIGFOOT–

    Good find!

    A key point–although the sci­ence pre­sent­ed in “GMWatch”(which we have sourced in numer­ous pre­vi­ous pro­grams) is spot-on–their edi­to­r­i­al stance is bad­ly skewed to the right.

    They are stuck on the “Chi­na did it” meme, ignor­ing the pro­found links of the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy and Peter Daszak/EcoHealth Alliance to U.S. nation­al secu­ri­ty insti­tu­tions includ­ing: USAID (one of the most com­mon CIA front orga­ni­za­tions), the Pen­ta­gon, Ft. Det­rick and the USAMRIID (closed for unnamed secu­ri­ty vio­la­tions by the CDC in ear­ly 2019) and the NIH itself, which has front­ed for both Pen­ta­gon and CIA in the past.

    I call the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy the “Oswald Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy.”

    They were set-up, not unlike Oswald.

    And EVERYONE, it seems, is ignor­ing the onset of the pan­dem­ic at the same time as the full-court press of oper­a­tions against Chi­na is under­way, with desta­bi­liza­tion efforts against Hong Kong, Xin­jiang Province (with the Uighurs), overt trade wars, mil­i­tary pres­sure in con­cert with Aus­tralia, India and Japan and sanc­tion vol­leys by the U.S.

    Hell of a coin­ci­dence that the “Kung Flu,” as Trump called it, appears at this time.

    Nev­er­the­less, this is a good find.

    “Hav­ing Peter Daszak lead this is like hav­ing Goebbels chase war crim­i­nals.”

    Yes, indeed.

    Best,

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | November 10, 2020, 8:20 pm
  3. @Dave and @BIGFOOT:

    There’s a lot packed in that GMWatch piece, but it’s worth not­ing one of the more explo­sive find­ings: The arti­cle high­lights the work done by Ali­na Chan, a mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist at the Broad Insti­tute of MIT and Har­vard, expos­ing the evi­dence of a lab-based ori­gin for SARS-CoV­‑2 and the dif­fi­cul­ties she’s faced as a pro­fes­sion­al sci­en­tist buck­ing the over­rid­ing trend of dis­miss­ing out of hand any pos­si­bil­i­ty if lab-based ori­gin.

    The arti­cle note that Chan came across evi­dence that Shi Zhengli’s lab at the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) accessed the sam­ple for the RaTG13 virus mul­ti­ple times in 2017 and 2018, an obser­va­tion that ulti­mate­ly led to Shi admit­ting that, yes, her lab had ful­ly sequenced the RaTG13 virus by the end of 2018.

    Here’s the inter­est­ing thing that was­n’t point­ed out in the GMWatch arti­cle: In her twit­ter feed, some­one asks Ali­na Chan to point out the evi­dence that Shi’s lab accessed the RaTG13 sam­ple mul­ti­ple times in 2017 and 2018. Chan links to an entry that Shi’s lab sub­mit­ted the US gov­ern­men­t’s
    Nation­al Cen­ter for Biotech­nol­o­gy Infor­ma­tion (NCBI) web­site in May of 2020, giv­ing the the sequenc­ing data for the RaTG13 virus. This sub­mis­sion is how Shi was shar­ing that viral sequence with the world:

    It’s here: https://t.co/35WbSXHfQP hope this helps!— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 10, 2020

    Now, if we look at the page Chan links to, the date of the sub­mis­sion list­ed is 2020-05-19. But if we click on the “Run” link that brings us to anoth­er page that has more detailed genet­ic sequenc­ing data for the virus, we arrive at the “Run Brows­er” page for this sub­mis­sion. The RaTG13 virus is sequenced in 33 sep­a­rate chunks. On that page, if we click on the “Reads” tab, we’ll find the actu­al genet­ic sequence data (ATCG, etc) for the 33 sep­a­rate chunks. The evi­dence of when the virus was accessed by Shi’s lab in 2017 and 2018 is encod­ed in the names of those 33 sequence chunks. They have names with dates includ­ed like “RaTG13‑1–2_RaTG13-1-F_2018-09–27_E05”, with the old­est chunks hav­ing names with “_2017-06–03_” parts in their names. Those dates in the chunk file names appear to be evi­dence that allowed Ali­na Chan to con­clude that Shi Zhengli’s lab accessed the viral sam­ple in 2017 and 2018.

