Top U.S. and British scientists reportedly thought that SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, likely escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, but some were hesitant to let the debate play out in the media because they were concerned about “international harmony.”
“An email from Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, on February 2 2020 said that ‘a likely explanation’ was that Covid had rapidly evolved from a Sars-like virus inside human tissue in a low-security lab,” The Telegraph reported. “The email, to Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Francis Collins of the US National Institutes of Health, went on to say that such evolution may have ‘accidentally created a virus primed for rapid transmission between humans.'”
However, a top Dutch scientist and a top U.S. public health official warned that discussing the lab leak theory could cause serious geopolitical issues and could harm China.
Dr. Francis Collins, the then-director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), replied to Farrar, writing: “I share your view that a swift convening of experts in a confidence-inspiring framework is needed or the voices of conspiracy will quickly dominate, doing great potential harm to science and international harmony.”
Another scientist, Dr. Ron Fouchier, a Dutch virologist and Deputy Head of the Erasmus MC Department of Viroscience, responded to Farrar, “Further debate about such accusations would unnecessarily distract top researchers from their active duties and do unnecessary harm to science in general and science in China in particular.”
The report added:
In the emails, Sir Jeremy said that other scientists also believed the virus could not have evolved naturally. One such scientist was Professor Mike Farzan, of Scripps Research, the expert who discovered how the original Sars virus binds to human cells. … The emails also show that Bob Garry, of the University of Texas, was unconvinced that Covid-19 emerged naturally.
Viscount Ridley, co-author of Viral: the search for the origin of Covid, said that the emails showed “a lamentable lack of openness and transparency among Western scientists who appear to have been more interested in shutting down a hypothesis they thought was very plausible, for political reasons.”
David Asher, who led the Trump administration’s investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, told Fox News in May 2021 that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) was up to “some very hairy stuff with synthetic biology” and that biostatisticians from the U.S. government calculated that the odds of the coronavirus evolving naturally was one-in-13 billion.
Asher said that the U.S. government’s probe was finding “that there was almost no evidence that supported a natural, zoonotic … evolution, or source of COVID-19 … the data disproportionately stacked up as we investigated that it was coming out of a lab or some supernatural source.”
Asher said that the Chinese military was involved in research in the lab and that “they were up to some very hairy stuff with synthetic biology and so called gain of function techniques.”
Asher said that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing gain of function research to enhance “the pathogenicity or the virulence of coronavirus vectors that were radically unnatural.”
“They were not similar to anything that resembled what could occur a natural evolution,” Asher said. “In fact, I had biostatisticians at one of our national labs calculate the odds of this evolving in nature. And it was like one in 13 million, and then they later revised it to about one in 13 billion. So you know, to say this came out of a zoonotic situation is sort of ridiculous.”