Since the outbreak of the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic, experts have hinted at the possibility of the leakage of the deadly virus from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). A new book, which is scheduled to be released later this month, has claimed that the United States funded the research of WIV on ‘deadly viruses with pandemic potential’.
The book titled, ‘What Really Happened in Wuhan: The Cover-Ups, the Conspiracies and the Classified Research’ has been authored by award-winning Australian journalist Sharri Markson. Published by Harper Collins, the book delves into a ‘secretive project’ that the US-funded at the Wuhan laboratory in China. Daily Mail reported that the contentious lab was being used to create a database of ‘lethal viruses’
It must be mentioned that WIV is one of the few laboratories in the world that can undertake ‘gain-of-function’ research i.e. make viruses deadlier and more infectious. While such research work has been hailed for predicting pandemics, providing opportunities for researchers to work pre-emptively on medicines and vaccines, it has been criticised for its ability to unleash dangerous viruses in the world.
Gain of function research and its resumption since 2017
In 2014, a group of 200 scientists from the ‘Cambridge Working Group’ published a letter highlighting the risk associated with ‘gain-of-function research’. The group asserted, “Laboratory creation of highly transmissible, novel strains of dangerous viruses, especially but not limited to influenza, poses substantially increased risks. An accidental infection in such a setting could trigger outbreaks that would be difficult or impossible to control. Historically, new strains of influenza, once they establish transmission in the human population, have infected a quarter or more of the world’s population within two years.”
As a result, the US stopped ‘gain-of-function research’ in 22 fields in the same year. A statement by the White House on October 17, 2014, read, “During this pause, the US government will not fund any new projects involving these experiments and encourages those currently conducting this type of work — whether federally funded or not — to voluntarily pause their research while risks and benefits are being reassessed.” Anthony Fauci had hailed the move but claimed that the benefit of such experimentation outweighed the risk.
He had asserted, “It is more likely that a pandemic would occur in nature [than as a result of a laboratory accident or leak], and the need to stay ahead of such a threat is a primary reason for performing an experiment that might appear to be risky.” About 3 years later in 2017, all curbs on ‘gain-of-function research’ were lifted. In the following year, experimenting with live viruses began at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Cable by diplomat to State Department about US funding in Wuhan lab
In March 2018, career diplomat Rick Switzer along alongside US consul-general Jamie Fouss discovered that China had initiated its own version of the Global Virome Project (GVP). The objective of the project was to detect all the viruses with ‘pandemic/epidemic potential’ on planet Earth within 10 years. It was supposed to be a collaborative effort among the international community and not just limited to Chinese scientists. During their visit to WIV, the duo found that the Chinese scientists were conducting experiments with complete disregard to safety practices and no US surveillance.
The Chinese version of ‘GVP’ was being led by virologist Shi Zhengli. In April that year, Rick Switzer sent a cable to the US State Department highlighting how the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Switzer pointed out how the research work included experimentation with Coronaviruses. “NIH was a major funder, along with the National Science Foundation of China, of Sars research by the Wuhan Institute of Virology…In the last year, the institute has also hosted visits from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation and experts from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston,” the cable read.
US scientists had limited access to Wuhan lab despite training and funding
It must be mentioned that Dr. Anthony Fauci was the Head of the NIH in 2018. According to Daily Mail, the laboratory technicians at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were trained by the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston while National Science Foundation conducted workshops with 40 scientists from China and the United States. Despite the training and funding, only a limited number of US researchers were given access to the facility. The information came to light from one of Switzer’s cable wherein he mentioned how WIV clarified that there would be ‘limited availability of domestic and international scientists’.
China had earlier snubbed its French partner during WIV’s construction
In her book, Markson commented, “So a laboratory working with the most lethal pathogens known to humankind had effectively cut off collaboration with the international community.” And it was not the first time since China cut off its international partners. WIV was built in collaboration with France in the Wuhan province. Initially, there were ‘intense’ clashes between the French and the Chinese side regarding the construction of the facility. Eventually, the French were kicked out and China assumed full control of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Career diplomat stated in his cable, “It is entirely China-funded and has been completely China-run since a “handover” ceremony in 2016″.