Jeremy Farrar, British infectious disease scientist and director of the Wellcome Trust, wrote in an email on February 2, 2020 that the “likely explanation” for the origins of the coronavirus was that it had rapidly evolved from a SARS-like virus inside human tissue in a low-risk laboratory. security level. He went on to write that such an evolution could “accidentally create a virus prepared to spread rapidly between humans.” The addressees of this e-mail were Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the U.S. President, and Dr. Francis Collins, the then director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Farrar wrote in the e-mail that other scientists also believed that the virus could not have evolved naturally. One of them was prof. Mike Farzan of Scripps Research, an expert who discovered how the primary SARS virus binds to human cells. Scientists were particularly concerned about a part of the coronavirus called the furin cleavage site, part of the spike protein that helps the virus enter cells and makes it so infectious to humans.
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“I can’t imagine how it would be possible in nature”
“(Farzan) is concerned about the (fission) site of furin and has difficulty explaining it as an out-of-laboratory event, although there are possible ways in nature, but very unlikely. series of coincidences, what do you know about the Wuhan lab, how much could be in nature – accidental release or natural event? I rate it at 70:30 or 60:40, “Farrar wrote, summarizing Farzan’s concerns in an email.
Subsequent news showed that by February 4, Farrar had revised the laboratory leak probability rating to 50:50, while Prof. Eddie Holmes of the University of Sydney estimated the possibility of accidental virus release at 60%.
The e-mails show that other scientists were also not convinced that SARS-CoV-2 arose naturally. “I just can’t imagine what this would be like in nature,” said Bob Garry of the University of Texas. Prof. Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh wrote that the furin fission site “strikes me as unusual”. “I think the only people with sufficient information or access to samples to do this would be the teams working in Wuhan,” he added.
Media: Scientists have tried to close the debate on the laboratory leak theory
The e-mails were sent in response to a teleconference between 12 scientists, including the UK government’s chief science advisor, Patrick Vallance, on February 1, 2020. As the Daily Telegraph writes, they show that by February 2 scientists were trying to shut down the debate on the theory of laboratory leakage.
Dr. Ron Fouchier wrote to Farrar: “Further debate on such accusations would unnecessarily distract the best scientists from their day-to-day responsibilities and do unnecessary damage to science in general, and science in China in particular.”
Dr. Collins, the then director of the NIH, replied to Farrar, “I share your view that experts need to be summoned quickly in a trust-building format or else conspiracy theories will quickly become dominant, potentially doing great harm to science and international consensus.”
As the Daily Telegraph points out, the institutions that had the e-mails repeatedly refused to publish their content. The University of Edinburgh recently rejected a request for access to Prof. Rambaut, arguing that “disclosing (their) could endanger the physical or mental health and safety of individuals.”
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(PAP) author: Bartłomiej Niedziński