Over 20 Scientists Who Signed The Lancet Letter Dismissing Lab Leak Theory, Are Linked To The Wuhan Lab

by Bhaswati Guha Majumder - Sep 13, 2021 07:06 PM +05:30 IST
Over 20 Scientists Who Signed The Lancet Letter Dismissing Lab Leak Theory, Are Linked To The Wuhan Lab
Wuhan Institute of Virology
  • As per reports, 26 of the 27 scientists who published a letter in the medical journal The Lancet debunking the lab-leak scenario of the Covid-19 outbreak have or have had ties to researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology or their colleagues or benefactors.

It has been more than a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) first declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. But still, there is no clear answer for how it began and what is the source of the Covid-19.

As many people came up with different theories regarding the origin of the virus, one claim got massive attention, even among the scientific community—the lab leak possibility. When this claim first appeared in 2020, many people rejected it but now, after a report by The Telegraph was published, this theory is gaining some momentum once again.

The report states that 26 of the 27 scientists who published a letter in the medical journal The Lancet debunking the lab-leak scenario of the novel coronavirus outbreak have or have had ties to researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) or their colleagues or its benefactors.

In the letter published in the international medical journal in March 2020, the authors declared that they "strongly condemn conspiracy theories" which were discussed from social media to news channels. The letter actually ended all doubt over whether Covid-19 was created by humans or spilt from a lab in Wuhan, where the SARS-CoV-2 first appeared.

But The Telegraph conducted an inquiry into the signatories and discovered that 26 of the 27 had some connection to the WIV. Signatories include Peter Daszak, the president of New York-based research organisation EcoHealth Alliance, which collaborated with the controversial Chinese lab.

He was also one of the members of the WHO's group of international experts who went to China to investigate the origin of the virus. Recently he was removed from The Lancet journal's Covid-19 investigation commission.

Another name that came under the spotlight—British Government scientific adviser Sir Jeremy Farrar. However, Among those 27 experts, only one was discovered to have no ties to the Wuhan institute's funders or researchers—Dr Ronald Corley, a microbiology expert from Boston University.

The Signatories

Daszak was already found to have a conflict of interest due to his position as president of the EcoHealth Alliance, which has funded research at the Wuhan lab. The Lancet was forced to issue an addendum to the letter confirming Daszak's connection to EcoHealth despite declaring no conflicts of interest at the time the letter was written. Additionally, Daszak is claimed to have revealed that he wrote the letter after being urged by "our collaborators" in China for a "show of support" in an email made public through Freedom of Information requests.

Since Daszak's removal from the UN-backed Lancet commission investigating the pandemic's origins, he has been facing criticism and many have also questioned his involvement in WHO's investigation.

However, according to the report, five additional signatories worked for the same organisation but none of them admitted to being involved. Dr William Karesh, an infectious disease expert and Professor Hume Field, an expert in veterinary sciences, are two of the signatories.

Three of the signatories were from the Wellcome Trust in the United Kingdom that has previously financed research at the Wuhan lab.

Signatory Farrar, the Trust's director and a member of the United Kingdom's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies or Sage, has previously published work with George Gao, the chairman of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), whom he has characterised as "an old friend".

Dr Gao is a former Wellcome Trust research assistant who studied at Oxford University. According to the report, Daszak claimed that Dr Gao backed his nomination to the National Academy of Sciences.

However, Dr Josie Golding and Professor Mike Turner, two other signatories, are known to have present or previous ties to the Wellcome Trust. Dr Golding is the Trust's Epidemics lead, while Prof Turner is a University of Glasgow parasitology expert who formerly worked for the organisation.

Professor Linda Saif, a microbiologist, was one of the signatories who spoke at a workshop in Wuhan in May 2017, alongside the famous Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli, the bat coronavirus expert who has become known as "batwoman" and Dr Gao. The Wuhan Institute of Virology helped organise the workshop in part that covered a variety of issues, including the level of security in Chinese labs, as well as Professor Saif's discussion on animal coronaviruses.

Two more signatories to The Lancet letter are the members of the Global Virome Project's leadership team, which aims to detect 99 per cent or more of potential zoonotic viral threats. It was found that Daszak is the Global Virome Project's treasurer, and Dr Gao helped to launch it, with EcoHealth Alliance as one of its partners. This project is the replacement of the Predict project, which found over 1,000 novel viruses in animals and humans.

According to The Telegraph, the Predict project also sponsored controversial research by Wuhan experts on bat coronaviruses that were tweaked to determine if they could infect humans, while EcoHealth Alliance provided funding for the research.

Professor John Mackenzie, a tropical infectious disease expert at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, was another signatory. According to the probe, he failed to mention that he was still a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the Wuhan Institute's Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Another expert who signed the letter is from the University of Melbourne, Professor Kanta Subbarao. She spoke at a conference in Wuhan almost five years ago on emerging diseases and the event was co-organised by the WIV. She is currently the chief of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Emerging Respiratory Viruses Section in the United States.

The report also discovered that five more of the letter's signatories had published articles with Professor Ralph Baric, who was collaborating with Shi Zhengli and the Wuhan lab while studying genetically modified coronaviruses to find out if they could become more infectious. Daszak urged Baric to sign the letter initially.

However, the emails between the two surfaced ahead of the letter's publication in The Lancet, revealed that the duo agreed to hide their affiliation with the Wuhan lab. Moreover, Daszak assured Baric that he would publish the letter without linking it "back to our collaboration so we can maximise an independent voice".

The report claimed that several individuals who signed the letter have now changed their minds, with some pushing for a comprehensive investigation into Covid-19's origins. One of them is Prof Stanley Perlman, of the University of Iowa. He told The Telegraph: "It is difficult to eliminate a possible lab leak as part of the process, so this still needs to be considered."

Professor Charles Calisher, one of the letter's signatories, told The Telegraph that the letter's objective was never to argue that Covid-19 did not originate in nature, but rather that there was insufficient data to make such a claim.

Professor Bernard Roizman, one of the signatories, said that since signing the letter he has become convinced that the virus was introduced by "sloppy" scientists.

Prof. Richard Ebright of Rutgers University, a molecular scientist, who wants to learn the truth behind the Covid-19 pandemic, told The Telegraph that following the addendum, which revealed Daszak's ties to the Wuhan Institute, the 27 signatories were invited to offer any of their own competing interests. "Incredibly, only Daszak appears to have done so," he said.

Additionally, Prof Ebright said: "Conflicts of interest were not reported for any of the other 26 signers of the letter – not even those with obviously material undisclosed conflicts such as EcoHealth employees and Predict contractors."

Angus Dalgleish, professor of oncology at St Georges, University of London, warned that it may now be too late to fully understand the origins of Covid-19 due to "stalling", but he remained optimistic that the evidence "is out there".

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