Lab leak theory vs natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 – why past conflicts of interest might be driving the current debate
Why is the lab leak theory gaining ground?
After a year long campaign of ridiculing and silencing any public suggestion that SARS-CoV-2 virus could have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology laboratory, suddenly the media is very open to entertaining this notion. This is such a strange tale of how public perception is shaped by prevailing propaganda, and right now for whatever reason, there appears to be a sudden interest in the American media to investigate the lab leak possibility that mere months ago was completely off-limits as anyone who dared to suggest this very reasonable possibility was either labelled a quack or conspiracy theorist.
Before we get into this, let us consider what has changed - why has the complete suppression of even the idea of a leak now changed to global calls of investigating the possibility?
BeforePerhaps because there is still no credible evidence for a natural origin of the disease, and after more than a year long search by the entire world, this has started to raise some eyebrows.
Perhaps the media finally picked up on the fact that the previous administration had reported on some workers of the Wuhan Institute of Virology becoming mysteriously ill at the end of 2019 with symptoms similar to COVID-19, right before the outbreak in the city, suggesting that someone may have accidentally contracted and spread the dangerous pathogen (we covered this information at the start of the year).
Also, and perhaps most importantly - it seems as we piece together the evidence below that it appears as if the world’s two biggest superpowers, the US and China, have been inadvertently involved in creating the worst viral pandemic ever encountered in modern times, and thus the two super powers might just be attempting to hide this humiliating news to avoid a global, public condemnation. The US, for whatever reason, appears to no longer be involved in the potential charade, and may be exploiting the emerging evidence to go after China, thereby creating the illusion of the US as an innocent victim with good intentions who was misused for evil purposes.
Whether any of this is true or not will is exceedingly difficult to prove after a year’s time where much of the evidence may have been potentially lost or destroyed, but what we can say with high certainty is that the public’s perception in the US of the virus’ origin has so far been shaped by two figures with a staggering conflict of interest: Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Peter Daszak.
Let us start by explaining this massive conflict of interest, using publicly available videos of interviews with these two figures.
How are Dr. Daszak and Dr. Fauci intertwined in this picture?
Dr. Daszak is the President of EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based organization that functions to help identify and predict the origins and impacts of emerging diseases around the world. This might sound all very noble, except for the dangerous approach with which EcoHealth Alliance might have taken to achieve their stated goals and this uncovers why Dr. Daszak might been such an inappropriate figure to state any opinions on SARS-CoV-2 origins. It appears that EcoHealth Alliance has been involved in funding scientific research on making viruses more infectious to humans (referred to as gain-of-function research and this has included using corona bat viruses)! Ostensibly, by artificially creating a more dangerous version of the natural virus the idea is that science could then safely study the viruses involved and perhaps even prepare for them by pre-emptively creating preventative vaccines or drugs before they suddenly emerge in the wild.
But, it was also Dr. Daszak who spearheaded a co-authored a correspondence of 27 select scientists in the esteemed medical journal The Lancet at the start of the pandemic, effectively dismissing the possibility of the virus escaping from the lab, which basically put a halt into any subsequent discussion of this topic. Those who ventured to suggest that the virus could have either originated in the lab, or be of natural origin but then escaped from the lab, were ridiculed and even silenced. Banning of social media accounts for spreading what was termed “misinformation” about this topic has become commonplace. It was a quick, slippery slope from censured to censored for even the most decorated of scientists.
This massive conflict of interest by Dr. Daszak could have and should have been addressed by The Lancet from the very beginning.
And here is where the two superpowers of the world get entangled in this travesty in the making. Dr. Fauci who is a director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases or NIAID (a division of the National Institute of Health) had approved funding of research into bat coronaviruses, and channelled the funds to EcoHealth Alliance which subsequently channelled the funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology that had actually conducted the experiments under the leadership of China’s top coronavirus researcher Dr. Zhengli Shi. Dr. Shi has an extensive, published record on gain-of-function work with bat coronaviruses. We have written extensively about Dr. Shi, not the least of which because her research group was nearly the first one to publish the SARS-CoV-2 virus sequence as well as that of the closest know bat coronavirus relative but also because there were some highly irregular ways with how the origin of the related bat coronavirus information was presented.
Dr. Daszak and Dr. Fauci still maintain that they were not involved in funding the gain-of-function experiments that were conducted by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a stance that was also echoed by the director of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Francis Collins.
Viruses that look like killers
But unfortunately for Dr. Daszak, he was actually very proud of these efforts of making the bat coronaviruses more infectious to humans because he bragged about it in public interviews previous to the pandemic outbreak. As Dr. Daszak states in this video below from 2019 (around the 30 minute mark, paraphrasing here in case this video becomes censored as this has been a trend in the last year), “Coronaviruses are pretty good […], you can manipulate them in the lab pretty easily. Spike proteins drive a lot about what happens with the coronavirus, a zoonotic risk. You can get the sequence, you can build the protein, we work with Ralph Baric at UNC to do this [more about him in a moment], insert into the backbone of another virus and do some work in a lab.”
