"The truth does not have politics, and
if Donald Trump says the sky is blue,
that doesn’t mean he’s wrong."
Nathan J. Robinson
Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV)
During a Senate hearing 11 May 2021, Senator Paul stated, “The U.S. government should admit that the Wuhan Virology Institute was experimenting to enhance the coronavirus’s ability to infect humans. Juicing up super viruses is not new.” Fauci replied, “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely, entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute.” Senator Paul then began to say “Government scientists like yourself who favor gain function …” into which Fauci interrupted, “I don’t favor gain of function research in China and you are saying things that are not correct.”
A still-classified US intelligence report circulated during former President Donald Trump’s administration alleged that three researchers at China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology became so ill in November 2019 that they sought hospital care.
In 1977, H1N1 influenza A virus reappeared after a 20-year absence. To determine how the “missing” evolution affected dating estimates, Bayesian Markov chain Monte Carlo (BMCMC) phylogenetic inference was performed on each genome segment. Genetic analysis indicated that this strain was missing decades of nucleotide sequence evolution, suggesting an accidental release of a frozen laboratory strain into the general population. The 1977 re-emergent lineage was circulating for approximately one year before detection, making it difficult to determine the geographic source of reintroduction.
Most scientists have said there is no evidence that Covid-19 is manmade - but questions remained whether it escaped from the a biolab in Wuhan. There was no evidence to suggest it was intentionally released by China. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton on 16 February 2020 offered a totally unfounded theory claiming on Fox News that the virus came from China’s biowarfare program — suggesting that it had been deliberately engineered to kill humans. This was not supported by any known research:. Scientists agree that the virus was not “engineered” to be deadly; SARS-CoV-2 showed no evidence of genetic manipulation.
Documents obtained by the US State Department reportedly show People's Liberation Army (PLA) commanders predicted that World War 3 would be fought with biological weapons. US officials obtained the papers which were written by military scientists and senior Chinese public health officials in 2015 as part of their own investigation into the origins of Covid-19. The editor-in-chief of the paper, Xu Dezhong, reported to the top leadership of the Chinese Military Commission and Ministry of Health during the SARS epidemic of 2003.
The Chinese military document "The Unnatural Origins of SARS and the New Species of Artificial Viruses as Genetic Biological Weapons" reads, " "Following developments in other scientific fields, there have been major advances in the delivery of biological agents. For example, the new-found ability to freeze-dry micro-organisms has made it possible to store biological agents and aerosolise them during attacks." Chinese scientists said the viruses could be “artificially manipulated into an emerging human disease virus, then weaponised and unleashed in a way never seen before”.
The development of a dual-use model on the mainland made it possible for the Wuhan Institute of Virology to be weaponized; but whether it is used for offense or defense is not determined by scientists. In other words, when the country is studying the ability to protect the military from biological attacks, it also develops offensive capabilities, and the two cannot be separated.
An article by news.com.au quoted Peter Jennings, the executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), as saying, "I think this is significant because it clearly shows that Chinese scientists were thinking about military application for different strains of the coronavirus and thinking about how it could be deployed...It begins to firm up the possibility that what we have here is the accidental release of a pathogen for military use." Jennings told news.com.au that the document is as close to a "smoking gun" as we've got. "It begins to firm up the possibility that what we have here is the accidental release of a pathogen for military use," Jennings added.
In the People's Liberation Army paper, it even more directly pointed out that the attack of biological weapons would cause "the collapse of the enemy's medical system," and even predicted that World War III “will be biological” and “the core weapon for victory in World War Three will be bioweapons”. The document also boldly speculated that the SARS that ravaged mainland China in 2003 may be an artificial biological weapon deliberately released by terrorists. Among the 18 authors listed in the document, some are senior public health and military officials in mainland China, including the former deputy director of the epidemic prevention unit; 10 of them are scientists and weapons experts related to the Xi'an Air Force Military Medical University. This study was ordered by Xi Jinping in 2017, and is under the research of the People's Liberation Army.
Sharri Markson’s new book, What Really Happened in Wuhan, was to be published in September 2021 by HarperCollins. She and Liam Mendes revealed that Chinese military scientists had also discussed the long-term psychological damage of bioweapons on adversaries, their ability to traumatise foreign troops and the advantages of launching attacks at far lower cost than through ground and air strikes. Markson wrote : “There is no evidence to suggest it (the virus) was intentionally released.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 01 May 2020 “What we have before us doesn’t suggest that [the Wuhan lab] is the likely source.... There’s nothing we have that would indicate that was the likely source, though you can’t rule anything out in these environments,” he said. “We know it started in China, we know it started in Wuhan, the most likely scenario that has been canvassed relates to wildlife wet markets, but that’s a matter that would have to be thoroughly assessed.”
A report on the origins of COVID-19 by a US government national laboratory concluded that the hypothesis claiming the virus leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation. The study was prepared in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and was referred by the State Department when it conducted an inquiry into the pandemic’s origins during the final months of the Trump administration. Lawrence Livermore’s assessment drew on genomic analysis of the COVID-19 virus. Donald Trump said he had seen evidence that gave him "a high degree of confidence" that the virus emerged from a Chinese lab. A 30-page report was produced by the Multi-Agency Collaboration Environment (MACE), a part of Sierra Nevada, a Department of Defense contractor. "The MACE document claims a November 2019 conference was canceled because of some calamity; in fact, there are selfies from the event.... imagery collected by DigitalGlobe’s Maxar Technologies satellites and provided to The Daily Beast reveals a simpler, less exotic reason for why analysts believed “roadblocks” went into place around the lab after the supposed accident: road construction. The Maxar images also show typical workdays, with normal traffic patterns around the lab, after the supposedly cataclysmic event. “This is an illustrated guide on how not to do open source analysis,” said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, who analyzed the MACE report for The Daily Beast. “It is filled with apples-to-oranges comparisons, motivated reasoning, and a complete refusal to consider mundane explanations or place the data in any sort of context.”