    Here’s the big mys­tery in all of this: giv­en the extreme sen­si­tiv­i­ty of this issue and an obvi­ous desire to avoid the accu­sa­tions that the virus had emerged from her lab that were already wide­spread when Shi sub­mit­ted these sequences to the NCBI data­base in May of 2020, why did­n’t Shi sim­ply change those file names and scrub them of those dates when she sub­mit­ted them? It real­ly would have been that easy. It’s not as if there’s some rule that says you can’t change a file name. It would have been easy. Was this just a mis­take? Per­haps. Is Shi Zhengli just a real­ly hon­est sci­en­tist who would­n’t fraud­u­lent­ly hide this kind of infor­ma­tion? She is held in very high regard by the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty so that seems pos­si­ble. For all the com­plaints about the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment obscur­ing things no one has yet to come out and charge Shi with being any­thing oth­er than a world class pro­fes­sion­al. So maybe she’s just very hon­est.

    But it’s worth con­sid­er­ing anoth­er obvi­ous pos­si­bil­i­ty: if oth­er research groups around the world — like Shi’s inter­na­tion­al col­lab­o­ra­tors in the US and else­where — were already aware of that Shi’s lab had sequenced the RaTG13 virus because this sequence data had already been pri­vate­ly shared with trust­ed col­lab­o­ra­tors back in 2018–2019, it would be a lot riski­er to sub­mit those sequence chunks for names that had fake dates. Doing so would effec­tive­ly be cast as an admis­sion of guilt and there could poten­tial­ly be a large num­ber of peo­ple in a posi­tion to call them out on it.

    Also keep in mind the inter­est­ing tim­ing of all this: recall how we got reports in ear­ly Feb­ru­ary 2017 about the WIV being cer­ti­fied as Chi­na’s first main­land BSL-04 lab. It was an inter­na­tion­al cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process that wel­comed the WIV into the glob­al com­mu­ni­ty of BSL‑4 labs col­lab­o­rat­ing on the kind of research that only these kinds of facil­i­ties were equipped to han­dle. So it was just months after the WIV gets this BSL‑4 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion that the sequenc­ing of the RaTG13 virus start­ed.

    Beyond that, recall that Shi’s lab pub­lished a paper in Novem­ber of 2017 in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Peter Daszak (who is list­ed as a co-author), where they report­ed cre­at­ing nov­el chimeric SARS-relat­ed coro­n­avirus­es in order to study how coro­n­avirus­es bind to the human ACE2 recep­tor (the tar­get of SARS-CoV­‑2). It rais­es the que­si­ton of whether or not the sequenc­ing of RaTG13 was start­ed lit­er­al­ly for that paper. There’s no ref­er­ence to the RaTG13 virus in that paper (the sequenc­ing for it was­n’t com­plet­ed for almost a year). But not ever­thing nec­es­sar­i­ly makes it into a pub­li­ca­tion. There are all sorts of rea­sons the sequenc­ing for a virus could be start­ed for a project but ulti­mate­ly delayed left out of the pub­lished analy­sis.

    That’s all part of what makes Ali­na Chan’s obser­va­tion such a big twist: When Shi Zhengli’s lab shared the RaTG13 viral sequence with the world in May of 2020 they could have left out the infor­ma­tion that revealed her team accessed these sam­ples in 2017 and 2018 but did­n’t. That infor­ma­tion was effec­tive­ly revealed to the world at the same time the sequence was revealed. Why? It’s like a cov­er-up and the oppo­site of a cov­er-up wrapped up in a sin­gle mys­tery:

    GMWatch

    Sci­en­tists out­raged by Peter Daszak lead­ing enquiry into pos­si­ble Covid lab leak

    Pub­lished: 23 Sep­tem­ber 2020

    Expres­sions of out­rage and increduli­ty have greet­ed the announce­ment that Peter Daszak, pres­i­dent of Eco­Health Alliance, has been cho­sen to lead a Task Force that will exam­ine the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Covid-19 could have emerged from a lab, as part of an inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the virus.

