New Evidence for Lab-Leak Hypothesis of COVID’s Origins

The origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 remains unclear, but recent revelations reinforce the likelihood that the true source was a lab leak from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

A letter from Lawrence Tabak, the National Institutes of Health’s principal deputy director, to Kentucky congressman James Comer confirms that the NIH funded research at the WIV during 2018–2019 that manipulated a bat coronavirus called WIV1. Researchers at the institute grafted spike proteins from other coronaviruses onto WIV1 to see if the modified virus was capable of binding in a mouse that possessed the ACE2 receptors found in humans—the same receptor to which SARS-CoV-2 binds. The modified virus reproduced more rapidly and made infected humanized mice sicker than the unmodified virus.

Starting in 2014, the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, headed by Anthony Fauci, funded the New York-based research nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance with annual grants through 2020 for “Understanding the Risk of Bat Coronavirus Emergence.” Total funding was $3,748,715. More than $600,000 of that went to the WIV. Three other Chinese institutions received funding as well. The principal investigator was EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak, who, from the onset of the pandemic, has consistently campaigned in public and behind the scenes to convince people that SARS-CoV-2 did not come from the WIV but evolved naturally from animal-to-human transmission.

Tabak’s letter asserts that the modified virus’s becoming more virulent “was an unexpected result” and not “something that the researchers set out to do”—an odd claim, considering that the whole point of manipulating the virus was to investigate things that could make it more virulent. The 2018 research mentioned in Tabak’s letter is similar to earlier WIV research, funded in part by the NIH, that modified viruses related to SARS to see if they could infect human cells. Publications of these studies in 2017 and 2016 were the subject of a contentious Senate hearing in which Senator Rand Paul pressed Fauci to admit that they constituted gain-of-function research, prompting Fauci’s denial and a statement that “NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

Many, but not all, virologists believe that the WIV experimentation qualifies as gain-of-function research. Such research was originally defined as “any modification of a biological agent that confers new or enhanced activity.” The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity proposed that only a narrower category, gain-of-function research of concern—research that could make a pathogen likely to spread and cause disease in humans—needs extra regulatory oversight. (Read more from “New Evidence for Lab-Leak Hypothesis of COVID’s Origins” HERE)

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