Just for clarity – zoonotic risk is the risk of a virus jumping to humans from another species. Spike proteins are the proteins found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 which are used by the virus to infect human cells.
And what was the purpose of these virus manipulating experiments? Dr. Daszak further explains: “you can get more predictive when you find a sequence. [Dr. Daszak refers to a new genetic sequence of a virus manipulated to be more infectious to humans…] The logical progression for vaccines is, if you are going to develop a vaccine for SARS, people are going to use pandemic SARS [virus] but let’s try to insert some of these other related [virus constructs] and get a better vaccine.”
Here is another clip of Dr. Daszak talking about virus manipulation in 2016, implicating work with China and building killer viruses.
Once again, let’s quote Dr. Daszak directly from that video clip: “We found other coronaviruses in bats, a whole host of them, some of them looked very similar to SARS. So we sequenced the spike protein, the protein that attaches to cells. Then we… well I didn’t do this work, but my colleagues in China did the work. You create pseudo particles, you insert the spike proteins from those viruses, see if they bind to human cells. At each step of this you move closer and closer to this virus could really become pathogenic in people. So you narrow down the field. You reduce the cost and you end up with a small number of viruses that really do look like killers.”
Thus, the idea is that we can manipulate existing viruses into become more dangerous to humans, so we can use that information to develop vaccines or drugs pre-emptively against such threats. This way, if the virus naturally mutates to a more dangerous form, we can have vaccines to take care of it. Provided of course that the newly generated synthetic killer virus does not escape the lab first.
Benefit vs risk of manipulating dangerous viruses
Dr. Fauci also seems to have completely approved the idea of gain-of-function experiments for exactly those reasons, which might explain why he approved funding of such work through EcoHealth Alliance. Dr. Fauci has even left clear record of his support for such gain-of-function work, and we quote him directly: “consider this hypothetical scenario: an important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations. In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic? Many ask reasonable questions: given the possibility of such a scenario—however remote—should the initial experiments have been performed and/or published in the first place, and what were the processes involved in this decision?
Scientists working in this field might say—as indeed I have said—that the benefits of such experiments and the resulting knowledge outweigh the risks. It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature, and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky.”
Except we still do not know, has this pandemic started due to natural causes, or is it the “however remote” scenario of lab outbreak?
Once again, here is Dr. Fauci’s testifying in front of Senate in 2012, stating his support for the gain-of-function research to better understand the emerging viral threats (at the time it was described as dual research of concern, and performed on influenza viruses).
In that testimony, Dr. Fauci clearly states “the risk/benefit ratio of such research clearly tips towards benefitting society”. His stance is quite unequivocal on that matter. We wonder what his opinion would be right now on the topic.
With such statements from both Dr. Daszak and Dr. Fauci, you can appreciate what a massive conflict of interest it seems to be to have placed these individuals at the helm of an investigation or even contending about the pandemic’s coronavirus origin. Especially because it is entirely conceivable that SARS-CoV-2 could have been exactly that “remote possibility” where the virus might have triggered a pandemic through an accidental infection of a scientist, just as Dr. Fauci imagined in his 2012 essay. And whether it turns out to be true or not, it was clearly in the best interests of both Dr. Daszak and Dr. Fauci to make sure as few people as possible could easily connect any dots between their financial support of coronavirus research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the probability of an accidental virus lab leak could have started this global pandemic that has claimed millions of lives.
Renewed investigation into pandemic origins and conflicts of interest
On the other side of the spectrum, senator Rand Paul has been the most vociferous critic of past inadequate investigations into the origin of SARS-CoV-2 and the strongest leader among the American politicians calling for both a congressional investigation of this matter, and proposing that available evidence strongly points towards a lab leak theory. Below is a video of Senator Paul and Dr. Fauci duking it out during a Senate hearing about Dr. Fauci funding the gain-of-function work in China. It summarizes a lot of what is known about how more dangerous coronaviruses were being developed, including the gain-of-function of Dr. Baric that EcoHealth Alliance was supporting. Take a look:
Perhaps Bloomberg summarized it best in one of its recent opinion pieces: “If Fauci owes the public an explanation for anything, it’s why he approved funding for research that potentially made viruses more dangerous”, the type of research that has been warned against by many other scientists in the past, and has been banned in the US for precisely the reason of a severe potential threat to the public.
We completely agree with that and feel this matter should be thoroughly investigated with consequences being considered for any egregious mistakes.
The good news is that public scrutiny into this potential conflict of interest includes looking into the possibility of the COVID-19 coronavirus lab origins and is gaining momentum. Below is an exchange between Senator Marco Rubio and Dr. Fauci as to why lab leak theory was refuted at the start of the pandemic despite no clear evidence to actually support this. Check out this intelligent exchange:
In addition, finally Dr. Daszak is being removed from a position of authority leading yet another investigation into the virus’ origin (including investigation into the possibility that the virus has leaked from the lab) by The Lancet medical journal – yes, the same journal that originally published the opinion dismissing any virus origin story besides the natural origin. The site now lists Dr. Daszak as being “recused from Commission work on the origins of the pandemic”. We are not sure why it has taken this long to have Dr. Daszak removed from such a role, or why he was allowed to lead the recent World Health Organization investigation into this matter, or also why he was not openly investigated from the very beginning of the pandemic for being implicated in dangerous gain-of-function experiments (along with Dr. Fauci)?! But hopefully, now that the media is paying attention to these facts, some corrective measures can finally start taking place.