    Daszak has promised to under­take the inves­ti­ga­tion “with an open mind”. But this is hard to imag­ine, giv­en his pre­vi­ous dis­missals of sug­ges­tions that SARS-CoV­‑2 could have leaked from a lab as “pre­pos­ter­ous”, “base­less”, “crack­pot”, “con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries” and “pure baloney”.

    Mis­in­for­ma­tion super-spread­er

    Daszak’s inves­ti­ga­tion forms part of the work of the Lancet Covid-19 Com­mis­sion – a body launched in July to look at the han­dling of the pan­dem­ic and “offer prac­ti­cal solu­tions”. In a state­ment, the Com­mis­sion said it was “extreme­ly impor­tant that the research into the ori­gins of SARS-CoV­‑2 should pro­ceed … in a sci­en­tif­ic and objec­tive way that is unhin­dered by geopo­lit­i­cal agen­das and mis­in­for­ma­tion”.

    But Daszak him­self is con­sid­ered a mis­in­for­ma­tion super-spread­er by crit­ics like Rut­gers Uni­ver­si­ty micro­bi­ol­o­gist Richard Ebright, who has accused him of lying “on a Trumpian scale”, and the evo­lu­tion­ary the­o­rist Bret Wein­stein who has labelled him “Patient Zero for mis­in­for­ma­tion” on the ori­gins of Covid-19.

    A 100-mil­lion-dol­lar-plus con­flict of inter­est

    There is also the issue of con­flicts of inter­est. Although Daszak declared in The Lancet that he has “no com­pet­ing inter­ests” on Covid-19, and like­wise told the Wash­ing­ton Post he has “no con­flicts of inter­est”, Ali­na Chan, a mol­e­c­u­lar biol­o­gist at the Broad Insti­tute, points out that he is a “long-time friend, col­lab­o­ra­tor and fun­der of the Shi lab” – the Wuhan Insti­tute of Virol­o­gy (WIV) lab led by Shi Zhengli that is most often iden­ti­fied as the prob­a­ble source of any lab leak.

    In fact, Daszak’s Eco­Health Alliance has helped finance both the WIV’s bat coro­n­avirus sur­veil­lance and its bat coro­n­avirus gain-of-func­tion research (research aimed at mak­ing a virus more infec­tive), with the help of mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar grants from the US gov­ern­ment. This, of course, means Daszak’s own activ­i­ties are mate­r­i­al to the sub­ject he is inves­ti­gat­ing: the ori­gins of a bat-derived coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic that broke out in the very city to which he helped lab work­ers bring bat coro­n­avirus­es for stor­age, analy­sis and exper­i­men­ta­tion.

    As Richard Ebright has not­ed, “For per­sons who were direct­ly involved in fund­ing, pro­mot­ing, and/or per­form­ing bat coro­n­avirus research and bat coro­n­avirus gain-of-func­tion research at WIV, avoid­ing a pos­si­ble find­ing of cul­pa­bil­i­ty for trig­ger­ing a pan­dem­ic is a pow­er­ful moti­va­tor.” And Daszak would be at the very top of the list of those involved in fund­ing, pro­mot­ing and col­lab­o­rat­ing in that research.

    More broad­ly, as Ebright also notes, Dasza­k’s Eco­Health Alliance has received over $100 mil­lion in fund­ing from US gov­ern­ment agen­cies for a vari­ety of virus sur­veil­lance and virus gain of func­tion work – the kind of work that could be brought into seri­ous ques­tion if Daszak found any evi­dence it con­tributed to caus­ing the pan­dem­ic.

    How did The Lancet man­age to over­look such an enor­mous con­flict of inter­est, Ebright won­ders, while Dr Fil­ip­pa Lent­zos, an expert on bio­log­i­cal threats at King’s Col­lege Lon­don, tweet­ed, “Good­ness. I can’t imag­ine a lead inves­ti­ga­tor with more vest­ed inter­ests!”

