There is genetic evidence suggestive of human tinkering in the genome, and there are news stories suggesting the virus might have been developed either at the Wuhan Institute of Virology or at the American virology lab at Fort Detrick. There are even some suggestions that the American and Chinese bioweapons labs may be working together, sharing samples and exchanging funding.
Part 1: The Genetic Evidence
We rely on the scientific community as a context for almost every public policy decision. People who want to influence policy know this, and they don’t just lobby Congress, they also buy scientists, scientific reporting, and placement in prominent journals. Most scientists are honest, but they have to survive in a world where funding is tighter than it should be. It’s not surprising that some of them succumb and publish what powerful and corrupt institutions want them to.
The question of a laboratory origin for COVID is politically explosive, so we expect a heavy hand restraining the science establishment. Those of us seeking an honest answer, who have a little expertise, a little horse sense, and a lot of patience, are left to sift through information, misinformation, and disinformation in a politicized environment.
My personal opinion is that I don’t like having to wonder if global pandemics have been created, accidentally or otherwise, by my own government. Bioweapon research is extensive in several countries, but dominated by the US. The disclosed US budget is over $10 billion per year, and who knows what the black budget is. There is no legitimate purpose for this “research,” and it is illegal. No bioweapon can ever attack “enemies” without unacceptable risk of infecting “friends”. Over time, it is virtually certain that there will be leaks with horrific consequence. Lyme disease is a case in point.
Regardless of whether COVID19 came from a lab, we the people must demand disclosure of this secret “research”, and demand an end to the American bioweapons program in its entirety.
I know of no coalition organized to this end. We’ll have to start one.
Three useful books to get into this subject:
Bitten: The secret history of Lyme disease and biological weapons
Poisoner in Chief: Sidney Gottlieb and the CIA Search for Mind Control
Lab 257: The disturbing story of the government’s secret germ laboratory
Here’s an interview by Dr Francis Boyle describing the big picture. Boyle is a professor of international law at University of Illinois with a history in both government and academia working on the limitation of biological weapons. In this interview he alleges:
- The US program in biological weapons was jump started after WWII by giving a new home to Japanese and German scientists who had been doing horrific human experimentation.
- These programs continue to this day, at Merck, U of NC, U of Texas, Harvard, NIH and elsewhere.
- Anthony Fauci and NIAID have also been tied to sponsors of bioweapons research, specifically relating to making coronaviruses more lethal. Boyle sites this NYTimes article about the shift of NIAID money in 2001 to bioweapons applications.
Wikipedia states: “Since the 2001 anthrax attacks, and the consequent expansion of federal bio-defense expenditures, USAMRIID has been joined at Fort Detrick by sister bio-defense agencies of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (NIAID‘s Integrated Research Facility) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security…”
- American bioweapons labs are sharing knowledge and specimens with foreign labs, including the high-security (BSL-4) Chinese installation at Wuhan.
- Boyle believes that the origin of COVID was a Chinese-American research project, and that the proximate cause was an accidental release from the Wuhan facility.
Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both.
— The Bioweapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, authored and promoted by Prof Francis Boyle
Since passage of this Act in 1989, offensive bioweapons research has been illegal in America. But Boyle claims that the research has continued under the guise of bioweapons defense or pandemic control. It is explicitly forbidden to genetically engineer pathogens for gain-of-function. That would mean deliberately making them more lethal or more contagious, or modifying an animal pathogen so that it is able to infect humans. Boyle charges that the most explicit violations have been outsourced to avoid technical violation of the Act, and some contracts have been with China.
This british news article claims NIAID gave a $3.7 million grant to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The Virology Institute is in the same city where COVID-19 was first reported and is reputed to be the largest center for bioweapons research in China. Here is a 2017 article from PLOS that comes from the Wuhan Institute, describing genetic experiments with SARS virus extracted from bats. In acknowledgments of support, the authors list NIAID as a funder.
And here is an article that appeared on the Web yesterday, titled Evidence SARS-CoV-2 Emerged From a Biological Laboratory in Wuhan, China. The article is unsigned, but contains only verifiable information in the public domain. It cites this article from 2007, in which Chinese researchers in collaboration with Australian researchers modify a bat coronavirus to enable it to infect humans. “A second paper, from 2015, not only reiterates the first paper’s findings, but outright claims they ‘synthetically re-derived an infectious full-length SHC014 recombinant virus and demonstrate robust viral replication both in vitro [human cell cultures] and in vivo [mouse models].”” Also in the anonymous article are recent job postings from the Wuhan lab, seeking researchers expert in bat virus and cross-species transmissions.
Not in this article, but also of interest, were a FEMA report from last summer that was eerily prescient. A job listing at CDC last November seemed to anticipate a coming need for emergency management. And a conference sponsored by Johns Hopkins University and the Gates foundation last October simulated a coronavirus outbreak that started in China and spread worldwide.
Where did COVID come from?
I don’t pretend to know the answer, and based on publicly-available information, I don’t think it is knowable. But there is genetic evidence suggestive of human tinkering in the genome, and there are news stories suggesting the virus might have been developed either at the Wuhan Institute of Virology or at the American virology lab at Fort Detrick. There are even some suggestions that the American and Chinese bioweapons labs may be working together, sharing samples and exchanging funding. I will defer these stories for Part 2 of this report.
The official story is that the origin of the epidemic was the “wet market” where meat and some wild livestock is sold to consumers in Wuhan. This hypothesis was challenged by an article in Lancet, summarized here in Science Magazine. The authors interviewed the first 41 known patients in Wuhan, who were assumed to have contracted COVID concurrently from “patient zero”. For 28 of them, there were links to the Market, either personal or through a family member, but for 13 of them, no links to the Market could be identified. In this neighborhood of Wuhan, most people did shop at the Market, so the authors were more impressed with the 13 who had no link, and suggested that 28 out of 41 could have been consistent with a random sample of people from that neighborhood.
