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The Genesis of COVID-19 pandemic: Biosafety problem at Wuhan Institute sometime before November 2019?

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“A November 12, 2019 report suggested a biosafety problem had occurred at the WIV sometime before November 2019.”

In the US State Senate, Interim Report of October 2022 titled, ‘An Analysis of the Origins of the COVID-19 Pandemic’ focus is drawn to the November 12, 2019 biosafety problem at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) sometime before November 2019.

On November 19, 2019, the WIV hosted a special training session by the senior Chinese Academy of Sciences biosafety/biosecurity official who relayed “important oral and written instructions” from PRC leadership to the WIV regarding the “complex and grave situation facing [bio]security work.”

This one-day training session for senior leadership was followed on November 20-21, 2019 with two days of safety training for personnel from the WIV and other Wuhan area high-containment laboratories.

Ji Changzheng, the safety and security director from the Chinese Academy of Sciences visited WIV. Changzheng reportedly said he had “important oral remarks and written instructions” from Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to address a “complex and grave situation,” and during the meeting, references were made to “hidden” safety dangers.

At the same training session, the Deputy Director of the Office of Safety and Security at the WIV “pointed to the severe consequences that could result from hidden safety dangers, and stressed that the rectification of hidden safety risks must be thorough, and management standards must be maintained.”

The WIV is an epicenter of advanced coronavirus research that was designed to predict and prevent future pandemics by collecting, characterizing, and experimenting on “high-risk” coronavirus with the potential to spill over into humans:

In the aftermath of the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic, WIV researchers undertook annual virus collection expeditions to Southern China and Southeast Asia, where bats naturally harbor SARS-related viruses, from 2004 onward.

WIV researchers actively sampled bats in Southern China and Southeast Asia where the SARS-related coronaviruses most similar to SARS-CoV-2 have been collected and identified.

The WIV had collected more than 15,000 samples from bats, from which they had identified more than 1,400 bat viruses, including an estimated 100 unpublished sequences of SARS-related coronaviruses – the genre of coronaviruses to which SARS-CoV-2 belongs. The database containing the sequences of viruses collected by the WIV, including unpublished SARS-related coronaviruses, was taken offline starting in September 2019.

Following field collection, samples were transported to Wuhan, where they were screened for the presence of coronaviruses. WIV researchers performed animal and human cell-related research using recombinant genetic techniques with the express goal of discovering human-adapted SARS-like chimeric viruses. The WIV conducted these experiments in BSL2 and BSL3 laboratories.

Senior coronavirus researcher Shi Zhengli disclosed that in 2018-2020, her team infected civets and humanized mice that expressed human ACE2 receptors with chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses. The results of these experiments have never been published.

The EcoHealth Alliance NIH grants and DARPA grant proposals, in partnership with the WIV, sought to collect and conduct genetic recombination experiments on SARS-related coronaviruses with specific traits that made those viruses a “high-risk” for zoonotic spillover into animals and humans. SARS-CoV-2 shares many of the traits these researchers were interested in finding in SARS-related coronaviruses or interested in engineering such traits if they were not found naturally.

On September 12, 2019, between the hours of 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. local time, the WIV took down its online depository of data on viral sequences called the Wildlife-Borne Viral Pathogen Database. The database was intermittently accessible from December 2019 to February 2020, before being permanently taken offline in February 2020. This database was previously accessible to the public, with the exception of a password-protected section, which held unpublished sequence data accessible only to WIV personnel.

On November 12, 2019, the WIV’s BSL4 laboratory team issued a report on the achievements of the BSL4 laboratory since it began operations in 2018. With respect to the “stranglehold problem”, the report states that the WIV had overcome “the three no’s” of “no equipment and technology standards, no design and construction teams, and no experience operating or maintaining” a high-containment laboratory. The report continues to say that WIV personnel “brought into reality the ‘three haves’ of a complete system of standards, a superior team that operates and maintains [the lab], and valuable experience with construction.” This was achieved by “reinventing” imported equipment to make “the lab construction satisfy domestic and international standards” and making the French design of the BSL4 laboratory “conform to the requirements of Chinese construction.”

The report also described a high-pressure work environment. “In the laboratory, they often need to work for four consecutive hours, even extending to six hours,” the report revealed. “During this time, they cannot eat, drink, or relieve themselves. This is an extreme test of a person’s will and physical endurance. This not only demands that research personnel possess proficient operational skills, but they must also possess the ability to respond to various unexpected situations.”

US Senate Report WIV

The November 12, 2019 report suggested a biosafety problem had occurred at the WIV sometime before November 2019:

Owing to [the fact] that the subject of research at the P4 lab is highly pathogenic microorganisms, inside the laboratory, once you have opened the stored test tubes, it is just as if having opened Pandora’s Box. These viruses come without a shadow and leave without a trace. Although [we have] various preventive and protective measures, it is nevertheless necessary for lab personnel to operate very cautiously to avoid operational errors that give rise to dangers. Every time this has happened, the members of the Zhengdian Lab [BSL4] Party Branch have always run to the frontline, and they have taken real action to mobilize and motivate other research personnel. (emphasis added).

In May 2019, the Director of the WIV BSL4 laboratory warned that in high-containment laboratories in China, maintenance costs were neglected and part-time researchers made it “difficult to identify and mitigate potential safety hazards in facility and equipment operation early enough.”

Wuhan Institute of Virology coronavirus research scientist Shi Zhengli was denied permission to use the BSL4 lab for SARS experiments, according to a U.S. State Department cable obtained by U.S. Right to Know.

WIV Report

 

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