    More mis­in­for­ma­tion

    The Broad Institute’s Ali­na Chan dri­ly sug­gests the Lancet Com­mis­sion “could have also just asked the WIV to inves­ti­gate them­selves direct­ly”, sav­ing the Lancet time, mon­ey and effort. After all, Chan points out, if they thought that Daszak’s long­stand­ing Wuhan con­nec­tions – he has col­lab­o­rat­ed with Shi Zhengli’s team on coro­n­avirus­es for 15 years – meant he would be well placed to reveal what had been going on there, then they were clear­ly mis­tak­en.

    Chan’s com­ments relate to the pub­li­ca­tion by the Sun­day Times of an Insight inves­ti­ga­tion into RaTG13 – the bat coro­n­avirus said to be most close­ly relat­ed to SARS-COV‑2. Because the Sun­day Times’ jour­nal­ists couldn’t get the WIV to answer any of their ques­tions about RaTG13’s his­to­ry or the lack of trans­paren­cy sur­round­ing it, they turned to Peter Daszak for answers.

    They want­ed to know why if RaTG13 had, as now appears, been col­lect­ed in 2013 by the WIV from a mine where min­ers had died from an ill­ness remark­ably sim­i­lar to Covid-19, it took Daszak’s long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Shi Zhengli and her team until 2020 to pub­lish a descrip­tion of the virus. In oth­er words, if they had known about it for 7 years, why was it sud­den­ly pro­duced like a rab­bit out of a hat only after the SARS-CoV­‑2 out­break was start­ing to devel­op into a glob­al pan­dem­ic?

    Daszak told the Sun­day Times that RaTG13 had just been sit­ting in a WIV freez­er for sev­en years with nobody tak­ing any inter­est in it before the pan­dem­ic broke out. But Ali­na Chan has shown there’s evi­dence from an online data­base that RaTG13 was accessed at WIV repeat­ed­ly in 2017 and 2018, even though Daszak had told the Sun­day Times that nobody at the WIV “went back to that sam­ple” from 2013 until 2020, or maybe the end of 2019, when they “tried to get full genome sequenc­ing”. It was that sequence that was then pub­lished in the jour­nal Nature, show­ing it to be 96.2% iden­ti­cal to SARS-COV‑2.

    In fact, after the evi­dence emerged that RaTG13 was being accessed at the WIV in 2017 and 2018, Shi Zhengli admit­ted in a Q&A with Sci­ence mag­a­zine that her WIV team had ful­ly sequenced the most close­ly relat­ed virus genome to SARS-COV‑2 back in 2018, i.e. well before the start of the pan­dem­ic and not after it had begun, as Daszak had claimed. Such sequenc­ing can, of course, lead on to exper­i­men­ta­tion.

    Gaslight­ing the media and the pub­lic

    At the very least, this shows Daszak to be, as Chan tact­ful­ly puts it, “mis­in­formed” about a crit­i­cal issue on which he has made defin­i­tive pub­lic state­ments. But some will inevitably sus­pect him of worse, giv­en his record of gaslight­ing the media and the pub­lic with claims that can eas­i­ly be shown to be untrue. To take two straight­for­ward instances, he has claimed that “lab acci­dents are extreme­ly rare”, when all the evi­dence shows they’re com­mon, and that they “have nev­er led to largescale [dis­ease] out­breaks”, even though a lab leak is wide­ly accept­ed to have caused a pre­vi­ous pan­dem­ic (H1N1 influen­za).

    In fact, Daszak’s claim has been exposed as a lie once again in the past few days, with news of a leak at a vac­cine lab in Chi­na caus­ing a bru­cel­losis out­break that has infect­ed thou­sands.

    Daszak’s appoint­ment “ridicu­lous”, says Kris­t­ian Ander­sen

    In the light of all this, the news of Daszak’s appoint­ment attract­ed some scorn­ful respons­es.

    The biotech entre­pre­neur Yuri Dei­gin tweet­ed laugh­ter emo­jis and com­ment­ed, “No, that’s not The Onion [a satir­i­cal news site]. Tru­ly, a case of ‘we inves­ti­gat­ed our­selves and found no wrong­do­ing’.”

