Did US biotechnology help to create COVID-19?

  • First, the SARS-CoV-2 genome is distinguished by a particular 12-nucleotide sequence (the genetic code) that serves to increase its infectivity. The specific amino acid sequence directed by this insertion has been much discussed and is known as a furin cleavage site (FCS).
  • Second, the FCS has been a target of cutting-edge research since 2006, following the original SARS outbreak of 2003-04. Scientists have long understood that the FCS holds the key to these viruses’ infectivity and pathophysiology.
  • Third, SARS-CoV-2 is the only virus in the family of SARS-like viruses (sarbecoviruses) known to have an FCS. Interestingly, the specific form of the FCS that is present in SARS-CoV-2 (eight amino acids encoded by 24 nucleotides) is shared with a human sodium channel that has been studied in US labs.
  • Fourth, the FCS was already so well known as a driver of transmissibility and virulence that a group of US scientists submitted a proposal to the US government in 2018 to study the effect of inserting an FCS into SARS-like viruses found in bats. Although the dangers of this kind of work have been highlighted for some time, these bat viruses were somehow considered to be in a lower-risk category. This exempted them from NIH gain-of-function guidelines, thereby enabling NIH-funded experiments to be carried out at the inadequate BSL-2 safety level.
  • Fifth, the NIH was a strong supporter of such gain-of-function research, much of which was performed using US-developed biotechnology and executed within an NIH-funded three-way partnership between the EHA, the WIV, and UNC.
  • Sixth, in 2018, a leading US scientist pursuing this research argued that laboratory manipulation was vital for drug and vaccine discovery, but that increased regulation could stymie progress. Many within the virology community continue to resist sensible calls for enhanced regulation of the most high-risk virus manipulation, including the establishment of a national regulatory body independent of the NIH.
  • Seventh, the virus was very likely circulating a lot earlier than the standard narrative that dates awareness of the outbreak to late December 2019. We still do not know when parts of the US government became aware of the outbreak, but some scientists were aware of the outbreak as of mid-December.
  • Eighth, the NIH knew as early as February 1, 2020, that the virus could have emerged as a consequence of NIH-funded laboratory research, but it did not disclose that fundamental fact to the public or to the US Congress.
  • Ninth, extensive sampling by Chinese authorities of animals in Wuhan wet markets and in the wild has found not a single wild animal harboring the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Despite this, there is no indication that the NIH has requested the laboratory records of US agencies, academic centers, and biotech companies involved in researching and manipulating SARS-like coronaviruses.
  • Tenth, the IC has not explained why at least some of the US intelligence agencies do in fact believe that a laboratory release was either the most likely or at least a possible origin of the virus.

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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