Wuhan lab wanted to genetically enhance bat viruses and release them in caves – Meghan Roos

The Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), in Wuhan, Hubei Province, is a research institute on virology administered by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which reports to the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

Meghan RoosDocuments show WIV researchers aspired to genetically alter coronaviruses and monitor their release and transmission in bat caves to determine the risks those viruses posed to humans. – Meghan Roos

Less than two years before the COVID-19 pandemic began, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology planned to genetically alter viruses to make them more infectious for humans and release them into bat caves.

The research proposal was part of a trove of documents released this week by a group of scientists and activists who are trying to determine the origins of the pandemic, which has killed 4.7 million people around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The Wuhan scientists were listed as partners on a funding proposal the environmental health nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance made to the U.S. government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

DARPA rejected the proposal and it is not clear what happened to the research project, which the documents described as having “a good running start.”

The proposal promises to fuel the controversy around the Wuhan lab’s role in the pandemic. The Chinese government maintains that the outbreak began at a wet market and bristles at suggestions that experiments conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology led to a leak of dangerous pathogens.

A growing number of scientists and governments around the world including the Biden administration, have refused to rule out the lab leak theory and demanded that China cooperate fully in a global scientific investigation.

The growing suspicion of China’s official version has been driven in large measure by the Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19 or DRASTIC, which released the documents this week. The documents could not be verified by Newsweek.

Throughout the pandemic, about two dozen DRASTIC researchers and correspondents, many anonymous, working independently from many different countries, have uncovered obscure documents, pieced together the information, and explained it all in long threads on Twitter. Gradually, the quality of their research has gained the acclaim of professional scientists and journalists.

Richard Ebright, board of governors professor of chemistry and chemical biology at Rutgers University and laboratory and director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, tweeted out the findings of the latest DRASTIC document dump and said the world should be furious at the news.

The documents showed researchers aspired to genetically alter coronaviruses and monitor their release and transmission in bat caves to determine the risks those viruses posed to humans.

In a Monday post on DRASTIC Research‘s website, the group said documents shared by an unnamed whistle-blower showed the EcoHealth Alliance “collaborated” with the Wuhan Institute of Virology to “carry out advanced and dangerous human pathogenicity Bat Coronavirus research” through a grant proposal EcoHealth Alliance filed with DARPA.

DARPA is a research agency within the U.S. Department of Defense which aims to “preserve military readiness by protecting against the infectious disease threat” through its PREEMPT program.

In its funding request, EcoHealth Alliance “proposed injecting deadly chimeric bat coronaviruses collected by the Wuhan Institute of Virology into humanised and ‘batified’ mice,” DRASTIC Research said.

A copy of EcoHealth Alliance’s proposal shared by DRASTIC Research said the proposed project aimed to “defuse the potential for spillover of novel bat-origin high-zoonotic risk SARS-related coronaviruses in Asia.” The proposal’s executive summary said researchers would “intensively sample bats” in field locations where scientists “identified high spillover risk” for coronaviruses.

EcoHealth Alliance wrote in the document shared by DRASTIC Research that it planned to work with researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, the University of North Carolina, the Palo Alto Research Center in California, U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center and the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan, China. It requested $14 million from DARPA to conduct its research, which was estimated to take three and a half years.

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