Other sources claim that all 41 had links to the nearby Oriental Hotel, a short walk from the Market, and that Patient Zero was an American soldier/cyclist. I will have more to say in Part 2.
Is it plausible that the SARS-CoV2 mutated directly from a virus that infected local bats? For this question, I am dependent on evolutionary geneticists for an opinion, and there is a divergence of opinion on the scientific literature. Geneticists who say evidence points to a laboratory origin are typically cautious, but they make these points:
- Wuhan is in central-eastern China. The bats that carry SARS come from Yunnan province in the southwest, about 1,000 miles away. It is known that the bats were collected for research on the SARS virus conducted at the Wuhan laboratory.
- The genome has at least 4 gain-of-function mutations (if they are mutations) compared to the ancestor bat virus. Gain-of-function mutations are rare compared to loss-of-function, and usually the virus makes its leap when there is one gain-of-function.
- About a fourth of the genome looks nothing like a coronavirus, and must have arrived via genetic recombination. The recombined part bears a resemblance to HIV. Viral genome recombinations do occur in nature, but this one is particularly hard to explain, since HIV is a fragile virus that can’t survive outside human blood. How would it get into a bat virus?
- COVID has some pathological effects never before seen in a coronavirus, including attack on the GI tract and on artery walls. There are some reports that the virus’s lethality comes from its attack on hemoglobin, the red blood molecule that carries oxygen around the body.
The claim that the four insertions look suspiciously like HIV was considered shaky, but it is supported just today by a testimonial from a French Nobel laureate. In 2008, Dr Luc Montagnier was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for having discovered (much earlier) the HIV virus that causes AIDS. In this radio interview (in French) with Dr Jean-François Lemoine, Montagnier expresses his conviction that the SARS-CoV2 genome points to a laboratory origin.
“Indian researchers have already tried to publish the results of the analyses that showed that this coronavirus genome contained sequences of another virus, … the HIV virus, but they were forced to withdraw their findings as the pressure from the mainstream was too great.”
Against these analyses, there is one prominent article in Nature Medicine that claims to “irrefutably” rule out a laboratory origin. Their basis for saying this is
- That computations suggest that the virus’s surface proteins are not ideal for binding to a human enzyme called ACE2, and that if the virus were designed in a lab, the designers would certainly have found the ideal solution, and used that instead.
- That the backbone of the virus contains a piece that looks like a pangolin virus, and the pangolin virus genome wasn’t published until very recently, so lab scientists could not have used it.
(The pangolin is a rare, endangered species of armored anteater. It looks a bit like an armadillo.)
I’m always suspicious when scientists use words like “irrefutably” and “definitive”. But, more objectively, I would point out that none of the four bullet points above were refuted or even considered in the Nature Medicine paper.
There is also a statement in Lancet signed by 27 researchers which was prominently echoed in Science Magazine that “strongly condemns rumors and conspiracy theories”, without refuting any of the geneticists’ claims. They cite dozens of papers that they say support a natural origin, but, reviewing these papers, I find that they rather assume a natural origin. In fact several of the papers note difficulties with this hypothesis. One of the papers concludes on the basis of evolutionary models that, if SARS-CoV2 evolved naturally from a bat ancestor, it must have diverged at least 40 years ago. This is difficult to reconcile with the story that SARS-CoV2 jumped from bats to humans just last year.
My personal perspective inclines me to think the Lancet statement is politically motivated. I find it suspicious that prominent scientific publications have seen fit to deny claims that COVID had a laboratory origin, but none have refuted the considered details of those claims.
The US Military has been studying Coronaviruses as bioweapons
It is undisputed that the US has an extensive bioweapons “research” program, and that modifying Coronaviruses to make them more dangerous is part of their program of work.
Here is the first person account of Judy Mikovits, who claims she worked in the 1990s at Fort Detrick, an Army biology lab in Maryland. Part of her job was to weaponize coronaviruses. This work was ongoing and controversial as late as 2015. President Obama approved and extended the programs. Three years ago, Nature reported that “the SARS virus has escaped from high level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times”. Only in China? Also in 2017, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested from CDC information about leaks from similar research facilities in the US, and they got back a 503-page document with all specifics redacted.
I find it suspicious that the debate over whether COVID came from a laboratory is being avoided with ad hominem attacks, blanket denials, and straw man arguments. I’m impressed that the people who are supporting a laboratory origin have promptly corrected their misstatements, while I see no such willingness on the other side.
The totality of evidence for the hypothesis is not conclusive. The most compelling evidence I see is
- Bats that are reputed to be source of the virus are found naturally more than 1,000 miles from Wuhan, but we know that the Wuhan Laboratory was studying just these bats and just this virus, and further that they were experimenting with modifying the spike protein that the virus uses for entry, to make it compatible with human ACE2.
- The virus gained several new abilities on emerging from bats. Usually, we would expect just one.
- Closely related to this, the genome shows four RNA segments that differ substantially from the bat ancestor where, again, we would expect just one.
- Genetic analysis indicates that the divergence from bats happened decades ago, and yet the disease only appeared in humans recently.
I take Francis Boyle’s testimony quite seriously. He’s a career expert in biological warfare. Luc Montagnier is as credible a source as they come, but I don’t know what to make of how certain he seems about genetic evidence that others have said is inconclusive.
In Part 2, I hope to tie in American bioweapons research. Linking the American and Chinese bioweapons programs seems stranger than science. Teaser: Evidence suggests that SARS-CoV2 has been in America longer than it has been in China.