    Richard Ebright respond­ed, “One could not pos­si­bly choose a less appro­pri­ate, more con­flict­ed, per­son to lead the inves­ti­ga­tion. Unless one chose Zhengli Shi her­self.”

    Dan Sirotkin, co-author of the first peer-reviewed paper to sug­gest a pos­si­ble lab ori­gin for Covid-19, put it more colour­ful­ly: “Hav­ing Peter Daszak lead this is like hav­ing Goebbels chase war crim­i­nals.”

    Even the Scripps Research Insti­tute biol­o­gist Kris­t­ian Ander­sen, one of the most promi­nent rebut­ters of a pos­si­ble lab ori­gin, expressed dis­may. “Not the right per­son for the job... That’s ridicu­lous”, he tweet­ed.

    Why Daszak?

    So why on earth did the Lancet Covid-19 Com­mis­sion put in charge of an “objec­tive” inves­ti­ga­tion into the ori­gins of the pan­dem­ic some­one who:
    1. has a $100-mil­lion-plus con­flict of inter­est
    2. is a long-term friend, col­lab­o­ra­tor and fun­der of those he will be inves­ti­gat­ing
    3. has pre­vi­ous­ly dis­missed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a lab leak as “crack­pot”
    4. and has a track record of seri­ous­ly inac­cu­rate and mis­lead­ing state­ments about the issues in ques­tion?

    Two things stand out. One is that the chair of the wider Lancet Covid-19 Com­mis­sion, the Amer­i­can econ­o­mist Jef­fery Sachs, appears to share Daszak’s view­point. Sachs is on record as say­ing that the idea of a WIV lab leak is “illog­i­cal”, argu­ing that “nei­ther the biol­o­gy nor chronol­o­gy sup­port the lab­o­ra­to­ry-release sto­ry”.

    The oth­er point, giv­en that this is a Lancet Com­mis­sion, is that while Daszak is viewed by his crit­ics as one of the most con­flict­ed and unre­li­able voic­es on this issue, that is not the view pro­mot­ed by most of the main­stream media, let alone by the sci­ence media, of which the Lancet is part. Nor is it the view of the sci­ence estab­lish­ment.

    Sci­ence or cen­sor­ship?

    Every one of the scathing crit­i­cisms of Daszak quot­ed in this arti­cle, most of which come from well cre­den­tialed sci­en­tists, have been tak­en from social media. By con­trast, the Tele­graph, in break­ing the news of his appoint­ment, did not print a sin­gle word of con­cern from any­body, and nei­ther did fol­lowup press reports.

    Why not? A recent arti­cle by Rowan Jacob­sen in the Boston Review, pro­fil­ing Ali­na Chan, asked if the way the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty was respond­ing to the lab leak hypoth­e­sis was “sci­ence or cen­sor­ship”. Jacob­sen not­ed how quick­ly after the start of the pan­dem­ic this hypoth­e­sis had been ruled out, with Peter Daszak very much to the fore in rub­bish­ing it. Jacob­sen says an “unhealthy abso­lutism set in”, but prais­es Ali­na Chan for buck­ing the trend and prob­ing the issue in an open-mind­ed fash­ion, and open­ly and fear­less­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ing her con­clu­sions.

    ...

    The virol­o­gist Jonathan Lath­am, who even had a com­ment express­ing polite dis­agree­ment with Daszak removed from the Guardian web­site, says, “The sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty has made it very clear that they don’t want to hear about a lab ori­gin. You can see that in the cov­er­age of the pan­dem­ic. There was a let­ter in (the) Lancet call­ing the lab ori­gin a ‘con­spir­a­cy,’ and what you gath­er from that is that the big­wigs of virol­o­gy who signed the let­ter have set up the dynam­ic that any­one who comes up with rea­son­able the­o­ries is nec­es­sar­i­ly a con­spir­acist. Every sci­en­tist in the world knows what way the wind is blow­ing. We want to say that this is out­ra­geous.”

