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Why did US Scientists downplay lab origin theory and push natural evolution theory?

Scientists in the US developed a narrative about the natural origins of the novel coronavirus SARS-Cov-2. Internal discussions and an early draft of a scientists’ letter from the emails obtained by the US Right to Know show scientific experts from the US discussing gaps in knowledge and unanswered questions about lab origin, even as some experts sought to downplay theories about the possibility that the virus came from a lab.

The emails obtained through public records request by US Right to Know are in the possession of GoaChronicle.com with their permission to use the data obtained from the emails in our investigations into the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic. The emails are of coronavirus expert and professor of the University of North Carolina, Ralph Baric, and show conversations between the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), experts of bio-security and infectious disease from US universities, and the EcoHealth Alliance.

On February 3, 2020, the White House Office of Science and Technology asked the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) to convene a meeting of experts to assess what data, information, and samples are needed to address the unknowns, to understand the evolutionary origins of the 2019-nCoV, and more effectively respond to both the outbreak and any resulting misinformation.

According to the data in the emails, Professor Ralph Baric and other infectious disease experts were involved in drafting the response. It also shows the experts’ internal discussion and an early draft on February 4, 2020.

NASEM_February-4-draft_Baric

The draft of February 4, 2020, described the initial views of the experts that opined that ‘the available genomic data are consistent with natural evolution and that there is currently no evidence that this virus was engineered to spread more quickly among humans’. This draft sentence posed a question, in parenthesis. “Ask experts to add specifics re binding sites?” It also included a footnote in parentheses: “[possibly add a brief explanation that this does not preclude an unintentional release from a laboratory studying the evolution of related coronaviruses].”

Prof. Ralph Baric in his response stated, “I do think we need to say that the closest relative to this virus (96%) was identified from bats circulating in a cave in Yunnan, China. This makes a strong statement for animal origin.”

NASEM_Baric-Email_Baric

In an email on February 4, 2020, infectious disease expert Trevor Bedford of Bedford Lab opined, “I wouldn’t mention binding sites here. If you start weighing evidence there’s a lot to consider for both scenarios.”

Intriguingly, binding sites are mooted to be excluded when binding sites are important to the debate of the origins of SARS-CoV-2. Distinctive binding sites on SARS-CoV-2’s spike protein confer “near-optimal” binding and entry of the virus into human cells and make SARS-CoV-2 more contagious than SARS-CoV.

In a scientific study titled ‘Enhanced receptor binding of SARS-CoV-2 through networks of hydrogen-bonding and hydrophobic interactions’ by Yingjie Wang, Meiyi Liu, and Jiali Gao, it was stated, “Enhanced receptor binding by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is believed to contribute to the highly contagious transmission rate of coronavirus disease 2019. “

BindingSites

‘Despite claims from prominent scientists that SARS-CoV-2 indubitably emerged naturally, the etiology of this novel coronavirus remains a pressing and open question: Without knowing the true nature of a disease, it is impossible for clinicians to appropriately shape their care, for policy-makers to correctly gauge the nature and extent of the threat, and for the public to appropriately modify their behavior. Unless the intermediate host necessary for completing a natural zoonotic jump is identified, the dual-use gain-of-function research practice of viral serial passage should be considered a viable route by which the novel coronavirus arose. The practice of serial passage mimics a natural zoonotic jump and offers explanations for SARS-CoV-2’s distinctive spike-protein region and its unexpectedly high affinity for angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2), as well as the notable polybasic furin cleavage site within it. Additional molecular clues raise further questions, all of which warrant a full investigation into the novel coronavirus’s origins and a re-examination of the risks and rewards of dual-use gain-of-function research, expressed scientists Karl Sirotkin and Dan Sirotkin in their research paper ‘Might SARS-CoV-2 Have Arisen via Serial Passage through an Animal Host or Cell Culture?

Might SARS‐CoV‐2 Have Arisen via Serial Passage through an Animal Host or Cell Culture?

The research paper further states: “The history of gain-of-function research is one of science’s most significant and troubling, especially since the Nuremberg Code, research scientists’ Hippocratic Oath, dictates that experiments that could endanger human life should only occur if the potential humanitarian benefits significantly outweigh the risks. It seems ill-advised to rule out the possibility that gain-of-function techniques such as serial passage may have played a role in the creation of SARS-CoV-2 until more definitive data are collected, and when the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation has calculated that the odds that any given potential pandemic pathogen might leak from a lab could be better than one in four. And whether or not gain-of-function research is determined to have played a role in SARS-CoV-2’s emergence, the fact that it creates opportunities for pandemic viruses to leak out of labs calls for a re-examination of the moratorium against this practice, because the emergence of this novel coronavirus has demonstrated that the international public health community is not prepared to handle the leak of a pandemic virus. Furthermore, none of the gain-of-function research conducted since 2014 has provided humanity with any tools at all to fight back against the ongoing pandemic caused by this novel coronavirus.”

The final letter which was published on February 6, 2020, did not mention binding sites or the possibility of a laboratory origin.

https://www.nationalacademies.org/news/2020/02/national-academies-provide-rapid-response-to-white-house-on-coronavirus-data-needs#

The letter states, “The experts informed us that additional genomic sequence data from geographically – and temporally – diverse viral samples are needed to determine the origin and evolution of the virus. Samples collected as early as possible in the outbreak in Wuhan and samples from wildlife would be particularly valuable.”

The final letter from the NASEM presidents does not take a position on the virus origin. It stated, that, research studies to better understand the origin of 2019-nCoV and how it relates to viruses found in bats and other species are already underway. The closest known relative of 2019-nCoV appears to be a coronavirus identified from bat-derived samples collected in China.

NASEM Response to OSTP re Coronavirus_February 6, 2020

Interestingly the Letter from the NASEM presidents referenced two studies that were conducted by EcoHealth Alliance and Wuhan Institute of Virology. Both mooting a natural origin for SARS-CoV-2.

The NASEM presidents’ letter became the authoritative source for an influential scientists’ statement published in The Lancet that conveyed far more assertively about the origins of SARS-CoV-2. EcoHealth Alliance, President, Peter Daszak drafted that statement, which asserted that “scientists from multiple countries overwhelmingly conclude that coronavirus originated in wildlife. This position, the statement notes, is further supported by a letter from the presidents of the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Peter Daszak and allies of EcoHealth Alliance were appointed to The Lancet COVID-19 Commission. Daszak was appointed to the World Health Organisation investigations of SARS-CoV-2’s origins. This is a clear conflict of interest and Daszak’s views have already pre-judged the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The question that remains unanswered is why US scientists downplayed the lab-theory origin and push the natural evolution theory.

 

Savio Rodrigues

Savio Rodrigues Founder & Editor-in-Chief GoaChronicle.com
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