China's first coronavirus case happened on 17 November 2019, according to an investigation by the South China Morning Post. Initial Chinese reports identified a patient with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 hospitalized in Wuhan with symptom onset as early as 01 December 2019. A study from researchers at Harvard University used satellite imagery of Wuhan to measure traffic to six city hospitals. An increase in traffic started in August 2019, peaking six months later. This timeline matched an increase in online searches for terms like "diarrhea" and "cough." An April 2021 report found that 13 of the 41 original cases had no link to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market — suggesting the market was not the origin site of the pandemic.
Investigators from the World Health Organization (WHO) searching for the origins of COVID-19 discovered signs the outbreak was much wider in Wuhan in December 2019 than previously thought, and sought access to hundreds of thousands of blood samples from the city. The lead investigator for the WHO mission, Peter Ben Embarek, told CNN in February 2021 that the mission had found several signs of the wide-ranging 2019 spread, including establishing for the first time there were over a dozen strains of the virus in Wuhan already in December. The discovery of so many variants suggested the virus had been circulating for longer than just the last month of 2020. Chinese scientists identified 174 cases of coronavirus in and around Wuhan in December 2019. Patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 may not seek medical care because infections could be mild or asymptomatic. Since many cases would not have presented to doctors, the disease could have hit over 1,000 people in Wuhan that December.
There are about 200,000 samples from Wuhan's blood donor bank that date back two years. These are secured and could be used for a new set of studies. But these samples are extremely and only used for litigation purposes. There is no mechanism to allow for routine studies with that kind of sample. The WHO report recommends antibody testing on blood donor samples from the last three months of 2019, with regulatory and ethical "approval".
The coronavirus might have been circulating among people in a number of countries before it was identified in China. The initial US case was identified on 19 January 2020. Scientists from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on 01 December 2020 that tests of blood samples taken in the United States from 13 December 2019 revealed evidence of antibodies for the Covid-19 virus. The earliest reactive samples came from donations collected from 13 December to 16 December 2019, from residents of California, Oregon, and Washington. A study from Milan's National Cancer Institute also found that four of Italy's coronavirus cases dated back to October 2019.
Staffers from the Wuhan laboratory "defected" and landed in the hands of Western intelligence, Donald Trump's former campaign strategist Steve Bannon told the Mail on Sunday 12 July 2020. In an exclusive interview with the British media outlet, Bannon claimed that spies, who he said also had "compelling evidence", were building a case against Beijing based on the assumption that the global pandemic had been caused by a leak from the Institute of Virology in Wuhan. "Regardless of whether it came out of the market or the Wuhan lab, the Chinese Communist Party's subsequent decisions hold them guilty of pre-meditated murder", Bannon was quoted as saying.
He contended that he knows "certain defectors are working with the FBI here to try to knit together what happened" at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which he claimed was "horribly run and terribly mismanaged". Bannon explained "They [China] used the time to scoop up all the world's personal protective equipment. This is a murderous dictatorship. The blood is [also] on the hands of the world's corporations – the investment banks, the hedge funds, and the pension funds",, urging European countries and the US to start "calling it out before it leads to the destruction of the West.”
Yan Li-Meng, a Chinese virologist and whistleblower, on 14 September 2020 released a paper explaining how the genome of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) indicates that it was constructed in a Chinese lab rather than naturally occurring. Yan Li-Meng, a virologist employed as a researcher at the University of Hong Kong's School of Public Health when the coronavirus pandemic began, alleged that the coronavirus came from a Chinese lab and that it is a chimera based on the "Zhoushan bat coronavirus." According to Yan, an examination of the genome sequences released by the Chinese government on 14 January 2020 also showed that the Zhoushan ZC45 and ZXC21 strains were the closest to SARS-CoV-2 and that they are the "backbone" upon which COVID-19 was constructed.
Yan claimed that the origin of COVID-19 was the "PLA-owned Zhoushan bat coronavirus." She accused the World Health Organization (WHO) of "covering up numerous lies for the CCP." Yan released the report on the data platform Zenodo with the title "Unusual Features of the SARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting Sophisticated Laboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route." Zenodo is a general open access repository developed under the European OpenAIRE project and operated by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), allowing researchers to store data, software, reports, and any research-related tools.
The paper argued, among other things, that "The receptor-binding motif (RBM) within the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which determines the host specificity of the virus, resembles that of SARS-CoV from the 2003 epidemic in a suspicious manner. Genomic evidence suggests that the RBM has been genetically manipulat... SARS-CoV-2 contains a unique furin-cleavage site in its Spike protein, which is known to greatly enhance viral infectivity and cell tropism. Yet, this cleavage site is completely absent in this particular class of coronaviruses found in nature.In addition, rare codons associated with this additional sequence suggest the strong possibility that this furin-cleavage site is not the product of natural evolution and could have been inserted into the SARS-CoV-2 genome artificially... "
The Vice Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff directly refuted the claim that COVID-19 was created in a lab or released on purpose. At a virtual symposium hosted by the U.S. Defense Department on 18 September Thursday, General John Hyten confirmed that COVID-19 is a naturally occurring disease that first manifested itself in Wuhan, China. He also talked about the lessons from the pandemic that "our adversaries will now understand how biological capabilities can impact the nation." His comments come after a researcher from Hong Kong released a paper claiming COVID-19 was man-made.
