A growing number of governments and scientists are demanding that China disclose all data and accept a full international investigation into the hypothesis that the new coronavirus may have leaked from a laboratory. In the face of the overwhelming pressure, Shi Zhengli, director of the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the center of the storm, broke a rare silence to refute questions and emphasize that she did nothing wrong. Can Shi Zhengli’s statement be trusted? What means does the United States, which sponsored Shi Zhengli’s research, have to conduct virus traceability investigations outside of China?
“The funding (about $600,000) was allocated to the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research through the EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization.” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), confirmed at a May 25 hearing of the House Committee on Appropriations that U.S. taxpayers sponsored the Wuhan Institute for Virus research.
But the Wuhan Institute has received more than $600,000 over five years from “foreign forces” and from the U.S. federal government alone.
According to information given to us by Republican U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler’s office, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided $1.1 million to the EcoHealth Alliance between 2009 and 2019 to collaborate with Wuhan Virus Institute on research on “major viruses that pose human and biological hazards. “The research involves the collection of family samples of various viruses from wildlife and the study of human and animal sera exposed to coronaviruses.
Under the U.S. system of separation of powers, Reshensal was able to exercise his power of oversight and checks and balances by members of Congress, and after more than two months of his requests, USAID disclosed the above information in early May.
I am ‘deeply troubled’ that U.S. taxpayers are spending more than a million dollars to support dangerous and potentially deadly research with the Wuhan virus, which is closely linked to the Chinese Communist Party’s military biological research, and the American people have a right to know why their hard-earned money is being spent on a project with a history of security problems,” Raisinsale said in a written statement to the station. money is being spent on a foreign laboratory that has a history of safety problems and could be involved in causing a pandemic.”
In addition, official U.S. sources also show that the National Institutes of Health had funded the EcoHealth Alliance $3.7 million from 2014 specifically to study bat coronavirus until funding was stopped last April, just as the new coronavirus outbreak was raging around the world.
Controversy 1: Is the U.S.-funded EcoHealth Alliance a foreign agent of the Wuhan Virus Institute?
Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, has been endorsing China and Shi Zhengli since the outbreak, raising questions about his personal background.
Daszak: “In my experience with (Shi Zhengli’s) virus lab over the past fifteen years, I can see that this team is just an ordinary, unusual lab, anyway, they don’t have the new coronavirus that triggered this pandemic, carried by bats, we haven’t found exactly the same (virus), we’ve only seen similar coronaviruses. “
The British-born Desak has been heavily exposed recently on China’s official foreign propaganda stronghold, the Global Television Network (CGTN). After President Joe Biden instructed U.S. intelligence officials to “redouble their efforts” to investigate the source of the outbreak, including the possibility that “the virus may have been leaked from a lab in China,” CGTN took the initiative in June and aired an intense collection of past footage of Dessack’s interviews.
He publicly admitted to working with Shi Zhengli’s team for 15 years, and he has repeatedly endorsed China and the Wuhan virus institute, and was part of the World Health Organization team that went to China earlier this year.
He was the first to praise China’s “highly open and transparent” and cooperative attitude in shaping public opinion even before the investigation was completed. He has repeatedly defended Shi Zhengli and the Wuhan virus, saying that China has fallen victim to political conspiracy theories like “the New Crown virus was a laboratory leak.
But how can one conclude that there was no laboratory leak without an investigation? Richard Ebright, a professor of molecular biology at Rutgers University, also a scientist, is convinced that there is no evidence to support his claim, and that a full and objective investigation of the laboratory leak hypothesis is needed before drawing conclusions about the origin of the outbreak.
In an interview with Radio Free Asia, the molecular biology expert said, “The Ecological Health Alliance is not the same as it was when it was founded 45 years ago. This organization has reinvented itself, it has transformed itself from its past focus on conservation to a sponsorship intermediary, it is essentially an intermediary that plays the role between the funding agencies of the developed countries and the laboratories of the more underdeveloped countries, it does not have laboratories of its own.”
As of press time, neither the EcoHealth Alliance nor Desak had responded to our email inquiries.
According to the official website of the EcoHealth Alliance, the New York-based nonprofit organization has a 45-year history of working with Malaysian officials in addition to the U.S. government; some internationally renowned biotech companies such as Johnson & Johnson, one of the pharmaceutical companies that developed the new vaccine, Reckitt Benckiser Group of the United Kingdom, and Boehringer-Ingelheim of Germany. Boehringer-Ingelheim of Germany are all sponsors of the EcoHealth Alliance.