For example, Senator Paul recently proposed an amendment that would ban the use of federal money to support any further gain-of-function research in China, which was unanimously approved by the US Senate.
SENATE: The Senate chamber erupts into cheers after an amendment proposed by @RandPaul that bans US funding of gain-of-function research in China is passed by unanimous voice vote pic.twitter.com/8fQ6hAWpuW— Forbes (@Forbes) May 25, 2021
Also importantly, the Biden administration has restarted an investigation into the coronavirus origin that had been commenced by the previous administration and subsequently paused under the Biden presidency, a decision that was reversed under the immense political and scientific pressure. Below is a video with comments from David Ashton who was heading the prior investigation and who absolutely believes the virus came from a lab and that the intelligence agencies will be able to get to the bottom of that.
The mystery behind the pandemic virus’ origins is even further reinforced by a very recent pre-print publication (meaning the published data has not been yet peer reviewed and officially published by established scientific journal, so keep that in mind this is still preliminary information) showing that some of the earliest SARS-CoV-2 virus genome sequences isolated from patients in Wuhan at the start of the pandemic were removed from public record, further obscuring the true origin of the virus. How? Well, originally the pandemic purportedly emerged from the Huanan seafood wet market but the viral sequences isolated from cases exposed at the market were more unrelated to the ancestral bat virus (yes, the bat virus that Dr. Shi sequenced and published) than in other parts of China and elsewhere in the world. However, one researcher has managed to recover these early cases’ viral sequences using Google cloud, showing that they indeed were more closely related to the ancestral bat coronavirus. Why would this data hiding have taken place? Was it to prevent scientific inquiry that would show a reduced probability of the virus not emerging from a natural source? We can only speculate, but it continues to cast a shadow of doubt over the transparency of information in relation to the pandemic origins, especially if it comes from China.
Epilogue: what to do after we actually know the virus origins?
Moving forward, what do we gain from establishing the virus’ origin? Clearly it will not influence the outcome of the current pandemic, but it might help us understand how to mitigate future outcomes. If the pandemic was a result of a lab leak, we will need to have much deeper look into further strengthening our global procedures of handling dangerous pathogens in a laboratory setting. If the virus was in any way engineered prior to the leak, we will have to have serious public discussion on the merits of such dangerous research, as no lab leak can be fully guaranteed to be preventable.
Ultimately this is not about blame and finding culprits. We believe that the work of Dr. Fauci and Dr. Daszak and their scientific colleagues in China such as Dr. Shi, was driven by truly altruistic measures to actually help protect humanity against any possible emerging viral threats, but these measures have been swept aside by the quagmire involved with protecting their lifetime’s work in the context of a pandemic that unfortunately looks quite plausibly to be linked to an accidental lab leak.
If SARS-CoV-2 turns out to be the outcome of a human mistake in a laboratory research context, there will have to be global forgiveness to all of the players involved, including the two superpowers China and the US, that might be implicated in this tragedy. Vilifying any players, even for post-pandemic subsequent purposeful wrong-doing such as record destruction or attempts to preventing an unrestricted investigation into the pandemic origins should not be used to shame any particular nation and group of people as a whole, albeit specific unjust actions should certainly be condemned. If this virus turns out to have escaped from the lab, we believe that an attempt to hide such information is an action that very likely every nation in the world would have taken for fear of the consequences. Is that smart? No! But that is a human nature, and why we might have been witness to a massive conflict of interest in the past year.
The harm that has been done by the pandemic cannot be undone. We can only learn from past mistakes and our past collective intelligent efforts. Along the way, the pandemic has also brought humanity closer in order to solve seemingly insurmountable problems in ways we might not have ever witnessed. In the face of all of this adversity, we also have to look at the collective measures that humanity has taken to work together to face this global challenge. While we suffered, the pandemic has also shown us that new paradigms of global cooperation can exist to fight and protect lives of every citizen. Remember how at the start of pandemic there was an outpouring of gratitude to healthcare staff for bravely facing unknown risks to save our lives? None of us knew how dangerous this viral threat could really be. This gratitude and appreciation soon become a global anthem, expressed in every corner of the world. If mistakes were made in how this pandemic was dealt with, we need to look at these actions with forgiveness and focus on the best outcomes we have witnessed along the way to grow humanity’s incessant hope of creating better tomorrow.
This article has been produced by Merogenomics Inc. and edited by Jason Chouinard, B.Sc. Reproduction and reuse of any portion of this content requires Merogenomics Inc. permission and source acknowledgment. It is your responsibility to obtain additional permissions from the third party owners that might be cited by Merogenomics Inc. Merogenomics Inc. disclaims any responsibility for any use you make of content owned by third parties without their permission.
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