The US government says it has "enormous evidence" to prove the coronavirus originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an appearance on a US ABC News program on 03 May 2020 and said the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Beijing has denied the allegation. Pompeo said China has a "history of running substandard laboratories" and that this is not the first time the world has been exposed to viruses as a result of failures at a Chinese lab.
RADDATZ: Do you believe coronavirus was man-made?
POMPEO: The best experts seem to think so
R: But the DNI says the consensus is it wasn't
P: That's right. I agree with that
R: So to be clear, which is it?
P: What's important is the Communist Party could've prevented this
His remark was in line with President Donald Trump's claim that he saw evidence that gave him a high degree of confidence that the virus came from the Wuhan lab. But neither Trump nor Pompeo provided any evidence. The secretary said the intelligence community continues its work to verify the allegation. Pompeo said China employed the World Health Organization as a "tool" to conceal the spread of the coronavirus. He warned that the US will "hold those responsible accountable."
Chinese CDC scientists, writing in The Lancet [ A novel coronavirus outbreak of global health concern] told the world on January 24th: "The increasing number of cases and widening geographical spread of the disease raise grave concerns about the future trajectory of the outbreak".
Two unrelated virus institutes in Wuhan, China, have emerged as a focus about the origin of the new coronavirus that has caused a global pandemic. They are the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention is dedicated to identifying the pathogen of an epidemic and doing research on testing technologies at its level-2 biosafety laboratory. Footage of researcher Tian Junhua trying to capture wild bats has been posted online. Tian told a local media in 2017 that he was often stained with bats' blood. The center is located only 300 meters from the seafood market where many people were diagnosed with the virus in the early phase of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), established in 1956, is located about 12 kilometers from a seafood market. It is the only institute specializing in virology, viral pathology and virus technology among 19 other biological and biomedical research institutes in CAS. The research landscape of WIV has witnessed drastic changes, owing to the demands of the eco-social development of China and great challenges in virological science and technology. WIV’s traditional programs that focused on insect viruses and applied microbiology have expanded to include more diverse areas of interest, including molecular virology, the etiology and epidemiology of emerging infectious diseases, immunovirology, analytical pathogenic microbiology, and agricultural and environmental microbiology.
The institute, which is located in the southern suburbs of Wuhan, researches the etiology, or origin, and epidemiology of emerging infectious diseases, including the study of influenza viruses. A paper, published by the institute in March 2016, recognized the bat origin of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like coronaviruses, and the importance of animals in the transmission and emergence of the disease. In a later paper, published in 2018, the Institute again identified bats as a source of coronavirus, confirming the continued study of coronaviruses in Wuhan.
The institute is home to the China Centre for Virus Culture Collection, the largest virus bank in Asia which stores more than 1,500 strains of viruses.
The lab became the first one in mainland China to achieve the fourth, highest level of biocontainment, which allows it to study the most dangerous pathogens in the world, such as the Ebola and Marburg viruses (work on SARS-CoV-2 requires the third level or higher). This BSL4 lab was established in 2015 at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and cost 300 million yuan, or approximately $42 million. It was built to withstand a magnitude-7 earthquake, despite the province of Hubei having no history of such strong tremors.
The lab's main building is reported to be equipped with sewage and life support systems on the ground floor. Core laboratories along with filter and pipeline systems are located on the second and third floors, while the top level houses an air conditioning system. The safety protocol is so rigorous that people who contact with bats or their waste are considered to be at a higher risk of contracting the virus than staff at the lab.
Perhaps the most famous Wuhan virologist is the institute's deputy director Shi Zhengli, dubbed "bat woman" in Western media. In 2017, her team presented research that found a link between a single population of bats in southwest China and the 2003 SARS coronavirus pandemic. When global attention started turning to Wuhan, the city where the outbreak was first detected, Shi flatly rejected that the lab had anything to do with it.
The National Biosafety Laboratory finished construction in January 2015, and it is Asia's first Bio-Safety Level 4 Lab (BSL-4). There are fewer than 20 countries that have BSL-4 labs. in January 2015, and it is Asia's first Bio-Safety Level 4 Lab (BSL-4). There are fewer than 20 countries that have BSL-4 labs. The Wuhan facility passed the assessment of the National Health Commission of China in January 2018 and was then put into use.
Diplomatic cables obtained by The Washington Post showed that US officials had raised the alarm about possible safety breaches at the lab after a visit from a US diplomat in 2018. Notably, they noted that the lab has a "serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory". They also warned that the lab's work on contagious viruses and potential transmission to humans could case a new SARS-like pandemic. The State Department declined to comment, and no screenshots of the cables have been provided.
American and French scientists helped train staff for the Wuhan lab as part of the PREDICT pandemic early warning program, shut down by the Trump administration in 2019. Jonna Mazet, a prominent epidemiologist who led the program, recounted that Wuhan workers had developed a "very stringent" safety protocol, which includes "extreme personal protective equipment", and work only with samples that have deactivated beforehand. Vials with the “active” virus are kept in a special area.
"Our Bio-Safety Level 4 Lab (BSL-4), also known as P4 lab, has not only the highest level of biosafety measures but also sets strict management systems for research fellows, testing animals and dealing with waste. All these measures have ensured no virus can be leaked from the lab," Yuan Zhiming, a member of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) and director of the National Biosafety Laboratory in Wuhan, said in an interview with the Science and Technology Daily 10 May 2020.
All research fellows for the P4 lab should have both theoretical and practical training. They also need to get through a yearly evaluation of their physical and mental health. After being qualified, they need to get permission from the director of the lab before entering the lab. The biosafety staff ensure that every research fellow's physical signs, including blood pressure and temperature, are in good shape before they enter the lab. Only authorized people could get through the access control system to check the operation of the lab, and they also need to fill in an entry-and-exit registration form and inform the monitoring center, according to Yuan.
