The top British scientist who played a central role in crushing suggestions that Covid could have originated in a lab has privately condemned the ‘Wild West’ study being conducted in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the world’s first outbreak of the virus virus took place.
Sir Jeremy Farrar’s damning indictment, sent to two leading scientists in the United States, shows that the head of the Wellcome Trust admitted to fears that the new virus emerging in China may be related to research – even as he was a influential article coordinating “any kind of lab-based scenario.”
The emails released under freedom of information rules also show that then-White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci was so alarmed by an unusual feature of the coronavirus that he advised colleagues to call the FBI and MI5 might have had to tip off.
The revelations are the latest developments in the unsolved mystery over whether the Covid pandemic could have been caused by a laboratory leak, engineered by scientists or crossed over from animals infected with a bat virus.
Sir Jeremy Farrar’s damning indictment, sent to two leading scientists in the United States, shows that the head of the Wellcome Trust admitted to fears that the new virus emerging in China may be related to research – even as he was a influential article coordinating “any kind of lab-based scenario.” Pictured: Jeremy Farrar
Bob Seely, the Tory MP and member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said: “It is depressing and alarming that influential scientists appear to have had private concerns about the possibility that the pandemic could have originated in a laboratory, even as they denied such ideas publicly.
“One of the most serious problems that emerged from this sad saga was the role of high-ranking figures in science who stamped any question of origins or an open sense of transparency. It’s unbelievable what happened.’
The latest revelations fuel concerns that the scientific establishment colluded to suppress the suggestion that Sars-CoV-2 – the virus that causes Covid-19 – could be the result of research the US helped fund in China.
The email discussions took place between an elite group of scientists who had been rounded up by Fauci and Farrar after the media began investigating bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where scientists were conducting gain-of-function experiments that may test infectiousness. of coronaviruses. But these were banned in the US for three years for fear they could cause a pandemic.
While the Wuhan lab was the first in China to receive a maximum biosafety clearance, the group of experts confirmed that researchers there were conducting risky experiments under conditions with much lower safety protocols.
Their work has included transferring viruses into mice that contain the human version of a receptor on cell surfaces through which some coronaviruses infect our bodies.
Bob Seely, the Tory MP, pictured and a member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said it was depressing and alarming that scientists were concerned about the possibility of the pandemic coming from a lab, even though they denied them the ideas publicly.
Referring to the biosafety level of the lab used, Francis Collins, head of the main US research body that funded the work of the Wuhan Institute of Virology through EcoHealth Alliance, a New York-based organization led by British scientist Peter Daszak, said: be done in a BSL-2 lab.”
“Wild West…” Farrar replied.
Their emails, on February 4, 2020, followed a conference call four days earlier that Farrar conducted at Fauci’s request as the pandemic exploded across the planet. It was joined by Collins and Sir Patrick Vallance, Britain’s chief scientific adviser.
It subsequently emerged that several participants – including Farrar, the director of Britain’s largest private research funding body which has supported work in Wuhan – thought beforehand that Covid might have been linked to research.
But after the conference call, their public stance shifted with strange speed given the lack of new data from China or any hard evidence that the virus could have a natural origin — and key figures began attacking “conspiracy theories” about lab links.
Farrar later admitted to co-ordinating an influential statement by five experts, including four of the participants, published by Nature Medicine. It firmly stated that the authors ‘do not believe that any laboratory scenario is plausible’.
Now these emails show that even when the scientists shared early drafts of the paper, some still feared a lab link.
The emails released under freedom of information rules also reveal that then-chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci, pictured, was so alarmed by an unusual feature of the coronavirus that he advised colleagues that they possibly had to tip off the FBI and MI5.
Farrar said they “probably” ruled out deliberate engineering of the virus, but that Eddie Holmes, an Australian virologist, was “60:40 lab side” while “I’m staying 50:50.”
Holmes wrote on Feb. 8 that he had worked extensively in China and knew that many people there were convinced by “suggestions that the virus escaped from the Wuhan lab … and that they believe they are being lied to.”
Since then, he has been one of the prominent voices pushing the idea that the pandemic can be traced back to a wet animal market in Wuhan.
The discussions show that Fauci was so alarmed by a dangerous feature in SARS-CoV-2 called a “furin cleavage site” — which allows more efficient access to human cells and is not found on similar strains of coronavirus — that he called the group warned that she may have to inform the FBI and MI5.
Clearly, Vallance tipped off British intelligence about their concerns
EcoHealth Alliance, a longtime partner of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, sought funding from a US defense agency in 2018 to insert a “furin cleavage site” into bat coronaviruses. There is no evidence that such work has secured Western funding.
Their emails, on February 4, 2020, followed a conference call four days earlier that Farrar conducted at Fauci’s request as the pandemic exploded across the planet. It was joined by Collins and Sir Patrick Vallance, pictured, Britain’s chief scientific adviser
The emails show that Ron Fouchier, a Dutch scientist behind controversial gain-of-function experiments (which could potentially increase the infectivity of coronaviruses), advised on Nature Medicine’s statement. It has been viewed 5.7 million times and has been called one of the most influential scientific papers in history.
Fouchier told a TV documentary that he discussed the new disease with a colleague in the first week of December 2019 — though China claims the first case emerged the following week. He later insisted he was confused about the dates.
These papers show the debate among scientists about whether or not to publish lab-related causes.
“Putting that in the public domain as a hypothesis will, I think, read as ‘see, that’s what they thought too’,” said one participant.
Wuhan’s biosafety chief has admitted concerns about China’s laboratories because maintenance costs were “neglected” and part-timers performed the work of skilled staff, making it “difficult to identify and mitigate potential safety risks.”
Yet Farrar and two colleagues from the Wellcome Trust joined the signatories of another major statement in the medical journal The Lancet, condemning “conspiracy theories suggesting Covid-19 has no natural origin.”
A spokesperson for the Wellcome Trust declined to answer questions about the latest revelations, but referred back to Farrar’s earlier statements about the origin of the virus, which emphasized the importance of remaining “open-minded”.
“It is important that we understand how all pathogens arise so that we can prevent future pandemics. In my view, the scientific evidence continues to point to animal-to-human SARS-CoV-2 transmission as the most likely scenario,” he said.