EcoHealth Alliance

Lancet’s Panel Investigating Covid Origins Disbanded Because of Ties to Peter Daszak

The Chairman of a Lancet-affiliated panel of scientists looking into the origins of Covid says he has disbanded the commission because of its ties to Peter Daszak, the President of EcoHealth Alliance who proposed in 2018 to use U.S. money to fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. MailOnline has the story.

Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday that he was concerned with the links to Daszak, who led the task force until recusing himself from that role in June.

Daszak, who lives in New York, devoted his career to championing so-called ‘gain of function’ research to engineer coronavirus to be more deadly to humans, arguing that it was the best chance to detect and prevent a global pandemic.

Shocking documents released this week revealed his 2018 proposal to help the Wuhan Institute of Virology engineer bat coronaviruses to be more deadly, by inserting genetic features that are similar to those found in SARS-CoV-2.

There is still no conclusive proof as to whether Covid, a coronavirus linked to bats, first jumped to humans from a wild animal or in a lab setting.

But from the early days of the pandemic, Daszak has made every effort to paint the lab origin hypothesis as a “conspiracy theory”, including masterminding a letter in the Lancet that established a veneer of scientific consensus that natural origin was the only possibility. …

Several members of the disbanded Lancet task force have collaborated with Daszak or EcoHealth Alliance on projects in the past.

“I just didn’t want a task force that was so clearly involved with one of the main issues of this whole search for the origins, which was EcoHealth Alliance,” Dr. Sachs told the journal.

Sachs said a new Lancet Covid Commission would continue studying the origins for a report to be published in mid-2022, but broaden its scope to include input from other experts on biosafety concerns, including risky laboratory research.

It comes just days after the release of bombshell documents showing Daszak’s 2018 funding request to the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) seeking $14.2 million to fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab.

The proposal, titled Project DEFUSE, was leaked to independent researchers with the DRASTIC research team.

In it Daszak requests funding for an elaborate project to genetically enhance coronaviruses and inoculate bats in Yunnan, China in the hopes of stopping new viruses jumping from bats to humans.

The funding request was denied by DARPA, but the proposal reveals a shocking line of research that could have conceivably been carried out independently by Chinese members of Daszak’s team, who included the infamous ‘bat woman’ Shi Zhengli.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: In a further blow to its reputation, the latest issue of the Lancet has a bizarre cover describing women as “bodies with vaginas”. Apparently, editor Richard Horton thought this would endear him to female scientists. MailOnline has more.

The Lancet was accused of sexism and dehumanising women after it editors used the term, which was written in an article titled ‘Periods on Display’, on the journal’s front cover in an attempt to be inclusive to trans people.

The article, which was published on September 1st, examines an exhibition exploring the taboos and history of periods at the Vagina Museum in London and sees the writer use the word “women” but also use the term “bodies with vaginas”.

The quote, which was then used on the journal’s front page, read: “Historically, the anatomy and physiology of bodies with vaginas have been neglected.”

However the move to display the quote on the journal’s front cover has been met with criticism, with some academics calling it “insulting and abusive” and a “misguided pursuit of woke points”.

Meanwhile others said they had cancelled their subscriptions with the peer-reviewed medical journal – which was founded in 1823.

It comes just months after critics lambasted Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust after it told staff to use terms like “birthing parents” and “human milk” rather than referring to “mothers” and “breast milk”.

Worth reading in full.

We Should Welcome the Lab Leak Theory, Argues Biologist

At the start of the pandemic, many of us were puzzled as to why the lab leak hypothesis was considered “racist” but the wet market hypothesis was not. Both theories said the pandemic began in China, and both implied that some Chinese people had acted carelessly. (In reality, of course, neither theory is “racist”.)

The most likely reason why the lab leak theory came to be seen as “racist” is that this was convenient for several key organisations, who wanted to avoid any suggestion that they might have helped to cause the pandemic. These organisations include the Chinese Communist Party, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, the National Institutes of Health, and EcoHealth Alliance. 

The fact that President Trump endorsed the lab leak theory also played a role, of course. Left-wing media outlets in the US have a habit of assuming that, if Trump says something, then it must – almost by definition – be racist.

In a recent article for UnHerd, the biologist Bret Weinstein argues that we should actually welcome the lab leak theory. This is because, if it turns out to be true, we know how to prevent future pandemics of this kind. Simple: ban the research until we can figure out how to do it safely. (Or at the very least: ramp up lab security.)

However, if the zoonotic spillover theory is correct, then “it’s only a matter of time before something like this happens again. And again. And again.” As Weinstein notes, “The straightforward lesson of the pandemic would be to simply face up to the clear risk of studying dangerous, novel infectious agents in the lab.”

He goes on to argue that, if the virus did escape from a lab, then one of the pandemic’s ultimate causes is the distorted incentives that led scientists to undertake such dangerous research in the first place. According to Weinstein:

… the scientific method has been hijacked by a competition over who can tell the most beguiling stories. Scientists have become salesmen, pitching serious problems that they and their research just so happen to be perfectly positioned to solve. The fittest in this game are not the most accurate, but the most stirring. And what could be more stirring than a story in which bat caves are ticking pandemic time-bombs from which only the boldest and brightest gene experts can save us?

Weinstein’s article contains a lot of interesting details, and is worth reading in full.