Post by Terry del Fuego
I can't read the article without registering, which I'm uninterested
in doing, so I don't know if this is addressed or not, but I'm curious
if any hypothetical virus engineers considered the stupidity of people
while doing...whatever it was they allegedly did.
Revealed: Wuhan and US scientists planned to create new coronaviruses
Before Covid pandemic erupted, group submitted proposals to mix genetic
data of related strains and grow completely new sequences
By Sarah Knapton, SCIENCE EDITOR
5 October 2021 • 4:00pm
Scientists from Wuhan and the US were planning to create new
coronaviruses that did not exist in nature by combining the genetic
codes of other viruses, proposals show.
Documents of a grant application submitted to the US Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (Darpa), leaked last month, reveal that the
international team of scientists planned to mix genetic data of closely
related strains and grow completely new viruses.
A genetics expert working with the World Health Organisation (WHO), who
uncovered the plan after studying the proposals in detail, said that if
Sars-CoV-2 had been produced in this way, it would explain why a close
match has never been found in nature.
So far the closest naturally occurring virus to Sars-CoV-2 is a strain
called Banal-52, which was reported from Laos last month and shares
96.8 per cent of the genome. Yet scientists expect a direct ancestor to
be around a 99.98 per cent match – and none has been found so far.
The Darpa proposals, leaked to the pandemic origins analysis group
Drastic, show the team had planned to take sequences from naturally
occurring coronaviruses and use them to create a brand new sequence
that was an average of all the strains.
The grant application, submitted in 2018, states: "We will compile
sequence/RNAseq data from a panel of closely related strains and
compare full length genomes, scanning for unique SNPs representing
"Consensus candidate genomes will be synthesised commercially using
established techniques and genome-length RNA and electroporation to
recover recombinant viruses."
Explaining the proposal, a WHO collaborator, who has asked not to be
named for fear of reprisals, said: "This means that they would take
various sequences from similar coronaviruses and create a new sequence
that is essentially the average of them. It would be a new virus
sequence, not a 100 per cent match to anything.
Placeholder image for youtube video: mAAw_1NVaow
"They would then synthesise the viral genome from the computer
sequence, thus creating a virus genome that did not exist in nature but
looks natural as it is the average of natural viruses.
"Then they put that RNA in a cell and recover the virus from it. This
creates a virus that has never existed in nature, with a new 'backbone'
that didn't exist in nature but is very, very similar as it's the
average of natural backbones."
The source said it was noteworthy that the cut-off for generating such
an average sequence was viruses that only had five per cent genetic
divergence from each other.
Last year, scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology said they had
found a strain named RaTG13 in bat droppings in a cave in Yunnan
province in 2013 which was a 96.1 per cent match to Sars-CoV-2. It
means RaTG13 could have been included in a set of viral genomes to help
create an average sequence.
Although the grant proposal was rejected in 2018, the Wuhan database of
viral strains was taken offline prior to the Covid outbreak some 18
months later, meaning it is impossible to check which viruses the team
was working on or had created. Wuhan scientists have consistently
denied creating Sars-CoV-2 in a lab.
The WHO source added: "If Sars-CoV-2 comes from an artificial consensus
sequence composed of genomes with more than 95 per cent similarity to
each other… I would predict that we will never find a really good match
in nature and just a bunch of close matches across parts of the
sequence, which so far is what we are seeing.
"The problem is that those opposed to a lab leak scenario will always
just say that we need to sample more, and absence of evidence isn't
evidence of absence. Scientists overall are afraid of discussing the
issue of the origins due to the political situation. This leaves a
small and vocal minority of biased scientists free to spread
The proposal was submitted by the British zoologist Peter Daszak on
behalf of a consortium which included Daszak EcoHealth Alliance, the
Wuhan Institute of Virology, the University of North Carolina and Duke
NUS in Singapore.
The plans are in addition to other proposals made in the Darpa
documents, including inserting a section into existing viruses to make
them more infectious to humans and inoculating wild bats with
aerosolised engineered spike proteins from viruses.
Experts said if the ultimate aim of the proposal was to create a
pan-coronavirus vaccine, constructing an "ideal" average virus would
have been a good starting point.
Mr Daszak, currently a member of the WHO team investigating the
pandemic's origins, was also behind a letter published in The Lancet
which dismissed suggestions that Covid did not have a natural origin as
a conspiracy theory.
The WHO source said he had struggled to raise the issue of a lab leak
with other scientists and had been warned not to go on the record with
The proposal team has been approached for comment but had not responded
at the time of publication.