A government laboratory in California concluded in May 2020 that COVID-19 may have escaped from a facility in Wuhan, it has emerged, and recommended further investigation.
Scientists at the the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, near Berkeley, analyzed the genetic makeup of the virus to try to understand how it evolved.
They passed their May 27, 2020 findings on to the State Department in October. The five-month delay was not explained.
On January 15 the State Department published a fact sheet about COVID-19, which said that ‘circumstantial’ evidence suggested a lab leak theory was possible.
The secret document the California lab produced was not known about until Monday, when The Wall Street Journal reported on its existence.
Revelation of its existence comes as the idea of a lab leak as a source of the pandemic gains acceptance even as through most of the pandemic many mainstream scientists and media figures parroted the line from China that the virus was naturally occurring.
Now, President Joe Biden on May 26 ordered intelligence agencies to investigate the two competing ideas about the origins of the pandemic – evolved naturally and passed from animals to humans, or released from a laboratory. He gave them 90 days to report back.
Inside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where scientists a year ago were investigating whether COVID-19 escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China
The high-tech facility was founded in the 1950s and is one of the most advanced in the world, specializing in nuclear and biochemical threats
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in northern California produced a report on May 27, 2020, in which they found the idea that COVID-19 was man-made plausible, and merited further exploration. At the time, scientists were largely united in their argument that the virus started naturally, evolving from animals to humans
The giant California facility has an annual budget of $2.5 billion and employs 7,900 people. It is largely funded by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration
The Lawrence Livermore lab has not confirmed the details of the May 2020 report, which was reported by The Wall Street Journal
‘Rare’ genome sequence suggests the virus WAS man-made
Two U.S. experts have penned a damning essay saying that science strongly suggests the novel coronavirus was manufactured inside a Chinese laboratory.
The claim was made by Drs Stephen Quay, CEO of biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics Inc, and Richard Muller, a physics professor at the University of California Berkeley, in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.
In the op-ed, the men say their proof lies in genome sequencing, or analyzing the DNA, of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
There are 36 DNA segments – made up of three-letter ‘words’ – that viruses use to make an amino acid known as L-arginine.
L-arginine helps make proteins but is also often used in so-called ‘gain of function’ research, which alters viruses to make them more transmissible and more deadly.
The new virus contains a segment called CGG-CGG, which is considered rare even in experiments in which researchers are trying to manipulate virus.
But even more telling is that this combination has never been found naturally in any other type of coronavirus, including in SARS and MERS, both of which are cousins of the new virus.
‘A virus simply cannot pick up a sequence from another virus if that sequence isn’t present in any other virus,’ Quay and Muller wrote.
‘The CGG-CGG combination has never been found naturally. That means the common method of viruses picking up new skills, called recombination, cannot operate here.’
People familiar with the Lawrence Livermore study said that it was prepared by their ‘Z Division,’ which is its intelligence arm.
The sprawling facility has an annual budget of $2.5 billion and employs 7,900 people.
It is largely funded by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
The California lab has not confirmed the contents of their report, which remains secret.
Anthony Blinken, the Secretary of State, has urged China to be more transparent about what they knew, when.
‘What the government didn’t do in the early days and still hasn’t done is given us the transparency we need,’ Blinken said on Sunday, in an interview with Axios.
The White House has also accused China of obstructing investigations into the source of the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) sent a team to the Wuhan lab in late January, but the investigators were only allowed in for three hours, and were not granted access to all the documentation they required.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, said their visit was inconclusive and upbraided China for being uncooperative.
Dr Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser and the nation’s top public health expert, is now facing scrutiny over what he knew, when – and whether he was always straight with the public.
His critics, mainly Republicans, accuse him of downplaying the ‘lab leak’ theory because it was promoted heavily by Donald Trump. Fauci was first appointed by Trump.
The critics also argue that Fauci did not want to admit at the time that U.S. taxpayers’ money was spent on the Wuhan lab.
He has since confirmed that $820,000 was given to the lab, over six years, to fund their research into coronaviruses.
Fauci justified the spending when quizzed on it before Congress last month, insisting that it was vital to understand coronaviruses coming from bats, and the bats were in China.
He said it would have been a dereliction of duty not to support the scientific research.
Fauci also insisted that the grants were not being used on ‘gain of function’ research, whereby viruses are made more transmissible or deadly, to understand their capabilities.
He said the scientific studies published thanks to U.S. funding bore no evidence of ‘gain of function’ research.
But he admitted that he had no way of knowing if the Wuhan lab was carrying out experiments in secret.
Scientists are seen working inside the Wuhan lab. The site is one of only three in the world – the others are in North Carolina and Texas – where ‘gain of function’ research is carried out on viruses, to make them more transmissible or deadly
Meanwhile, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, has said Fauci told world leaders in the spring of 2020 that the coronavirus may have escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
U.S. researchers around that time still were considering whether the virus came from a lab break, and Fauci told the health leaders gathered that the newly identified strain of the coronavirus ‘looked unusual,’ according to Gottlieb.
The disclosure from the former FDA chief comes as an increasing number of mainstream scientists and media figures no longer are parroting the line from the Chinese Communist Party that the virus came from a bat.
Now, Gottlieb says Fauci last year at least considered that COVID-19 could have come from a lab – before closing ranks around the idea that it occurred naturally.
Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he was told Dr. Fauci had briefed world leaders on the possibility that the novel coronavirus leaked from a lab
Gottlieb, who served under President Donald Trump, said a former senior member of the Trump administration told him at the time of Fauci’s 2020 talk. Gottlieb said he’d recently reconfirmed with that person that Fauci had given the talk.
‘I think early on, when they looked at the strain, they had suspicions,’ Gottlieb recalled Sunday on CBS Face the Nation, speaking of U.S. scientists. ‘And it takes time to do that analysis, and that dispelled some of those suspicions,’ he added.
Additionally, Gottlieb said it was a mistake to only look at the virus from a scientific perspective: It also needs to be examined from a national security lens, he said.
‘A scientific mindset looks at the virus and the virus’ behavior and draws a conclusion,’ he said.
‘A national security assessment looks at that and then looks at the behavior of the Chinese government, the behavior of the lab, other evidence around the lab – including the infections we now know took place – and that changes the overall assessment,’ he said.
Although some experts still believe the virus was transmitted from a bat to some other species of animal, then to humans, its origins remain unproven.
The Wuhan lab was famed for conducting tests on bat coronaviruses, with experts who support the leak theory saying the same city being ground zero for the outbreak is too great a coincidence to ignore.
While China has tried to insist the virus originated elsewhere, academics, politicians and the media have begun to contemplate the possibility it escaped from the WIV – raising suspicions that Chinese officials simply hid evidence of the early spread
The idea the coronavirus escaped from a Wuhan lab was at best a ‘fringe theory’ until recently, when the Biden administration ordered a review
Chinese scientist ‘filed a patent for a vaccine BEFORE virus was declared a pandemic’
A Chinese military scientist with ties to the United States reportedly filed a patent for a COVID-19 vaccine well before the disease was declared a global pandemic.
Yusen Zhou, who worked for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), lodged the paperwork on behalf of the Chinese political party on February 24 2020, according to The Australian newspaper.
That date was just five weeks after China first confirmed human transmission of the coronavirus.
Zhou is also said to have ‘worked closely’ with scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), including Shi Zhengli – the deputy director of the lab who is famous for her research on coronavirus in bats.
Zhou mysteriously died less than three months after he filed the patent. The New York Post claims his death was only reported in one Chinese media report, despite the fact he was one of the country’s most prominent scientists.
Zhou had previously worked on research linked to the US institutions, including the University of Minnesota and the New York Blood Center, the newspaper reported.
Fauci is now facing accusations that he mishandled and downplayed the theory the virus leaked from the lab in Wuhan.
Among those who wrote to Fauci to raise the question is Dr Kristian Andersen, a virologist at California’s Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California in emails obtained by The Washington Post and BuzzFeed last week under the Freedom of Information Act.
On January 31, 2020, Andersen references a Science magazine article about how researchers around the world were racing to share ‘full sequences of the virus from patients’ to understand how it related to viruses found in animals.
‘The unusual features of the virus make up a really small part of the genome (<0.1%) so one has to look really closely at all the sequences to see that some of the features (potentially) look engineered,' he wrote.
At the time, the lab leak hypothesis was largely dismissed by many experts. It has recently gained traction.
Andersen said he and his team found that ‘the genome [is] inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.
‘But we have to look at this much more closely and there are still further analyses to be done, so those options could still change,’ he added.
By the next month, it turned out, they had.
He and his colleagues published an article in Nature Medicine in which they concluded that it was ‘improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of a related SARS-CoV-like coronavirus.’
In May, Andersen was referenced in a New York Times article about scientists calling into more investigations into the origins of the virus.
On Sunday, Anderson’s Twitter account was deactivated.
He has not released a statement as to why.
In another email, Fauci was thanked by the head of a nonprofit that helped fund research at China´s Wuhan Institute of Virology, ‘for publicly standing up and stating that the scientific evidence supports a natural origin,’ which he said ‘will help dispel the myths being spun around the virus´ origins.’
Andersen, the scientist who wrote the ‘engineered’ email, has tried to offer further explanation.
‘As I have said many times, we seriously considered a lab leak a possibility.
‘However, significant new data, extensive analyses, and many discussions led to the conclusions in our paper. What the email shows, is a clear example of the scientific process,’ he tweeted amid the backlash.
ORIGINS OF COVID-19: THE THEORIES
US state officials have given momentum to the idea that COVID-19 either leaked from a lab or was man-made by China as some kind of weapon against humanity.
A Wuhan wet market was first thought to be the breeding ground of the virus, where the selling of live, wild animals would have given the perfect opportunity for it to naturally spread between species.
It is thought the virus first developed in bats before passing on to a creature such as a pangolin that then came into contact with humans and transmitted the virus.
Once it entered humans, the coronavirus is likely to have mutated to survive and then escalated out of control as a result of an unprepared population.
There are also theories that the virus was genetically engineered by scientists, or that it has actually been around for years and even killed people in the past.
Two high security laboratories in the city – the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control and the Wuhan Institute of Virology – have been the subject of many conspiracy theories.
President Donald Trump claims he has seen evidence the virus, which he solely blames China for, came from Wuhan Institute of Virology – but he is not allowed to reveal it.
The Institute has denied the claims from the early days of the outbreak.
In April, Trump said: ‘We are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation that happened.’
Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, claimed in May there is ‘enormous evidence’ the coronavirus outbreak originated in a Chinese laboratory – but failed to provide any of the alleged evidence.