By Dylan Housman
An article published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has ignited a new debate over the origin of COVID-19.
Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs and Dr. Neil Harrison, a professor of molecular pharmacology and therapeutics at Columbia University, laid out one of the most comprehensive overviews of the evidence yet that COVID-19 could potentially have emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China. However, unlike most previous analyses, Harrison and Sachs point out that there are troves of untapped evidence potentially available right here in the United States that have not yet been investigated.
A new essay in a top scientific journal presents evidence why the Covid virus might have been created at a Wuhan lab, where much of the work “was part of an active and highly collaborative US-China scientific research program funded by the US Government.” https://t.co/gWlf76CbhT
— Brahma Chellaney (@Chellaney) May 20, 2022
Attempts to investigate what was going on at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in the leadup to the COVID-19 pandemic have thus far been stifled by a lack of cooperation from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). However, the two authors allege that more than a half dozen institutions in the United States have evidence that could prove useful in finding where COVID-19 came from, if only they would make it public.
Most of these institutions are government agencies — the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The authors also name the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and University of California-Davis (UCD) as well as EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), the non-profit which worked directly with the WIV on bat-based coronavirus research.
Neither UCD nor UNC, including Baric specifically, responded to requests for comment for this story. (RELATED: Trump’s CDC Director Was Reportedly Sidelined By Fauci After Urging Him To Investigate Lab Leak)
The article has breathed new life into the search for COVID-19 origins, with many in the scientific community applauding Sachs and Harrison for speaking out. “The authors also show how information has been withheld at every turn, even by US taxpayer-funded agencies, and that the “experts” are no longer entitled to the benefit of the doubt. There must be vastly more transparency for trust in science to start to be restored,” Dr. Louis Nemzer, an associate professor researching biophysics at Nova Southeastern University, told the Daily Caller.
The government agencies named were involved in some fashion with funding or overseeing research at the WIV or done by EHA. UNC employs Dr. Ralph Baric, a scientist who developed a groundbreaking method of inserting new genetic code into pathogens without leaving any evidence, and used it to make coronaviruses more dangerous as part of research projects. UCD maintained a substantial database of SARS-like CoV genetic sequences as part of the government-funded PREDICT project, and EHA was the primary intermediary between U.S. government agencies — and their grant money — and Wuhan researchers.
None of these institutions have fully publicized the work they’ve done involving coronavirus research. According to Sachs and Harrison, releasing their internal communications, biological samples and other research findings could prove critical in determining if COVID-19 is in fact naturally occurring, or same from a lab in Wuhan, China.
“DARPA has never funded directly, nor indirectly as a subcontractor, any activity or researcher associated with the EcoHealth Alliance or Wuhan Institute of Virology,” the agency told the Daily Caller. The other government agencies mentioned in the PNAS article did not offer comment when contacted.
Some of the information which could be of use is, for instance, the data removed from an NIH gene database at the request of Chinese researchers in early 2020, or a full accounting of Baric’s research involving enhancing pathogens to make them more dangerous, or details on the fieldwork conducted by EHA with their Chinese colleagues.
Sachs and Harrison call for a full release of this information, and, if necessary, a Congressional inquiry. (RELATED: Chemical Weapons Expert: UK Government Officials Secretly Believe Lab-Leak Caused COVID Pandemic)
“The PNAS article, wonderful as it is, is just an article. What will prompt an investigation of the origins of Covid-19 is when members of Congress from both political parties come together and make it happen. It is regrettable and embarrassing that House and Senate Democrats have been largely unwilling to do so thus far,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director and co-founder of nonprofit public health watchdog U.S. Right To Know. “We need our members of Congress to unearth NIH top to bottom, figure out what went wrong and restore public trust.”
Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told the Daily Caller that if Republicans win control of Congress in November, investigations may be in order: “Throughout the pandemic, I’ve repeatedly called for Congress to fully investigate the origins of COVID-19. When Republicans retake the majority in November and I’m chairman of a committee, I will have subpoena power and the ability to thoroughly investigate the origins of this virus that has plagued our nation for far too long.”
This step is particularly notable for Sachs. He was once the chair of The Lancet’s COVID-19 commission, which was formed by the elite scientific journal to investigate the origins of COVID-19. However, in 2021, Sachs dissolved the commission, saying that too many of its members had conflicts of interest with EHA to proceed.
The Lancet itself had a conflict of interest with EcoHealth. Early on in the pandemic, it published a letter spearheaded by Peter Daszak, the head of EcoHealth, calling the lab-leak theory a conspiracy theory harmful to Chinese researchers.
“The fact that Jeffrey Sachs wrote the article shows that people are tired of making apologies for Peter Daszak’s egregious conflicts of interest,” Nemzer said.
Now, Sachs is singing a different tune. In the PNAS article, he and Harrison point out a number of coincidences that seem too strange to explain away under the natural origin theory. SARS-CoV-2 has a sequence of eight amino acids on its spike protein that are exactly identical to an amino acid sequence vital for human lung function. The closest bats in the wild that carry similar coronaviruses are at least 1,000 miles away from Wuhan, where the first outbreak of the pandemic occurred. In 2014, Baric, EHA and WIV received a grant from NIAID to enhance the infectiousness of bat-based coronaviruses.
“Blanket denials from the NIH are no longer good enough. Although the NIH and USAID have strenuously resisted full disclosure of the details of the EHA-WIV-UNC work program, several documents leaked to the public or released through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) have raised concerns,” Sachs and Harrison write.
There are 2 components to the Harrison & Sachs letter.
1. There are parties in the US that have repeatedly resisted sharing information relevant to #OriginOfCovid and they should be compelled to cooperate in a formal, ideally bipartisan, US-based investigation.
— Alina Chan (@Ayjchan) May 19, 2022
“These research proposals make clear that the EHA-WIV-UNC collaboration was involved in the collection of a large number of so-far undocumented SARS-like viruses and was engaged in their manipulation within biological safety level (BSL)-2 and BSL-3 laboratory facilities, raising concerns that an airborne virus might have infected a laboratory worker.”
There was already one U.S.-led investigation into COVID-19’s origins. In 2021, President Joe Biden ordered an intelligence community investigation which ultimately turned up nothing conclusive. But the methods used and materials reviewed in that investigation, the PNAS article points out, have not been made public.
The momentum for a second look, this time from independent observers, is growing. “EcoHealth Alliance, USAID, DTRA, and the NIH have made it clear that they will not voluntarily release unredacted information to, and will not voluntarily cooperate with, members of Congressional oversight committees. The Perspective by Sachs and Harrison will not change their position.,” Rutgers University microbiologist Dr. Richard Ebright told the Daily Caller.
“The target audiences for the Perspective by Sachs and Harrison are not EcoHealth Alliance, USAID, DTRA, and the NIH. The target audiences are the National Academy of Sciences, the White House, and the majority party in Congress, which, to date, have resisted calls for an investigation with subpoena power and compelled testimony.”