The Wuhan Virus Institute, a recipient of U.S. funding, does not appear on the EcoHealth Alliance’s official website as a partner.
Controversy 2: Zhengli Shi denies doing gain-of-function research Is it credible?
In a letter to Reichenthaler, USAID emphasized that the U.S.-funded research program at the Wuhan Institute of Virus ended in 2019 and that it never authorized or agreed to conduct the highly controversial gain-of-function (GOF) study of the virus during the decade of funding.
Fauci was repeatedly grilled by senators at a separate hearing in the federal Senate on May 26 about whether he trusted his Chinese collaborators too much. Can you guarantee that the Chinese side is telling the truth? Fauci’s answer was, “There is no guarantee that the Chinese scientists and sponsors are not lying.”
In response to an email interview with the New York Times, Shi shot back that this was “highly distrustful speculation” and stated sternly that “my lab has never done or collaborated on a GOF (gain-of-function) experiment that would increase the virulence of the virus.”
However, Ralph Baric, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina who worked with Shi, warned in a 2016 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that the full gene and chimeric of the WIV1-CoV coronavirus provided by Shi could rapidly proliferate in the human respiratory tract and body. In the absence of vaccines and drugs, chimeric studies are a safety risk.
Ebright is also a scientist who argues that scientific research has ethical boundaries. “In fact, it does not contribute in any way to vaccine or drug research and development, which must be done on pathogens that already exist, not on pathogens that have not yet been created and do not yet exist. But gain-of-function research is the creation of new pathogens that don’t yet exist.” He told reporters.
Barrick was also one of 18 international scientists who recently published a co-signed open letter in the journal Science , agreeing that the theory of an accidental laboratory leak is still possible and that a more comprehensive investigation is needed to confirm the origin of the pandemic.
Controversy 3: Validation and rebuilding trust What can China and the U.S. do?
The Wuhan Institute for Virus Research is China’s proudly “self-developed” research program, and the foreign-trained Shi Zhengli, who holds a PhD in virology from the University of Montpellier II in France and is known as the “Batgirl,” has led a team that has created more than 15,000 She is also known as the “bat lady” and has led her team to create more than 15,000 bat samples, making China the “world’s largest coronavirus gene pool”.
Did the Wuhan Institute of Virus have samples of the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that caused the pandemic before it happened? She told the New York Times categorically: No.
Shi Zhengli insists she has publicly shared that the closest bat coronavirus to which the lab was exposed was only 96 percent similar to the new coronavirus in this case, a huge difference by genomic standards. She also denies that the lab has secretly worked on other viruses.
She also denied claims that three researchers at her institute were hospitalized with flu-like symptoms before the November 2019 New Crown outbreak, telling the New York Times, “If possible, could you help provide the names of these three people so we can check.”
Chinese officials have not disputed Shi Zhengli’s claim, and the local Hubei Daily even voluntarily disclosed in an early January report that Shi was a “non-partisan”. This is unusual, according to Newseum.
Trust has to be built cumulatively and needs to be verified. What China could do is allow international institutions and scientists unfettered access to the Wuhan Virus Institute to conduct an independent investigation or share all of Shi’s research data, but its position is clear that it will not allow such an investigation.
So how else can the international community verify the credibility of what Chinese scientists are saying? Ebright believes that a breakthrough would be for the U.S. Congress to unite and exercise its “subpoena power.
“The U.S. has a tool to get more information, and that is the subpoena power of Congress. If the congressional branch as a whole can work together to set up a bipartisan investigative team, ask the EcoHealth Coalition to release all emails exchanged with the Wuhan virus, information obtained from research, and even the judicial branch to intervene. The EcoHealth Alliance has received at least $123 million in cumulative federal funding, but it has refused to respond to letters from members of Congress and American taxpayers demanding the release of information.” Ebright said.
The $123 million figure, Ebright said, was based on a report in the U.K.’s Daily Mail. As of press time, the EcoHealth Alliance and Desak have also not responded to our station’s inquiries about the amount of U.S. federal funding they have received.
As for the security of the lab, the CCTV report said that the Wuhan Institute of Virus is a lab where “not even a mosquito can fly in without a permit” and where security controls are extremely strict.
In that case, is the Wuhan Institute willing to disclose the laboratory research records before the pandemic? This reporter has written to the Wuhan Institute of Virus Research and Shi Zhengli several times, but has not received a reply.
It seems that China has not yet taken positive action to face all the questions from the outside world and dispel people’s doubts about the trust that needs to be accumulated bit by bit. Is it not a tragedy that China’s credibility is divided between believers and non-believers in the international community?