Research fellows need to pass the access control system to enter the dressing room, where they take off their clothes and put on a disposable inner protective suit. After checking the positive pressure protective suit, a research fellow will wear it, linking the air tube. After passing the chemical shower room, a research fellow can enter the core room for research, Yuan said. To ensure biosafety and security, the lab requires at least two research fellows to be working at the same time. They also need to follow the same procedure when going out of the lab and have a chemical shower for disinfection and a liquid water washing of the protective suit.
After taking off their inner protective suits, all research fellows are required to have a shower and put on their own clothes. After filling in the entry-and-exit form, they have accomplished the whole process of research activity. All contact with the outside world goes through the monitoring center and any incident would be reported to the center immediately. The center would also arrange working staff on biosafety and security to deal with emergencies. Yuan noted that the P4 lab also has special measures to prevent possible leaks. The core part of the lab was enclosed by stainless steel walls, making the part like a box in another box. The outside wall can also make ensure strength and air-tightness.
The P4 lab uses dynamic sealing technology to ensure differential pressure levels among different functional areas and to prevent the air from being infected by pathogenic microorganisms that might diffuse to less contagious areas. The air emitted from the lab would go through two highly effective filters to ensure its safety; the water from the lab would be discharged after high-temperature processing of the sewage disposal system. Waste from the lab would go through a double-door autoclave, be safely moved out of the lab and then transferred to a qualified and authorized institute to be dealt with.
Yuan noted that the lab not only has the highest level of biosafety but also requires a strict safety management system for research projects, testing of animals, research fellows and dealing with waste to ensure its effective and safe operation.
Wuhan’s Institute of Virology faced allegations that human error resulted in coronavirus being released from the research facility. Unconfirmed reports have suggested coronavirus is a leaked biological weapon, with tweets and Facebook posts alleging a variety of conspiracy theories. The most popular claim that the virus was created in a laboratory and has been patented, or that coronavirus is a biological weapon created by the US government to increase demand for vaccines. None of these theories can be substantiated.
On February 9, Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai was interviewed by the US CBS, and introduced the situation of the novelcorona virus epidemic and Sino-US relations and explained China's position. During the period, the host mentioned U.S. Senator Tom Cotton's allegations that the virus may come from the Chinese biological warfare plan. Ambassador Cui Tiankai responded strongly on the spot: "Crazy, and some people say that the virus is a US conspiracy. What is this crazy remark? Can you believe it?"
On 29 January 2020, far-far-right news site Zero Hedge claimed without evidence that a scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology created the strain of the virus that has led the World Health Organization to declare a global health emergency. Zero Hedge's Twitter account was suspended 31 January 2020, following the publication of the scientist's name. "The account was permanently suspended for violating our platform manipulation policy," a spokesperson for Twitter stated.
Fox News reported on 15 April 2020 that the novel coronavirus likely originated in the Wuhan laboratory. The sources told Fox that the initial transmission was believed to have been from bat to human and that “patient zero” worked at the lab, then spread the virus among the population in Wuhan. On 14 April 2020, Josh Rogan wrote in the Washington Post an rehearsal of State Department cables that had warned of safety issues at the Wuhan lab in 2018, two years before the pandemic began. Those cables came from Embassy officials who had visited the research facility several times and detailed inadequate safety measures.
On 27 March 2018, Rick Switzer, Counselor of Environment, Science, Technology and Health Section of Embassy of the United States in China, accompanied by the U.S. Consul General in Wuhan, Jamison Fouss, visited Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Fouss emphasized that the work focus of the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan will further point to cooperation in the medical and health field in the future, and the relevant departments will also invest more support in promoting the development. One cable to Washington warned that the lab’s work on bat coronaviruses and their potential human transmission represented a risk of a new SARS-like pandemic. “During interactions with scientists at the WIV laboratory, they noted the new lab has a serious shortage of appropriately trained technicians and investigators needed to safely operate this high-containment laboratory,” the 19 January 2018, cable stated.
US government officials told CNN that they were looking into the claims that the virus originated at the lab and not a wildlife market, but officials noted that the theory was one in a range of theories about the origin of the virus (CNN). At the 15 April 2020 News' John Roberts asked Trump about the possibility the coronavirus originated in the Wuhan laboratory. Trump replied "More and more we're hearing the story...we are doing a very thorough examination of this horrible situation."
Quoting Xiao Qiang, a research scientist at the University of California at Berkeley, the paper says "there is no evidence that the virus now plaguing the world was engineered; scientists largely agree it came from animals. But that is not the same as saying it didn't come from the lab." Some members of the Trump administration have similar suspicions about the nearby Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley told reporters that they've had intelligence make a careful examination, but it was still "inconclusive at this point."
After supporting China early in the crisis, Donald Trump shifted blame onto China. He called the virus the "Chinese virus" and suspended funding to the World Health Organization after accusing it of basically being in China’s pocket. Pompeo said: "I think it’s pretty clear that the World Health Organization hasn’t lived up to its billing, it hasn’t been able to achieve what it was designed to achieve, and we just can’t continue to permit that to go on. We’ve got to find a way."
Trump's critics saw his latest statements as an attempt to "shift the blame", as the outbreak in the US continues to grow. Some blamed Trump's halting action and infighting in his administration for causing the delay in the US response, resulting in more deaths.