    Need­less to say, Daszak was one of the big­wig sig­na­to­ries of that Lancet let­ter. And if more sci­en­tists fail to speak out against his appoint­ment as the Lancet Commission’s lead inves­ti­ga­tor, it will reflect the suc­cess of a cen­sor­ship strat­e­gy that has not just allowed Daszak to evade seri­ous scruti­ny but to be put in charge of inves­ti­gat­ing him­self and his asso­ciates.

    ———-

    “Sci­en­tists out­raged by Peter Daszak lead­ing enquiry into pos­si­ble Covid lab leak”; GMWatch; 09/23/2020

    The Broad Institute’s Ali­na Chan dri­ly sug­gests the Lancet Com­mis­sion “could have also just asked the WIV to inves­ti­gate them­selves direct­ly”, sav­ing the Lancet time, mon­ey and effort. After all, Chan points out, if they thought that Daszak’s long­stand­ing Wuhan con­nec­tions – he has col­lab­o­rat­ed with Shi Zhengli’s team on coro­n­avirus­es for 15 years – meant he would be well placed to reveal what had been going on there, then they were clear­ly mis­tak­en.”

    There’s no deny­ing that the assign­ment of Peter Daszak to lead the SARS-CoV­‑2 ori­gin inves­ti­ga­tion turned that inves­ti­ga­tion into a farce. And yet it’s large­ly just lone voic­es in the wilder­ness like Chan who are point­ing this out despite that fact that it was her obser­va­tion that the RaTG13 sam­ple was accessed in 2017 and 2018 that even­tu­al­ly forced Shi Zhengli to acknowl­edge fulling sequenc­ing the RaTG13 virus by 2018:

    ...
    Chan’s com­ments relate to the pub­li­ca­tion by the Sun­day Times of an Insight inves­ti­ga­tion into RaTG13 – the bat coro­n­avirus said to be most close­ly relat­ed to SARS-COV‑2. Because the Sun­day Times’ jour­nal­ists couldn’t get the WIV to answer any of their ques­tions about RaTG13’s his­to­ry or the lack of trans­paren­cy sur­round­ing it, they turned to Peter Daszak for answers.

    They want­ed to know why if RaTG13 had, as now appears, been col­lect­ed in 2013 by the WIV from a mine where min­ers had died from an ill­ness remark­ably sim­i­lar to Covid-19, it took Daszak’s long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor Shi Zhengli and her team until 2020 to pub­lish a descrip­tion of the virus. In oth­er words, if they had known about it for 7 years, why was it sud­den­ly pro­duced like a rab­bit out of a hat only after the SARS-CoV­‑2 out­break was start­ing to devel­op into a glob­al pan­dem­ic?

    Daszak told the Sun­day Times that RaTG13 had just been sit­ting in a WIV freez­er for sev­en years with nobody tak­ing any inter­est in it before the pan­dem­ic broke out. But Ali­na Chan has shown there’s evi­dence from an online data­base that RaTG13 was accessed at WIV repeat­ed­ly in 2017 and 2018, even though Daszak had told the Sun­day Times that nobody at the WIV “went back to that sam­ple” from 2013 until 2020, or maybe the end of 2019, when they “tried to get full genome sequenc­ing”. It was that sequence that was then pub­lished in the jour­nal Nature, show­ing it to be 96.2% iden­ti­cal to SARS-COV‑2.

    In fact, after the evi­dence emerged that RaTG13 was being accessed at the WIV in 2017 and 2018, Shi Zhengli admit­ted in a Q&A with Sci­ence mag­a­zine that her WIV team had ful­ly sequenced the most close­ly relat­ed virus genome to SARS-COV‑2 back in 2018, i.e. well before the start of the pan­dem­ic and not after it had begun, as Daszak had claimed. Such sequenc­ing can, of course, lead on to exper­i­men­ta­tion.
    ...

    So let’s now take a look at Ali­na Chan’s twit­ter feed where she points out the evi­dence that the RaTG13 virus was accessed in 2017 and 2018.

    As Chan also notes in this twit­ter thread, it was in Sep­tem­ber of 2019 that the sequences for a coro­n­avirus iden­ti­fied from smug­gled pan­golins were reg­is­tered at the NCBI. The pan­golins were report­ed­ly cap­tured from smug­glers in March of 2019.

