The World Health Organisation (WHO) plans to appoint 26 scientists to the new Scientific Advisory Group for the Origins of Novel Pathogens (SAGO) to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as future outbreaks.
WHO has chosen 26 scientists from 700 applicants.
WHO’s terms of reference to strengthen public trust and transparency require that SAGO individuals “must be free of any real, potential, or apparent conflicts of interest. However several proposed panel members have clear conflicts of interest.
The US Right to Know have written to WHO submitting comments on the conflict of interest of several of the proposed SAGO members:
“According to the WHO terms of reference, SAGO members “must be free of any real, potential, or apparent conflicts of interest,” and “must respect the impartiality…required of WHO.”1 The following proposed SAGO members do not meet these standards for SAGO membership:
(1) Dr. Supaporn Wacharapluesadee is a subcontractor on a 2020 multi-million-dollar NIH grant to EcoHealth Alliance. Her lab at Chulalongkorn University is slated to receive a $1.07 million subcontract. According to the EcoHealth Alliance, Dr. Wacharapluesadee is a longstanding collaborator for “more than 10 years.” Between 2014 and 2019, she was funded by a UC Davis USAID PREDICT 2 grant, in which the EcoHealth Alliance was deeply involved. Since 2013, Dr. Wacharapluesadee has been a co-author on multiple publications with the EcoHealth Alliance, including four with its president, Dr. Daszak.
The EcoHealth Alliance has conducted research on SARS related-CoVs with the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Anyone with personal, financial or academic ties to the EcoHealth Alliance (including grant funding, co-authorship or other research collaboration) or the Wuhan Institute of Virology, cannot be a SAGO member, because such ties could impair their judgment in an investigation of zoonotic and/or lab origins of SARS-CoV-2. Any such ties constitute an impermissible conflict of interest.
Dr. Wacharapluesadee’s association and subcontractor role with the EcoHealth Alliance plainly constitutes a conflict of interest and is disqualifying under the WHO terms of reference.
(2) Dr. Christian Drosten. Dr. Drosten signed a letter in the Lancet, orchestrated by Dr. Daszak, arguing that the SARS-CoV-2 lab origin hypothesis is a conspiracy theory. Such prejudgement is disqualifying; it is incompatible with the standard of “impartiality” in the WHO SAGO terms of reference.
Moreover, Dr. Drosten served on a bat conference advisory committee with the Ecohealth Alliance and Dr. Zhengli Shi of the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Dr. Drosten’s funding and continued research collaborations rest on the zoonotic potential of bat coronaviruses. For these reasons, Dr. Drosten has a personal stake in SAGO’s outcome, because it is to his personal and professional advantage to declare a zoonotic origin for SARS-CoV-2. This, too, disqualifies him from being a SAGO member.
(3) Dr. Katherin Summermatter. Dr. Summermatter has claimed that a lab leak origin of SARS-CoV-2 is a “typical conspiracy theory.”16 Such prejudgment is disqualifying.
(4) Dr. Marion Koopmans. At a scientific conference, Dr. Koopmans claimed that a lab origin hypothesis of SARS-CoV-2 has been debunked, along with “meteorites” and “snake origins” of SARS-CoV-2. She has asserted that “we found not a grain of evidence for a lab escape theory” of SARS-CoV-2. Such prejudgment is inconsistent with the impartiality required of SAGO members, and is disqualifying. Erasmus University’s Viroscience department, led by Dr. Koopmans, puts the EcoHealth Alliance as first on its list of collaborators. The disclosure also states that the viroscience department is “closely involved” in the EcoHealth Alliance. This conflict of interest, too, is disqualifying. Dr. Koopman’s membership in the conflicted, discredited and failed Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2 is also disqualifying.
The first WHO-convened Global Study of Origins of SARS-CoV-2 failed for several reasons. It was tarnished by conflicts of interest. It failed to seriously investigate the possibility of a lab origin, while advancing the dubious cold chain, frozen food hypothesis. It seemed to act as a public relations instrument of the EcoHealth Alliance and the Chinese government. Participation in this botched WHO panel must be disqualifying for SAGO membership, including for these proposed SAGO members:
(5) Dr. Vladimir Dedkov
(6) Dr. Elmoubasher Farag
(7) Dr. Thea Fischer
(8) Dr. Hung Nguyen-Viet
(9) Dr. John Watson
(10) Dr. Yungui Yang
Of the disciplines listed in the SAGO terms of reference, only Drs. Blackwell and Summermater come from the disciplines of “biosafety, biosecurity, occupational health and safety, or laboratory safety and security, ethics and social sciences.” This is unbalanced. The proposed SAGO members do not include enough experts from these fields in the terms of reference. Scientists from diverse fields of study, not merely infectious disease, should be included in SAGO for many reasons, including to offset any conflicts of interest from zoonotic origins infectious disease researchers. We urge WHO to add at least three additional members from these disciplines to SAGO.”
It is interesting to note that out of the 700 applicants, 26 proposed scientists have clear conflict of interests, leading to the question whether WHO is serious about investigating into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic from Wuhan, China that has so far claimed over 4.5 million lives.