With the official operation of the Wuhan National Biosafety (P4) laboratory of CAS, CCVCC has fully possessed the qualifications and conditions for collecting the bacteria species with the biohazard classification from level 1 to 4. In the future, the Center will receive, test, store and manage bacteria species in accordance with relevant national regulations, and legally provide the bacteria species to units engaged in experimental activities of pathogenic microorganisms. In addition, the Center will play a significant role in the technical research and training practice in the related area.
In 2018 the National Health Commission of China officially designated the China Center for Virus Culture Collection (CCVCC) in Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) as a "National-Level Culture Collection Center", which is an important milestone in the development of the Center's innovative construction.
The species and samples of pathogenic microorganisms are important strategic resources for ensuring national social security, economic security and biological safety. As a national-level culture collection center, the CCVCC will be oriented to national strategic needs and will play an indispensable and important supporting role in the fields of national security, life science research, public health and virology study.
CCVCC was established in 1979 and was registered under World Federation for Culture Collections (WFCC) in 1989. In 2015, the Center joined the European Virus Archive goes global (EVAg) project funded by European Commission's Horizon 2020 and successfully passed the highest rating of EVAg quality management system in October 2017. Therefore, it is a center focusing on virus resource collection, virus biotechnology, systematic virology and bioinformatics research. As an integrated center, it is also the largest virus bank in Asia.
Founded in 1956, Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), was initially named as Wuhan Microbiology Laboratory. It was among the earliest national institutions established after the founding of the New China. In 1961, it became the South China Institute of Microbiology of CAS, and was redesignated as Wuhan Microbiology Institute CAS in 1962. In 1970, under the administration of the Hubei Commission of Science & Technology, it was renamed as Microbiology Institute of Hubei Province. In June 1978, it was returned to the administration of CAS, and adopted its current designation.
Through continuous reorganization and sustained efforts of researchers, WIV has remained strong in such research fields as microbiology and virology throughout its history. Characterized by persistence and diligence, the scientists in WIV have made great achievements in the studies of virology, applied microbiology and biotechnology by addressing national strategic demands and cutting-edge scientific questions. The achievements marked the S&T strengths of WIV in agricultural and environmental microbiology.
In particular, being at the forefront of basic and applied researches on insect viruses, WIV made great achievements in isolation of insect viruses and production of viral insecticides. For example, WIV developed Helicoverpa armigeranucleopolyhedrovirus (HearNPV) as the first viral insecticide registered in China, which has been widely utilized. WIV has also developed microbiological mosquitocide, contributing much to the control of disease-transmitting mosquitoes. The commercialized standards and application of Bacillus thuringiensis won the 2nd Award for National Science and Technology Progress. Furthermore, WIV developed the first biosensor (Biochemical Oxygen Demand biosensor for the detection of environmental pollution) in China.
Since 2002, by joining the CAS Knowledge Innovation Program, WIV extended its research areas from agriculture and environment-related fields to medicine-related fields in order to meet the national strategic demand of public health, national security, and sustainable agriculture development. From then on, WIV has undergone major reorganization by means of retaining researches into major disciplines, recruiting and training innovative talents in new disciplines and developing appropriate research platforms. Pathogenic study of emerging infectious diseases has become one of the major research fields. Great achievements have been made in animal origin studies of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-Cov) and avian influenza viruses.
The predecessor of Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences was the Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, prepared to be built in 1956, jointly established by the famous virologist academician Gao Shangyin and the famous microbiologist academician Chen Huagui and a batch of older generation scientists, formally announced to be established in 1958, mainly engaged in agricultural virus and environmental microbe research. At the beginning of 1961, Wuhan branch institute and the Guangzhou branch institute merged to set up the Zhongnan Branch of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Wuhan Microbiology Research Laboratory was hence renamed as Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In October 1962, it was again renamed to Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. In 1966, the local branch institute of Chinese Academy of Sciences was cancelled. In 1970, Wuhan Institute of Microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences was placed under the leadership of Hubei Province, changed its name to Hubei Provincial Institute of Microbiology. In 1978 on the eve of holding the National Science and Technology Conference, it returned to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, known as Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Wuhan Institute of Virology made a series of important progresses in terms of insect virus, animal virus, molecular virus, virus classification preservation, environmental microbes, fermentation microorganisms and microbial sensors. A number of research achievements have earned national level, Chinese Academy of Sciences and provincial & ministerial level awards for scientific and technological advancement.
In 1998, the Chinese Academy of Sciences launched a pilot project for knowledge innovation. Wuhan Institute of Virology had been centering on the institute reform, setting its strategy in the virus, microbe application research and biological high-tech innovation, and developing a comprehensive supporting reform implementation plans. In 1999, it successfully passed the classification and positioning of Chinese Academy of Sciences, was included in the high-tech research and development base-type research institute. In 2002, it was formally approved into the institute knowledge innovation project pilot sequence, the work of the entire institute had entered into a new stage.
In 2003, SARS virus broke out in our country, the state and the Chinese Academy of Sciences promoted the prevention and control of newly emerging diseases to a new strategic height, Wuhan Institute of Virology adjusted the discipline layout in a timely manner, on the one hand it was to have the advantage integration for the traditional preponderant disciplines such as insect virology, aquatic animal virology, biological control, analysis of biotechnology etc.; on the other hand, through the training and the introduction of talents, it was to lay out a series of medical virus-related discipline groups, engaged in the researches of HIV, influenza virus, hepatitis virus, tumor virus and zoonotic virus and virus replication and antiviral drugs etc. In 2004, the Chinese and French governments signed a cooperation agreement on fighting and preventing new diseases, stressing the active cooperation between China and France in the construction of high-level biosafety laboratories and the system construction of biosafety laws and regulations etc.
