The chair of a task force on the origins of COVID-19 affiliated with Lancet’s scientific journals has dissolved the committee over her ties to controversial researcher Peter Daszak and his EcoHealth Alliance.
Professor Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University told the… Wall Street Journal on Saturday that he was concerned about ties to Daszak, who led the task force until he retired from that role in June.
Daszak, who lives in New York, has devoted his career to defending so-called “gain of function” research to develop the coronavirus in a way that makes it more deadly to humans, arguing it was the best chance of a global warming. detect and prevent a pandemic.
Shocking documents released this week revealed his 2018 proposal to help the Wuhan Institute of Virology engineer make coronaviruses more deadly, by inserting genetic traits similar to those in SARS-CoV-2.
Peter Daszak can be seen in China and is participating in the WHO investigation into the origin of COVID-19. The Lancet Origins Panel has been disbanded due to its ties to Daszak
New documents show Daszak’s ‘Project DEFUSE’ funding request to DARPA, seeking $14.2 million to fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses with Wuhan lab
There is still no conclusive evidence whether COVID-19, a coronavirus related to bats, first jumped on humans from a wild animal or in a lab setting.
But from the early days of the pandemic, Daszak has gone to great lengths to portray the laboratory origin hypothesis as a “conspiracy theory,” including the mastermind behind a letter in the Lancet establishing a veneer of scientific consensus that natural origins was the only option.
If the virus emerged from a lab conducting the experiments it championed, it would be a crushing blow to Daszak’s research. Natural origin, on the other hand, would justify his life’s work to prevent the next pandemic.
Several members of the defunct Lancet task force have worked with Daszak or the EcoHealth Alliance on projects in the past.
“I just didn’t want a task force so obviously involved in one of the key issues of this whole quest for origins, which is the EcoHealth Alliance,” Dr. Sachs to the Journal.
Sachs said a new Lancet Covid-19 commission would continue to study the origins of a report due to be published in mid-2022, but broaden its scope to include input from other experts on biosafety issues, including high-risk lab research.
It comes just days after the release of bombshell documents showing Daszak’s 2018 funding request to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is asking $14.2 million for gain-of-function research into bat coronaviruses in the Wuhan lab.
Peter Daszak, right, and other members of the World Health Organization team investigating the origins of COVID-19 arrive at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in February
An employee can be seen in the P4 laboratory in Wuhan in a file photo. Shocking grant proposal reveals Daszak’s plans to help Wuhan lab engineer make coronaviruses more deadly
The proposal, titled Project DEFUSE, was leaked to independent researchers with the DRASTIC research team.
In it, Daszak is applying for funding for a comprehensive project to genetically improve coronaviruses and inoculate bats in Yunnan, China, in hopes of preventing new viruses from jumping from bats onto humans.
The funding request was turned down by DARPA, but the proposal reveals a shocking line of inquiry that could potentially have been conducted independently by Chinese members of Daszak’s team, including the infamous “bat woman” Shi Zhengli.
A thorough investigation by The Atlantic Ocean could not question the authenticity of the documents. “This is the proposal that was not funded,” a spokesperson for the US Geological Survey, which oversaw part of the proposal, told the magazine.
The most disturbing aspect of the research plan revealed in the documents is a plan to search viral genetic databases for new types of “furin cleavage sites” that help a virus attack a host.
Under the proposal, once identified, “high-risk” versions of these sites would then be grafted onto SARS-like bat coronaviruses via genetic engineering.
This revelation is alarming because SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has just such a furin cleavage site, increasing its potency and lethality, but a similar feature has never been seen in other SARS-like coronaviruses in the United States. nature .
Proponents of the laboratory leak theory have long pointed to this fact as evidence of laboratory origin and even genetic engineering.
Lab leak deniers say there may be a SARS-like coronavirus in nature with the furin site, but it just hasn’t been discovered yet.
Daszak was the principal investigator of Project DEFUSE. The team also included Wuhan researchers, including the infamous “bat woman” Shi Zhengli
Daszak believed his work would prevent a global coronavirus pandemic, but the leaked proposal (above) reveals an alarming line of proposed research
Daszak’s 2018 proposal calls for testing different strains of the engineered viruses on “humanized mice” to see which are the deadliest to humans. It is known that the Wuhan lab uses just such mice, with humanized lungs, to conduct research.
After the deadliest viral strains were identified, Daszak suggested trying to inoculate bats against them in Yunnan province, about 1,240 miles southwest of Wuhan.
Daszak believed his work would prevent a global coronavirus pandemic like the current one by reducing the natural spread of dangerous SARS-like coronaviruses from bats to humans.
“Our aim is to eliminate the potential for spillover of novel, bat-borne SARS-related coronaviruses with a high zoonotic risk in Asia,” his proposal states.
Daszak was the lead researcher for the proposal, which also featured Wuhan’s Shi Zhengli and Ralph Baric of UNC Chapel Hill, an American virologist known for researching coronavirus function gains in his lab.
In reject the proposal for Project DEFUSE, DARPA administrators noted that the plan “does not list or assess potential risks of Gain of Function (GoF) research.”
“The proposal barely addresses or discusses ethical, legal and social issues,” DARPA noted.
Although US funding was not awarded, the proposal reveals for the first time that the top gain-of-function researchers around the world, including in Wuhan, were looking at furin cleavage sites, and raises questions about whether China has similar research. funded.
China has repeatedly insisted that the virus entered humans naturally from bats, denying that a Wuhan Institute of Virology leak is a possibility.
The global death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic now stands at 4.55 million. In the US, the virus has killed 688,000 people since March last year.
Daszak did not immediately respond to a request for comment from DailyMail.com on Saturday.