    This infor­ma­tion is impor­tant because, as we’ve seen, while the RaTG13 virus is the known virus that, over­all, is most close­ly relat­ed to SARS-CoV­‑2, the sequence of the cru­cial SARS-CoV­‑2 Recep­tor Bind­ing Domain (RBD) is most close­ly relat­ed to a Pan­golin coro­n­avirus, Pan­golin-CoV. It’s this obser­va­tion that SARS-CoV­‑2 most close­ly fits BOTH RaTG13 and the Pan­golin-CoV which is has to spec­u­la­tion that a viral recom­bi­na­tion even took place when a pan­golin was simul­ta­ne­ous­ly infect­ed with both a bat and pan­golin coro­n­avirus. This has long been one of the more sus­pi­cious aspects of the asser­tions that the virus MUST have come from nature because ‘gain-of-func­tion’ exper­i­ments are often the equiv­a­lent of mim­ic­k­ing a nat­ur­al viral recom­bi­na­tion event. Just tak­ing parts of dif­fer­ent virus­es and recom­bin­ing them. Recall how it was a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Ralph Bar­ic’s lab at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na, Chapel Hill, and Shi Zhengli’s lab in 2015 where they com­bined the sur­face pro­tein of the SHCO14 horse­shoe bat coro­n­avirus with the back­bone of the SARS virus in a gain of func­tion exper­i­ment. That exper­i­ment was basi­cal­ly a syn­thet­ic recom­bi­na­tion event. So when Ali­na Chan points out that the Pan­golin-CoV virus was syn­the­sized in 2019 and its sequence was pub­lished in the NCBI’s web­site in Sep­tem­ber of 2019 from pan­golin’s cap­tured in March of 2019, she’s point­ing to evi­dence that the sequence infor­ma­tion for that RBD of SARS-CoV­‑2 was poten­tial­ly avail­able to the WORLD as of Sep­tem­ber 2019 and poten­tial­ly avail­able to pri­vate par­ties as ear­ly as March 2019.

    Ok, here’s here Twit­ter thread from July 5 of 2020:

    tldr RaTG13, the virus most close­ly relat­ed to SARS-CoV­‑2 was dis­cov­ered by the WIV in a bat cave in 2013 where 6 min­ers con­tract­ed a viral infec­tion lead­ing to severe pneu­mo­nia. 3 died. The virus pathogen was nev­er iden­ti­fied. https://t.co/wYKiONeaqB— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    Although the med­ical and research teams could not exact­ly deter­mine what virus had killed the min­ers, the med­ical the­sis pub­lished in 2013 from Kun­ming hos­pi­tal con­clud­ed that it was “a Sars-like coro­n­avirus from a bat.”— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    Based on this diag­no­sis, WIV mined the same cave in Tong­guan, Yun­nan sev­er­al times in 2012–2013 for bat coro­n­avirus­es. The only SARS-like CoV they found in that cave was RaTG13 — col­lect­ed on July 2013, also the last time they vis­it­ed that cave.— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    They inter­viewed Peter Daszak, pres­i­dent of Eco­Health, who works close­ly with the WIV and Shi Zhengli’s group. Daszak said that RaTG13 was only sequenced for the RdRp in 2013 and thrown in the freez­er in Wuhan for the next 6 years until COVID-19 broke out.— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    They inter­viewed Peter Daszak, pres­i­dent of Eco­Health, who works close­ly with the WIV and Shi Zhengli’s group. Daszak said that RaTG13 was only sequenced for the RdRp in 2013 and thrown in the freez­er in Wuhan for the next 6 years until COVID-19 broke out.— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    In my twee­to­r­i­al about how the WIV char­ac­ter­izes new CoVs from bat caves, the data shows that they had begun the CoV char­ac­ter­i­za­tion pipeline for RaTG13 in 2017. It was­n’t just sit­ting for­got­ten in a freez­er for 6 years (2013–2020). https://t.co/tlzlc92NM2— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    More than a year passed between the sequenc­ing of the RaTG13 RdRp/Orf8 (June 2017) and the spike (late 2018). Notably in Sep 2018, more close­ly relat­ed virus­es had been dis­cov­ered by anoth­er group, which could’ve helped with primer design. https://t.co/oiFRhuTLAm— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    With­in a year, the most sim­i­lar CoV spike RBD to that of SARS-CoV­‑2 was sequenced from smug­gled pan­golins con­fis­cat­ed in March, 2019 in Guang­dong province. The sequences were reg­is­tered on NCBI in Sep­tem­ber, 2019. https://t.co/1RLyO2I25m— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    Although it is unclear how these smug­gled pan­golins con­tract­ed the CoV (maybe even from their human smug­glers), it seems plau­si­ble that SARS2-like virus­es were emerg­ing in South­ern Chi­na (Yun­nan, RaTG13; Guang­dong and Guangxi, 2 pan­golin CoVs; Zhe­jiang, ZXC21 and ZC45).— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    ***