In order to implement the spirit of Sino-French agreement, in 2005, Wuhan Institute of Virology undertook the task of building a national biosafety laboratory of Wuhan, Chinese Academy of Sciences. With nearly 10 years of unremitting efforts, the laboratory completed the physical facilities in January 2015. In August 2016, it obtained the recognition and authentication certificate for the critical protection equipment installation and commissioning. After the completion of the laboratory, it was expected to carry out the scientific research on the prevention and control of new infectious diseases and biosafety in order to meet the needs of early warning, detection, research and biosecurity prevention system for newborn and strong infectious diseases in China. It is expected to become the prevention & control research and development center for China’s newly born diseases, virus seed storage centers and WHO reference laboratory, which shall play a basic, technical support role in China’s major newborn infectious diseases prevention and control, effectively improving our defense and resilience towards biological wars and terrorist attacks, maintaining the national biosecurity.
The strategic positioning of Wuhan Institute of Virology is to face the national population health, sustainable development of agriculture and national security, look on the international frontier for the research field of virology, focusing on the researches on newly emerging, outburst infectious diseases and biosecurity, major viral infectious diseases etiology and innovative drug for agriculture, environmental microbes and ecological protection, virus bionic and emerging biotechnology, virus identification, system classification and bioinformatics and other aspects, in the construction of high-level biosafety research and technology system, biological nano-devices, green agricultural technology Integration and application and other scientific frontiers, it is to make the original innovation contribution, enhance our emergency responsiveness to new and sudden infectious diseases, built the Wuhan Institute of Virology into a comprehensive virology research institution with international advanced level.
Wuhan Institute of Virology is equipped with a general office, scientific research planning office, organization & personnel department, finance department, graduate student office, with five functional management departments, logistics support center, network information center, public technical service center (including analysis and testing center, experimental animal center, BSL -3 laboratory, isotope room, etc.), Virologica Sinica (English version), Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, State Key Laboratory of Virology and other support departments.
In the scientific research layout, there are 37 discipline groups, belonging to the molecular virology research center, analysis of microbiology and nano biology research center, microbial virus seed resources and application center, virus pathology research center, new infectious disease research center which are 5 research centers. It is to build the national high-level biosafety laboratories, China’s virus preservation center, the State Key Laboratory of Virology, the national emergency laboratory for outburst public health event, the national level international cooperation research center and other five national R & D base.
Biosafety is the application of safety precautions that reduce a laboratorian’s risk of exposure to a potentially infectious microbe and limit contamination of the work environment and, ultimately, the community. There are four Biosafety Levels (BSLs). Each level has specific controls for containment of microbes and biological agents. The primary risks that determine levels of containment are infectivity, severity of disease, transmissibility, and the nature of the work conducted. Origin of the microbe, or the agent in question, and the route of exposure are also important. Each biosafety level has its own specific containment controls. The biosafety levels range from BSL-1 to BSL-4.
BSL-4 builds upon the containment requirements of BSL-3 and is the highest level of biological safety. There are a small number of BSL-4 labs in the United States and around the world. The microbes in a BSL-4 lab are dangerous and exotic, posing a high risk of aerosol-transmitted infections. Infections caused by these microbes are frequently fatal and without treatment or vaccines. Two examples of microbes worked with in a BSL-4 laboratory include Ebola and Marburg viruses.
It possesses the key laboratory of Chinese Academy of Sciences for newly emerging and fulminating infectious disease pathogen and biosecurity, key Laboratory of agricultural and environmental microbiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Hubei provincial virus and disease engineering technology research center, Hubei provincial small and medium enterprises common technology biopesticide R & D promotion center, Wuhan new infectious disease key laboratories which are five provincial and ministerial level R & D bases. It has initially shaped a characteristic platform with level IV biosafety laboratory as the core, biosafety level III laboratory (BSL / ABSL-3) (Qty.: 2) and biosafety level II laboratory (BSL-2 / ABSL-2) (Qty.: 17) as the cluster, it can carry out more than 10 kinds of class I and class II pathogenic experiment activities, in the research of new infectious disease prevention & control and biological prevention field, it is to provide strong support and important guarantee.
Yuan Zhiming a researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the director of Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, told CGTN on 18 April 2020 "I can tell you for sure that none of our students, retirees, or any of our staff has been infected. A group of staff members chose to stay in Wuhan during the lockdown, which guaranteed that our work was in full swing during the Chinese New Year break. I can hardly count how many teams there are right now. Because now the whole institute is carrying out research in different areas related to the coronavirus. We have major teams in drug development, vaccine research, pathogenesis, and of course some answer the basic questions, including the origin of the virus and the general characteristics of the virus, which is one of our strengths. Some work on the structure of the virus, and the immune responses to it. We've devoted ourselves to the research of it since the outbreak began."
"Why are there rumors? Because the Institute of Virology and P4 laboratory are in Wuhan— people can't help making associations, which I think is understanding. But it's bad when some are deliberately trying to mislead people. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton said earlier that the virus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Washington Post and several other reporters wrote about the virus coming from the Wuhan lab. They have no evidence, or knowledge, this is entirely based on speculation. Part of the purpose is to confuse people, to interfere with our anti-epidemic activities, or even our scientific activities. They may have achieved their goal in some way, but as a scientist and a science and technology manager, I have been engaged in laboratory biosafety management and scientific research project management for a long time— and I know it's impossible. I also believe that as long as the pandemic continues, especially in other countries, such doubts and disharmony will not go away.
"In fact, there are many reports in academic journals. From my personal understanding of virology, there is no evidence to prove that the virus has artificial or synthetic traces. Besides, some scientists believe that to synthesize a virus requires extraordinary intelligence and work load. So I have never believed that we humans would have the capability at this time to synthesize such a virus.
