In early March last year, when the coronavirus was starting to wreak havoc in Europe and America After exploding in Wuhan in January, the first suspicions were heard about the laboratories in that city. Along with the usual opacity of China, it was too much of a coincidence that the pandemic had unleashed right in the place where its largest national laboratory, the National Institute of Virology, investigates precisely with bat coronavirus. To silence these critical voices, 27 renowned scientists signed a manifesto in the journal ‘The Lancet’ supporting their Chinese colleagues. In addition to showing their solidarity, they condemned “conspiracy theories that suggest that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.”
of the debate. But now, a year and a half later, the theory of the laboratory gains weight again the longer it goes by without that natural origin being found. In addition, the opinion of these scientists no longer sounds so strong because, as discovered by ‘The Telegraph’, 26 of the 27 signatories had professional relationships or even projects with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and with Chinese researchers.
The most notorious of all is the British zoologist Peter Daszak, president of the NGO EcoHealth Alliance and member of the mission of the World Health Organization (WHO) who tried to find out in January the origin of the coronavirus in Wuhan. Through his many contacts in the scientific community, Daszak was the promoter of the manifesto, but hiding that EcoHealth Alliance was behind it.
Although his organization regularly collaborated with the P4 superlaboratory and he is good friends with its main managers, such as Dr. Shi Zhengli, he did not declare that there was a conflict of interest in that letter. EcoHealt Alliance’s mission is seek alliances with research centers who work in the area of infectious diseases, especially those of Southeast Asia, the area of the world that has become a breeding ground for the birth of new viral threats.
Finally, in June he had to acknowledge his ties to Wuhan in an addendum to the letter after his emails came to light orchestrating its writing. For the doubts about its scientific impartiality, also was dismissed from both UN commissions and from ‘The Lancet’ on the origins of the coronavirus, but not from the WHO research team.
Along with him, five other signatories worked for the EcoHealth Alliance and three more for the British organization Wellcome Trust, which has also funded projects at the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Its director, Sir Jeremy Farrar, has published studies with Gao Fu, director of the China Center for Disease Prevention and Control, whom he considers an old friend, according to ‘The Telegraph’.
Other signatories, such as Drs Linda Saif and Kanta Subbarao, have given lectures organized by the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and Professor John Mackenzie from Australia served on one of its scientific advisory committees.
Among the signatories is also the Spanish Luis Enjuanes, from the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC). Speaking to ABC, Enjuanes, one of the most reputable scientists in the study of coronavirus, downplays links with the Wuhan researchers. “I am 76 years old and I have been working with viruses for 40 years, 35 of them with coronavirus. I have been invited to give lectures in all countries of the world and I have colleagues who are friends in China, the United Kingdom, the United States … We all collaborate and work together because that way science advances faster. That, in no case, can be considered a conflict of interest, “he explains.
“Nothing is concluded”
Enjuanes ensures that at no point did he feel pressured to sign the manifesto in ‘The Lancet‘, where they defended the natural origin of the new coronavirus. Not for Peter Daszak or anyone. «At my age it is no longer easy for someone to make me say something I do not want. Whoever reads these letters will see that we did not conclude anything. We affirm that there is no absolute certainty about the origin of the virus, but that most of the indications point to a natural origin rather than an escape or accident from a laboratory. We only asked that no interested political speculation be made, that scientific evidence was still lacking. And I reaffirm myself on this, based on the scientific publications that have been made to date. They all come to the same conclusion. Today I would sign those letters again, I consider it a professional duty ».
Enjuanes talks to ABC after a grueling 12-hour workday. Since the pandemic began, no break is allowed. Its main objective is to bring to the clinic a vaccine against Covid-19 that is more effective than the current ones. “I have not eaten yet, we are at the limit of our possibilities and we must be very selective where we focus our attention. Let’s not waste time on interested speculations », ask this newspaper.