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The Sordid Details of How U.S. Experts Unknowingly Helped the Chinese Military Create COVID-19

CDC/ Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Once Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) got his hands on a published study from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, gain-of-function research became part of the conversation about the origins of COVID-19. Former NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci has repeatedly denied the NIH-funded experiments for that study qualified as gain of function under repeated questioning from Paul and that they had anything to do with COVID-19.

It appears the chimeric virus from that study is not a precursor to the virus that causes COVID-19. However, a new investigative report from The Sunday Times in the U.K. makes a convincing case the virus was developed in parallel with the 2015 study at the Wuhan lab and that its creation relied on technology and techniques taught to Wuhan researchers by U.S. experts.

The in-depth investigation reviewed hundreds of documents obtained by freedom of information requests, court cases, and internal investigations. Journalists Jonathan Calvert and George Arbuthnott also interviewed three U.S. State Department investigators who were part of the team given access to metadata, phone information, and internet information collected by U.S. intelligence services.

The investigation provides a detailed timeline for creating SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in a collaboration between the Wuhan Institute and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). It concludes that the research that led to COVID-19 started in 2012 and ran concurrently with a program run by Dr. Peter Daszak.

In the PREDICT program, which the NIH and USAID partially funded, Dr. Shi Zhengli and researchers from the Wuhan Institute collected bat-dropping samples from at least two sites in China. The first was a cave called Shitou. The viruses discovered there were studied, combined, and tested by Daszak, Shi, and Dr. Ralph Baric from the University of North Carolina. They published their findings in the 2015 paper cited by Paul.

The U.S.-China team’s work resulted in a chimeric virus that killed 75% of the humanized mice the team inoculated. It was three times as lethal as the unaltered sample virus given to the control group. The investigative journalists summed up the project by saying, “The scientists had created a highly infectious super-coronavirus with a terrifying kill rate that in all probability would never have emerged in nature.” And while the creation and the potential existence of this Frankenstein virus are terrifying enough, it is only half the story, according to the investigation.

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In 2012, Wuhan researchers also took samples from bats in an abandoned copper mine in south China called Mojiang. Six researchers were struck with a mystery illness and tested positive for antibodies to an unknown coronavirus. Three of them died. The Sunday Times pieced together what happened from a master’s thesis by a medic at the hospital that treated the men and a Ph.D. paper by a student of the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Following the deaths, Shi’s team spent four years collecting 1,300 samples from bats in the mine while withholding the information about the sampling and the dead researchers from EcoHealth and the U.S. government. If the six researchers fell ill after contracting a virus found in bats, it would have been the first recorded incident of direct infection from bats to humans. It was precisely the situation the PREDICT program was set up to identify. Yet the team in China remained mum.

Instead, the samples were transported to the Wuhan Institute, and work on them became classified according to State Department investigators. In the mine, Shi and her team discovered nine viruses in a lineage of coronaviruses from a previously undiscovered family. She identified one of them as RaBtCoV/4991. It is the closest known relative of SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. The nine viruses discovered were the only members of the SARS-CoV-2 line known to exist before the pandemic.

The intelligence reviewed by State Department investigators suggests that the same kind of experiments with chimeric viruses outlined in the 2015 paper by Shi and Baric were conducted on the SARS-CoV2-like viruses from the copper mine. This work was kept from Daszak.

“They were working with the nine different Covid variants,” one of the investigators said. They believe one virus at the Wuhan institute was an even closer match to Covid-19 than RaTG13 [previously called RaBtCoV/4991].“We are confident they were working on a closer unpublished variant — possibly collected in Mojiang [the copper mine],” the source added (emphasis added).

The investigators also learned that experiments inserting a furin cleavage site were conducted on at least one of the mine viruses. SARS-Cov2 is the only coronavirus that displays a furin cleavage site. Daszak proposed that insertion in a $14 million grant application to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The proposal outlines a project Shi and Baric on the team to find large numbers of SARS-like viruses and mix them with the deadly strains developed in the 2015 study. The proposal was denied.

According to all three investigators, the work on the mine viruses was funded by the Chinese military. According to their report:

Despite presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.

The intelligence sources link the Wuhan Institute and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) research arm. It also shows military personnel holding positions of responsibility at the Wuhan lab. A 2015 book by military researchers collaborating with Wuhan scientists discussed how SARS viruses could be manipulated through serial passaging into an emerging disease, weaponized, and unleashed

The intelligence sources link the Wuhan Institute and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) research arm. It also shows military personnel holding positions of responsibility at the Wuhan lab. A 2015 book by military researchers collaborating with Wuhan scientists discussed how SARS viruses could be manipulated through serial passaging into an emerging disease, weaponized, and unleashed.

The investigators also believe that the Chinese military is attempting to create vaccines for their chimeric viruses so they can innoculate their population and use the viruses as bioweapons. One PLA vaccine specialist, Zhou Yousen, produced a patent for a COVID-19 vaccine in February 2020. That led U.S. experts to believe Zhou worked on the vaccine before the pandemic began.

Intelligence intercepts indicating that three Wuhan researchers fell ill with coronavirus symptoms in November 2019 reinforce this theory. One investigator said, “We were rock-solid confident that this was likely COVID-19 because they were working on advanced coronavirus research in the laboratory of Dr. Shi. They’re trained biologists in their thirties and forties. Thirty-five-year-old scientists don’t get very sick with influenza.”

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A complete crackdown on the Mojiang mine, strange equipment requests from the Wuhan lab, a visit from the safety director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Zhou’s death all occurred when COVID-19 emerged globally. A study showed that the initial cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan occurred several miles away from the much-maligned Hunan seafood market. The biggest hotspot was right next to the Wuhan Institute.

The collaboration between Baric and Shi using funds from U.S. agencies is one reason experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and Daszak insisted on a natural emergence story for SARS-CoV-2. The brutal truth is that Baric provided Shi with two skills critical to the work done on the mine viruses. When Shi found SHC014, one of the viruses used to make the chimeric in the 2015 study, she could not grow sufficient copies to study it. Baric helped her recreate the spike protein on the virus from the genetic sequence.

Baric also developed a technique for modifying viruses called “seamless ligation,” supported by $220.5 million from the NIH. The method supposedly hid all evidence that a virus was manipulated in a laboratory. Unfortunately for Baric, researchers have found a way to identify these modifications. And they found that signature in the genome of SARS-CoV-2.

So, while Baric and Daszak may have remained in the dark about the parallel research on the viruses from the mine, they were acutely aware of the technological skill set provided to the Wuhan Institute. It appears to be how the Chinese researchers added the furin cleavage site and made enough of the viruses to study.

Perhaps that is why the world had to remain in the dark about the origins of COVID-19. Because while the Chinese Communist Party may have pulled the trigger on the deadly gain-of-function research that created the virus, U.S. collaborators gave them the metaphorical bullets. And there is no way to know how many more Frankenstein viruses may have been made from the viruses in the SARS-CoV2 lineage or when they might emerge from their home in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

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