The French government said there was no evidence of a link between the new coronavirus and the work of the P4 research laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan. "We would like to make it clear that there is to this day no factual evidence corroborating the information recently circulating in the United States press that establishes a link between the origins of COVID-19 and the work of the P4 laboratory of Wuhan, China," an official at President Emmanuel Macron's office said.
US scientists reiterated their hardened belief in interviews with ABC News that the virus emerged naturally and was definitely not man-made in a lab, citing expanded researches. "There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that this virus was not created in a lab," Dr. John Ionnidis, a professor of disease prevention at Stanford Medical School, stood firmly with the conclusion, ABC News reported 18 April 2020. He said that the COVID-causing coronavirus does not behave or look synthetic in any way, and the scientific community has rebuked all the alternative theories. The way that it handles itself and binds to its receptors, they don't suggest anything that would be close to human manipulation," he said. "If it were man-made, it would not look like that." His belief was echoed by Dr. Robert Shafer, professor of Infectious Diseases at Stanford Medical School. "There's no reason to believe this was made in a lab…There are many strains in nature that could cause this type of outbreak," he explained.
Dr. Anthony Fauci rejected a conspiracy theory that the novel coronavirus was created in a Chinese lab, as reported by Business Insider Fauci, the leading infectious disease expert in the U.S., suggested the available evidence on the origins of the virus is "totally consistent with a jump of a species from an animal to a human", although there are still some reports promoting the lab narrative in recent days, among which Fox News, the U.S president Donald Trump's preferred TV network, has been leading the charge despite a lack of evidence.
Further clarity about the origins of the novel coronavirus is necessary and possible to reach, a group of scientists said in a letter published 14 May 2021. The signatories urged further investigation into the origin of COVID-19, adding that the WHO probe had not made a "balanced consideration" of the laboratory-leak theory. "We must take hypotheses about both natural and laboratory spillovers seriously until we have sufficient data,"read the letter in the journal Science. "The investigation should be transparent, objective, data-driven, inclusive of broad expertise, subject to independent oversight, and responsibly managed to minimize the impact of conflicts of interest," the 18 scientists said.
US President Joe Biden ordered aides to find answers to the origin of Covid-19, saying that US intelligence agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China. Biden asked US intelligence agencies to report back within 90 days, and he told reporters on 27 May 2021 that he aimed to release their results publicly. The Democrat directed US national laboratories to assist with the investigation and the intelligence community to prepare a list of specific queries for the Chinese government. He called on China to cooperate with international probes into the origins of the pandemic. The work of tracing the origins of the coronavirus itself is difficult and complex, and there are many possibilities.
Study authors, British Professor Angus Dalgleish and Norwegian scientist Dr Birger Sorensen, claim Beijing manufactured the virus in a Wuhan lab and concealed it by "reverse engineering" its variants. The new study, obtained by the Daily Mail and due for publication soon in the Quarterly Review of Biophysics Discovery, alleges the "deliberate destruction, concealment or contamination of data" and says the authors have "prima facie evidence of retro-engineering in China". Dalgleish and Sorensen alleged that they noticed "unique fingerprints" in the coronavirus that suggest manipulation in a laboratory around a year ago but were rejected for publication by major scientific journals due to beliefs that the virus originated from a bat.
Zhou et al reported in June 2021 that "bats across a broad swathe of Asia harbor coronaviruses that are closely related to SARS-CoV-2 and that the phylogenetic and genomic diversity of these viruses has likely been underestimated.... we report the discovery of additional bat coronaviruses from Yunnan province, China that reveal more of the diversity and complex evolutionary history of these viruses, including both cross-species transmission and genomic recombination.... The closest relative to SARS-CoV-2 is infects a species of bats that are found in regions that extend from South Laos and Vietnam to southern China. ... RpYN06 is the closest relative of SARS-CoV-2 in most of the virus genome."
Virologiests Angela L. Rasmussen and Stephen A. Goldstein noted in June 2021 that "The Wuhan institute’s most recent chimeric virus used a very different coronavirus as its genetic backbone. Looking at the body of research produced there, it’s clear that scientists were laser-focused on the bat viruses related to SARS-CoV, which spurred research on coronaviruses worldwide after it emerged in 2003 because of its pandemic potential. There’s just no trace of SARS-CoV-2 in the lab, and if the SARS-CoV-2 progenitor or its building blocks weren’t in the lab before the pandemic, the pandemic could not have started there — even accidentally."
In July 2021, WHO announced its plans for conducting what it calls a "second-phase" probe in China about the origins of the coronavirus. On 16 July 2021 WHO Director-General's opening remarks at the Member State Information Session on Origins, outlined the proposed next steps that the Secretariat will take to advance those studies, in several areas:
- First, integrated studies of humans, wildlife, captive and farmed animals, and environment, as part of a One Health approach.
- Second, studies prioritizing geographic areas with the earliest indication of circulation of SARS-CoV-2, and neighbouring areas where other SARS-related coronaviruses have been found in non-human reservoirs;
- Third, studies of animal markets in and around Wuhan, including continuing studies on animals sold at the Huanan wholesale market;
- Fourth, studies related to animal trace-back activities, with additional epidemiology and molecular epidemiology work, including early sequences of the virus;
- Fifth, audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019.
The United States expressed support for further studies in China by the World Health Organization into the origins of the coronavirus. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Kuwait City on 28 July 2021. The US State Department said Blinken affirmed his country's support for the WHO's plans to conduct additional studies, including in China, to "better understand the current pandemic and prevent future ones." He also stressed the need for the next phase to be "timely, evidence-based, transparent, expert-led and free from interference."