    The ques­tion is, how did SARS-CoV­‑2 get to Wuhan, “the sprawl­ing cap­i­tal of Cen­tral China’s Hubei province”, a com­mer­cial cen­ter where there is no detectable expo­sure to SARS-relat­ed CoVs accord­ing to Shi Zhengli’s own study. https://t.co/NAgWgfMB0h— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 5, 2020

    *************

    Lat­er, some­one asks Chan on the Twit­ter thread about the evi­dence that the RaTG13 sequences were accessed in 2017 and 2018. This is where she links to the NCBI page show­ing the May 2020 sequence sub­mis­sion by Shi’s lab:

    Hi! I was curi­ous about BtCoV/4991 and the lack of ref­er­ence to it when RaTG13 was pub­lished. In my own sleuthing, I nev­er found any­thing between 2013 and 2020. Thus, I’m curi­ous about the dates above. Can you link to one of these ampli­cons on NCBI so I can check it out? Thanks!— Matthew Markus (@matthewmarkus) July 10, 2020

    It’s here: https://t.co/35WbSXHfQP hope this helps!— Ali­na Chan (@Ayjchan) July 10, 2020

    And it’s that NCBI page that Ali­na Chan links to where we find the link to the 33 sep­a­rate sequence chunks with dates in their names trac­ing back from June of 2017 (months after the WIV got its inter­na­tion­al BSL‑4 accred­i­ta­tion) to Octo­ber of 2018. Again, Shi Zhengli could have eas­i­ly obscured this date infor­ma­tion and we would nev­er have known. But she did­n’t. It rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion of why? But it also rais­es the more spe­cif­ic ques­tion of who else knew about those 2017 — 2018 sequences that would have made obscur­ing their dates too risky to attempt.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 13, 2020, 3:27 pm
  4. @Pterrafractyl–

    While you have done an excel­lent job of enu­mer­at­ing the trees, you have, in my opin­ion, missed key aspects of the for­est.

    1.–Look at all the work Eco­Health Alliance does for the Pen­ta­gon? The Pen­ta­gon is NOT in the busi­ness of main­tain­ing the pub­lic health.

    Look, for exam­ple, at their $5 mil­lion dol­lar project in Tan­za­nia, research­ing the CCHF, which had exact­ly ONE case and that was 34 years ago. And they are doing gain-of-func­tion maneu­vers on it.

    WHY?

    2.–None of the peo­ple you have cit­ed have raised a PEEP about the clo­sure of the AMRIID in August of 2019. No God­damn trans­paren­cy there! WIV has net­worked with AMRIID for years.

    WIV has been set up, in my opin­ion, not unlike the paint­ing of Oswald Red, or the Russia/hacks non­sense. Same par­a­digm.

    3.–USAID–one of THE most com­mon cov­ers for CIA was a major fun­der of the joint WIV/EcoHealth Alliance project.

    4.–None of these clowns has placed the Covid-19 out­break in the polit­i­cal con­text of the Full Court Press against Chi­na.

    5.–ANY virus can be made from scratch in a lab­o­ra­to­ry ANYWHERE, once the genome has been sequenced and pub­lished!

    This does NOT occur in a vac­u­um.

    Keep up the great work!

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | November 13, 2020, 6:20 pm

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