In a report of its two-year investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prestigious medical journal The Lancet concluded it’s possible the virus originated in an American lab.
The investigators, led by Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, argued that while independent teams have not probed American labs, it’s “plausible” the virus originated in the United States, the Telegraph of London reported.
But the Wuhan Institute of Virology is also a possible place of origin, and Sachs told the Telegraph the “question of a possible laboratory release mostly involves the question of US-China joint work that was underway on Sars-like viruses.”
The report noted the U.S. National Institutes of Health – which funded gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses – had “resisted disclosing details” to the investigators.
The report is titled “The Lancet Commission on lessons for the future from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Early in the pandemic, in February 2020, The Lancet infamously published a letter from 27 experts decrying “conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid does not have a natural origin.” Last summer, as WND reported, Sachs disbanded a Lancet task force investigating the origin of the pandemic that had been led by Peter Daszak, the author of the letter, amid concerns it was biased towards the natural origin theory.
Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance received funding from the NIH to carry out gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses, including at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
As WND reported last September, the COVID-19 origins task force affiliated with The Lancet disbanded because of its connection to Daszak, who had chaired the panel before recusing himself from that role in June because of his clear conflict of interest. Daszak, in addition, was the sole U.S. representative on a World Health Organization panel that concluded the coronavirus pandemic had a natural origin.
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Sachs, in an interview with Vanity Fair in April, said there had been “a lack of transparency” in the investigation of the pandemic origin. He called for an “independent scientific investigation” of the possible role of the NIH, EcoHealth, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and a partner laboratory at the University of North Carolina run by Dr. Ralph Baric.
In an interview with Current Affairs in August, Sachs said it’s known that scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology had been trained by American scientists to use advanced bioengineering methodologies.
“And in particular, we have scientists in North Carolina, Texas, and so forth who do this kind of research, believe in it, argue for it, and say that they don’t want any regulations on it and so on,” he said.
Daszak’s EcoHealth Alliance, said Sachs, “was the kind of marriage maker between the American scientists and the Chinese scientists.”
“That was the vehicle for funding from the U.S. government, especially from the National Institutes of Health, and especially from Tony Fauci’s unit, the NIAID,” he continued. “There were years of grants, there were grant proposals. We don’t know exactly what was done. But we have enough reason to know that we should be asking exactly what was done.”
Sachs said it’s known “definitively that from the beginning, NIH has been running from telling us what has been done.”
“They’re not telling us the truth, that they had reason to fear from the start that this came out of a lab,” he told Current Affairs. “And that to this day, they have reason to suspect it, but they’re not talking.”
‘Outlandish conspiracy theory’
The Telegraph spoke with Dr. Peter Hotez, a member of the Lancet Commission and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, who opposed Sachs’ mention of U.S. labs in the report.
Hotez said there were “diverse views” on the investigative team, and he “pushed hard on removing” the U.S. labs in the report, calling it “a distraction.”
However, Hotez has criticized plans by House Republicans, if they regain the majority this fall, to investigate the lab-leak theory and the funding by NIH of gain-of-function research in cooperation with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
He said on Twitter it amounts to “a plan to undermine the fabric of science in America,” dismissing a possible lab leak as an “outlandish conspiracy” theory.
However, Hotez was the recipient of an NIH grant for the development of a SARS vaccine that would respond to any “accidental release from a laboratory” or a possible spillover from animals to humans.
Looking under the rug
Sachs raised eyebrows in June when he told a conference in Madrid he was “pretty convinced” that SARS-CoV-2 was derived from “U.S. lab biotechnology.”
While acknowledging “we don’t know for sure,” Sachs said “there’s enough evidence it should be looked into and it’s not being investigated – not in the U.S., not anywhere.”
“I think for real reasons, [U.S. officials] don’t want to look under the rug too much,” Sachs said.
The Chinese government last year claimed COVID originated from an American military base in Maryland.
The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, reportedly told a European politician a lab accident at the Wuhan lab is the most likely explanation.
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