Scientists Backtrack, Admit Proposed Virus Experiments Could Have Been Done In China

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by Tyler Durden
Saturday, May 04, 2024 - 03:40 AM

Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Scientists with close ties to China and the U.S. government is now saying that risky experiments he proposed—which some experts believe could have led to the creation of SARS-CoV-2—may have been done, deviating from earlier statements.

Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, testifies before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in Washington, on May 1, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Another scientist involved in the proposal also says he doesn’t know if the work was done.

To the very best of my knowledge ... the work hasn’t been done,” Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, told a congressional panel this week.

Mr. Daszak, however, admitted that he doesn’t know whether scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) in China have done the proposed experiments.

“Do you know if the WIV started this work?” he was asked during a U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing in Washington.

“No,” Mr. Daszak replied.

Then you can’t say that the work was not done,” Mitch Benzine, the staff director for the panel, said.

“There is no evidence of the work being done. There is no evidence that WIV started it,” Mr. Daszak said.

Has he ever asked Shi Zhengli, a top scientist at the WIV, whether she carried out the proposal?

“No,” Mr. Daszak acknowledged.

The proposal in question, dubbed Project DEFUSE, was submitted in 2018 to the U.S. government as EcoHealth and its partners, including WIV, sought to take viruses from bats, reverse engineer them, and add features. Some outside scientists say the proposed work could have led to the creation of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) declined to fund the proposal, expressing concerns that adding features to coronaviruses could create a dangerous virus.

After the proposal was leaked to the public in 2021, Mr. Daszak and EcoHealth have said definitively that the proposed experiments never took place.

The DARPA proposal was not funded. Therefore, the work was not done. Simple,” Mr. Daszak told The Intercept in 2022.

“The proposed research was never done,” EcoHealth added in a recent statement.

Ralph Baric, a University of North Carolina virologist who was also listed in the DEFUSE proposal, also said in newly disclosed testimony that he did not know whether the proposed experiments were conducted.

“Certainly not by my group,” Mr. Baric told the subcommittee. “I don’t know what China did.”

Mr. Baric and Ms. Shi have created chimeras, or combination viruses, among other work together.

“There was no evidence that they were doing this kind of work,” Mr. Baric said. “Well, there was evidence that they were building chimeras using WIV1 as a backbone, so they were doing some discovery work about the functions of spike genes of zoonotic strains that they discovered later on, but I don’t know if they did any of the engineering or anything.”

WIV1 is a bat coronavirus that was found in China.

Mr. Baric also claimed he had forgotten about DEFUSE so he didn’t discuss it while meeting with Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top U.S. government official, on Feb. 12, 2020.

Mr. Daszak said Wednesday that DARPA later returned to EcoHealth “to try and fund portions” of DEFUSE, but no lawmakers pressed him on that disclosure.

‘They’ve Always Been Truthful’

EcoHealth separately for years funneled grant money from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to Wuhan researchers, including money that funded experiments that increased the virulence of a bat coronavirus.

Asked how his group verified information about those experiments, Mr. Daszak acknowledged it relied on statements from the WIV. “I have no other way to verify,” he said.

The scientists in Wuhan “have always been honest with us,” he added later. “They’ve always been truthful. There’s never any untoward, underhand things going on. I have no reason to think that they were under pressure to lie. There’s no indication of that.”

After the pandemic started, WIV researchers refused to hand over laboratory notebooks and other files to EcoHealth after the U.S. government asked for the records, resulting in the government debarring WIV from receiving U.S. grant money.

“Nearly two years have passed since the NIH first requested that WIV provide the requested information and materials, and yet WIV has still failed to do so,” a debarment official wrote to Ms. Shi.

In comments on a draft of the DEFUSE proposal, Mr. Daszak said that some of the work would be done at the Wuhan lab.

“If we win this contract, I do not propose that all of this work will necessarily be conducted by Ralph, but I do want to stress the US side of this proposal so that DARPA are comfortable with our team,” Mr. Daszak wrote in one comment. “Once we get the funds, we can then allocate who does what exact work, and I believe that a lot of these assays can be done in Wuhan as well.”

Mr. Daszak told Mr. Baric in a May 27, 2021, email released by the subcommittee that Ms. Zhengli said culturing of animal viruses was being done under biosafety level two conditions, or one level below that applied in many other countries.

We checked with Zhengli, who let us know that she used ‘BSL-2 with negative pressure and appropriate PPE.’ I also know that they are stricter now on SADS-CoV... ever since you showed it was able to infect human airway epithelial cells,” he wrote.

Mr. Baric responded by saying Mr. Daszak was “being told a bunch of [expletive].”

“BSL-2 w[ith] negative pressure, give me a break,” he wrote, adding later, “You believe this was appropriate containment, if you want but don’t expect me to believe it. Moreover, don’t insult my intelligence by trying to feed me this load of [expletive].”