In the March 7th, 2020 issue of The Lancet, a group of scientists from around the world wrote a letter condemning “conspiracy theories” regarding the origins of COVID-19. In the letter entitled “Statement in support of scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19,” the scientists are quick to push the narrative of a natural zoonotic (a natural viral mutation) event that led to the initial outbreak of SARS-CoV-2. The letter was initially published online on February 18th, 2020, nearly two weeks before the first known US case of COVID-19. For a virus that we didn’t know enough about to form a public health/policy response, we certainly knew a lot about its origin (/sarc).
The article reads as follows:
Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19
We are public health scientists who have closely followed the emergence of 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and are deeply concerned about its impact on global health and wellbeing. We have watched as the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China, in particular, have worked diligently and effectively to rapidly identify the pathogen behind this outbreak, put in place significant measures to reduce its impact, and share their results transparently with the global health community. This effort has been remarkable.
We sign this statement in solidarity with all scientists and health professionals in China who continue to save lives and protect global health during the challenge of the COVID-19 outbreak. We are all in this together, with our Chinese counterparts in the forefront, against this new viral threat.
The rapid, open, and transparent sharing of data on this outbreak is now being threatened by rumours and misinformation around its origins. We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin. Scientists from multiple countries have published and analysed genomes of the causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and they overwhelmingly conclude that this coronavirus originated in wildlife, as have so many other emerging pathogens. This is further supported by a letter from the presidents of the US National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine and by the scientific communities they represent. Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumours, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus. We support the call from the Director-General of WHO to promote scientific evidence and unity over misinformation and conjecture.We want you, the science and health professionals of China, to know that we stand with you in your fight against this virus.
We invite others to join us in supporting the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of Wuhan and across China. Stand with our colleagues on
While it’s understandable that scientists would want to protect their colleagues from the unnecessary spotlight associated with the accidental potential release of SARS-CoV-2, the better question should be why a group of scientists, just over a month into a pandemic, would gamble their credibility on what, at the time, amounted to an unproven theory. To prove a natural zoonotic event, those scientists would have had to have a way of proving the animal the virus jumped from and where that virus may have originated. In the case of a zoonotic event, the going theory is that it came from bats at a Wuhan wet market, though sampling from that market did not identify any virus in the animals sampled.
So who are the scientists who signed this letter? Numerous experts in the field from across the world have one thing in common: All roads run through Peter Daszak. Daszak, as you may remember, is the President of EcoHealth Alliance, and the conduit by which NIH grants were funneled to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Dr. Shi Zhengli. Daszak himself teamed up with Dr. Shi on gain-of-function research studies that created mutated coronavirus versions and then tested those viral strains on animal and human cells. Daszak, who also signed the Lancet letter, has every reason in the world to want to eradicate the lab-leak theory, ultimately because his rear end may be in the sling if it is revealed to be from there.
In my research, I came across a trove of emails from the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland that show exactly how the Lancet letter came to be and that the final words of the piece, “We declare no competing interests,” were absolute hogwash.
To start, of the letter’s 27 signatories, five of them are either employees or board members of EcoHealth Alliance. Rita Cowell, Peter Daszak, Hume Field, John B. Hughes, and William Karesh, all work directly for or with EcoHealth Alliance. Hardly impartiality or a lack of a conflict or competing interest.
In an email chain commencing February 10th, 2020, Peter Daszak began soliciting signers to the above letter. The knowledge about the virus was still in its infancy, but one thing was guaranteed for Daszak and his pals at the EcoHealth Alliance: This virus did not come from the WIV.
While nebulous enough, the letter calls questioning the source of the SARS-CoV-2 “conspiracy theories” and suggests that the WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus completely supported the natural mutation theory. As we have pointed out, there has already been a conflict of interest for at least 5 of the signatories, but is there more?
Why, yes, there is. The above-mentioned email was released by Colorado State University after questions were raised regarding the relationship between the University and EcoHealth Alliance. As it turns out, in 2017 Jonathan Epstein, VP with EcoHealth Alliance, attempted to work with the university to import bats to Colorado as a means of studying bat-bourne viruses and how they may transmit to humans. The arrangement was going to be between EcoHealth Alliance, Colorado State University, and…the NIAID, the organization run by Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Every single person who acted as a signatory had a conflict that they didn’t disclose. Jeremy Farrar, Josie Golding, and Mike Turner all work for The Wellcome Trust, which works closely with EcoHealth Alliance. Dennis Carroll partners with EcoHealth Alliance at Texas A&M. Ronald Corley’s University of Maryland also released all of the emails concerning Daszak and EcoHealth Alliance, which reveals that Daszak solicited support from Corley. Corley interestingly enough was the source on a New Yorker article that slammed Trump for pulling the funding from EcoHealth Alliance.
Who isn’t on that list? The two godfathers of gain-of-function research, Dr. Ralph Baric and Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka, even though Daszak solicited their support. If it was truly such a slam dunk for a natural zoonotic event, why wouldn’t they loan their names to their Chinese colleagues?
Beyond the fact there is no scientific way that Daszak could have proved that the viral outbreak was absolutely a natural spillover, why was he rushing to immediately call any question regarding the lab a conspiracy theory? This effort started in January of 2020, long before we even knew how severe this was going to be. What did Daszak know that the rest of us didn’t? Would this letter have ever happened had it not been for Peter Daszak? Why would Daszak be circling the wagons before the start of the pandemic?
Questions that deserve answers, and hopefully soon, and hopefully before a guy by the name of Rand Paul.