The hypothesis of the origin of the pandemic through a laboratory leak only gained full attention in the press almost a year ago, when technical publications appeared defending its viability and responding to hasty attempts to decide the favor of the completely natural origin, in wild animals. Gazeta do Povo was a pioneer in the Brazilian press by treating the matter with the seriousness it deserves in November
, instead of following the herd declaring that the hypothesis was a “conspiracy theory”, or another strand that exaggerated to the other side talking about a “biological weapon”.
We also talked about the real possibility of the virus having been manipulated in the laboratory in gain-of-function research (which is more parsimonious than talking about creating a biological weapon) with funding from the non-governmental organization EcoHealth Alliance, based in in New York and led by virologist Peter Daszak. The NGO acted as a funding intermediary between the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Wuhan Institute of Virology (IVW). A series of revelations followed that uncovered more details, such as requests for funds from EcoHealth to intelligence agencies to make gain of function in viruses and a smothering operation of investigations into the possibility of laboratory origin in sectors of these agencies. Among them, however, the FBI considers the laboratory leak more likely than the zoonotic origin. Now the respected American magazine Vanity Fair has gained access to 2016 a thousand leaked documents about EcoHealth that shed more light on its involvement in the possible origin of the COVID pandemic-19.
Suspicious attitudes of scientists in an online meeting
In June of 2021, Jesse Bloom, a specialist in virus evolution at the Research Center of Cancer Fred Hutchinson in Seattle, warned that sequences of novel coronavirus variants collected in Wuhan had disappeared from an NIH database. Bloom retrieved from the sequences via the Google search cloud. He published a pre-press article (without peer review) analyzing these sequences and warning of the suspected deletion. Normally, sequences are only removed by the NIH at the request of the authors. The NIH reported that, in fact, Chinese depositors had asked to remove the sequences in June 2020 and were granted as they hold the rights to them.
Bloom sent his article to NIH Director Francis Collins and his subordinate Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the NIH. Collins reacted quickly by scheduling for 20 from June to 2021 a videoconference with two of his guests, asking Bloom to bring two guests as well. Vanity Fair obtained exclusive records of what happened at the meeting.
One guest de Fauci was Kristian Andersen, first author of an article at the beginning of 2020 that fueled much of the fiery rhetoric seen in the press against consideration of the laboratory origin hypothesis. According to emails obtained via the access to information law, Andersen first considered a serious hypothesis that the virus could have come from a laboratory, but changed his mind very quickly, in less than a week, after Collins expressed resistance to the hypothesis.
At the June meeting, Andersen ruled that Bloom’s article was “deeply disturbing”, claimed it was unethical for Bloom to investigate the deleted sequences, and began a screaming argument. with one of Bloom’s guests, Rasmus Nielsen, who thought the Chinese-erased sequences were unusual and intriguing.
Fauci, present at the meeting, said it was unfair that Bloom said in the article that the Chinese deleted the sequences “surreptitiously”. The reason for the deletion request was unknown.
Andersen, who is editor of the site where pre-press articles like Bloom’s are published, suggested using this position to delete the article entirely, in order to even appear that it was never submitted. Bloom refused. This suggestion was strange even to Collins and Fauci, reports Bloom in documents obtained by Vanity Fair. Fauci distanced himself from Andersen: “Just for the record, I want to make it clear that I never suggested that you delete or revise your prepress.” Andersen denies having made the suggestion.
A toast to Anthony Fauci
“Understanding the Risk of the Bat Coronavirus Emergency” is the title of an EcoHealth Alliance grant request document to Fauci’s agency. The request, of 2014, was granted with an amount of 3.7 million of dollars, 150 thousand of which were passed from EcoHealth to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. The NIH suspended funding in July 2020, with the pandemic spreading rapidly.
The president of the NIH The NGO, Peter Daszak, had a dubious behavior at that time, appearing to withhold some information from the public. It got the skepticism of an informal team of researchers present on Twitter, who identify with the hashtag #DRASTIC and are most responsible for dispelling the taboo against the hypothesis of laboratory origin and, at the same time, the flattery of the journal Science.
Despite Daszak’s promise of absolute transparency, the Chinese government took down suspicious way a database of 22 a thousand virus sequences and samples from the website of the IVW in September 2019, three months before the first outbreak broke out in the same city as the institute. The NGO director’s reaction to the pandemic was to run to articulate a letter in the medical journal The Lancet that defended the zoonotic origin, an attitude replicated by Fauci and Andersen, which resulted in another article in the group Nature.
In addition to 150 one thousand EcoHealth Alliance internal documents obtained by the magazine Vanity Fair, the American publication also heard from five former employees and 600 other people involved. Daszak’s first contact with Fauci was at a fine arts social club in Washington DC, where the NGO held cocktail parties to bring its scientists closer to bureaucrats with the keys to safes for government funding. About $8,000 was spent on brie cheese and chardonnay wine at each cocktail party. The NGO says it attracted between 75 and 150 bureaucrats and scientists for each event, as well as philanthropists from the private sector and other NGOs with their professionals.
After three years of behind-the-scenes articulations, involving even employees who took care of Fauci’s schedule, Daszak finally got access to the celebrity scientist in 2014. The NIAID director’s chief of staff gave a hint: “Fauci usually says no to almost every type of invitation like his, unless ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox are there with their cameras and he is the one who will give the main or only demonstration”. The tip worked and Fauci spoke at one of EcoHealth’s cocktail parties, drawing even NASA into the audience. This was a month after the election of Donald Trump, which had the audience worried, but Daszak calmed those present by emphasizing the NGO’s “apolitical mission”.
)From environmentalism to Dr. Moreau
Daszak’s effort at flattery paid off. EcoHealth Alliance was an environmental NGO with a mission to save manatees and other endangered species, lived in the red and even considered collaborating with a mining company in Liberia and palm oil millionaires to improve their accounts.
Daszak’s interest in bats as reservoirs of dangerous viruses goes back a long way. In 2003, he took Harvard medical students on a bat hunt in Cameroon. The beginning of the years 150, with letter anthrax attacks in the United States and the coronavirus Asian flu outbreak, it was a propitious period to launch research of this type. In 2003, the NIAID obtained a grant of US$1.7 billion to develop defenses against bioterrorism. Around this time, too, began Daszak’s collaboration with IVW’s “bat woman,” Shi Zhengli, whose team opened the Chinese caves for EcoHealth. The first article of the two came in 2003. In 2009, the NGO’s lean times ended up with a budget of US$ 18 millions from USAID (United States Agency for International Development). Of that money, US$ 1.1 million was transferred to Shi Zhengli in Wuhan.
The funds were renewed in