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson reiterated his country's objection to the World Health Organization's plan to conduct further studies in China about the origins of the coronavirus. Zhao Lijian discussed the matter on 29 July 2021, following US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's expression of support for the WHO plan the previosu day. China said it had put forward alternative parameters for a second probe into the origins of Covid-19 that should span multiple countries, in Beijing’s latest move to counter a push by the US for a deeper investigation into the theory the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab. Zhao pointed out that a WHO team of experts conducted a study in Wuhan early this year and released a report in March. He said that since then China has instructed its relevant agencies and scientists to check whatever additional information may be needed. He stressed that the WHO report in March already came up with a clear conclusion, and this rules out the need to conduct further studies. Zhao pointed out that there is a possibility that the virus might in fact have escaped from a laboratory in the United States. He said that if the United States genuinely supports WHO efforts to identify the origins of the virus, the US should accept a WHO team into its own country.
Republicans on the US House Foreign Affairs Committee have compiled material that reportedly shows the novel coronavirus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) “sometime prior to September 12, 2019” – at which time, it claims, Chinese authorities brought in an army biological weapons expert and boosted security, ventilation, and air disinfection systems. On that day, the WIV’s viral sequence database disappeared from the internet and the institute put out an announcement for “security services” at the lab to “handle the ‘registration and reception of foreign personnel,’” according to Fox News, which said it had obtained a copy of the report.
Another clincher for the report was based on testimony from an unnamed “former senior US official” who apparently said Major General Chen Wei, a biology and chemical weapon expert, took control of the WIV’s biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) lab in late 2019. According to the news outlet, the report points to the timing of her appointment as proof that authorities were “concerned about the activity happening there as news of the virus was spreading.” It reasoned that this meant the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) “knew about the virus earlier, and that the outbreak began earlier.”
As further proof of this alternative timeline, the report points to news stories about athletes apparently developing Covid-like symptoms in November 2019 after participating at the World Military Games hosted in Wuhan in October 2019. The virus first gained international prominence in December 2019. Another “circumstantial element” in the report, as noted by Fox News, was a “significant renovation” project by the nearby Wuhan National Biosafety Lab months before the outbreak. Since it had been operational for less than two years, the report said it was “unusual” that the research facilities needed major work on their air safety and waste treatment systems.
The report also relied on interviews with foreign scientists working at the lab to back up some of its conclusions, but which appear to contradict them instead. For instance, it cited a Bloomberg interview with Australian virologist Dr. Danielle Anderson who worked at the WIV’s BSL-4 lab till November 2019. In that June interview, Dr. Anderson spoke to the publication about the stringent safety procedures at the lab and maintained that she knows of no one at the WIV who had fallen ill at the time. She also expressed her belief that the virus was not man-made. This echoed the conclusion reached by a WHO investigation earlier this year that said the virus most likely had natural origins and had been transmitted to humans from an animal. However, US skepticism over that report has prompted calls for another probe by the UN health body.
The full report of the investigation – conducted by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the ranking GOP member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee – will apparently be released in September. The same month, an official US intelligence community review of the pandemic’s origins, ordered by President Joe Biden in May, is expected to be released.
In January 2021, Peter Ben Embarek, a Danish program manager for the WHO and expert in food safety and zoonosis, headed a team of researchers to investigate the origins of COVID-19 in Wuhan. In excerpts released on 12 August 2021 from a documentary released by Denmark's TV 2, Embarek said the outbreak may have been started by an employee at one of Wuhan's many laboratories, after they had been infected by a bat during fieldwork or experiments in one of the facilities. Embarek stressed that his team had not found any direct evidence the coronavirus outbreak is related to research on bats being carried out in laboratories in Wuhan.
He pointed out there has been a focus on the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), but added there are reasons to investigate the Wuhan Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC). He said the last publication on the subject of bats was from 2013, but that does not mean they stopped doing experiments on the creatures. When he asked staff from the CDC lab how old the facility was, they responded that they had moved into it in December 2019. The facility is only 500 meters from Huannan Seafood Market, where many of the earliest cases were reported.
Embarek believes the laboratory theory could have met resistance because, in fact, some mistakes had been made. "It's probably because it means that there is a human error behind such an incident, and they are not very happy to admit it. There is partly the traditional Asian feeling that you should not lose face, and then the whole system also focuses a lot on the fact that you are infallible and that everything must be perfect." He then added, "It could also be that someone wants to hide something. Who knows?"
US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines submitted a report on the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to President Joe Biden on August 24, 2021. The following day marked the end of a 90-day deadline Biden had set for U.S. intelligence agencies to gather everything they could find about where the pandemic originated. The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence on 27 August 2021 released a summary of the intelligence community assessment on COVID-19 origins. The intelligence community remained divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19; it denied that the virus was developed as a biological weapon.
Four intelligence community agencies assess with low confidence that the initial virus infection was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus, one believed the human infected with the virus was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, while three others were undecided. The report said the intelligence community "assesses China's officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged."
The Chinese embassy in the US stated "Any Phase II origins study must be a comprehensive extension of Phase I and conducted in multiple places and countries to find out the truth." If the US is "transparent and responsible," it should make the data of its early cases public and allow scientists to examine it, the Chinese embassy said.
More than 900 pages of materials were obtained by The Intercept in connection with a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the publication against the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Following the release of the documents 06 September 2021, Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University wrote, “The materials confirm the grants supported the construction — in Wuhan — of novel chimeric SARS-related coronaviruses that combined a spike gene from one coronavirus with genetic information from another coronavirus, and confirmed the resulting viruses could infect human cells. The documents make it clear that assertions by the NIH Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful.”
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