American Researchers In Bed With Wuhan Lab Misled Pentagon About Civilization-Threatening Virus Research

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Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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The American researchers who have, for years, been at the center of the COVID-19 origins debate, were revealed this week to have misled the U.S. government about their research partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

The University of North Carolina’s Ralph Baric and EcoHealth Alliance co-founder Peter Daszak drafted a grant proposal a year before the outbreak of COVID-19 that disguised the risky nature of their work to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is part of the Pentagon. While DARPA ultimately opted not to fund the project, newly-unearthed communications between Baric and Daszak reveal that the two scientists knew U.S. researchers and government officials would “freak out” if they knew exactly what research the pair was seeking to do, and perhaps more critically, where they wanted to do it.

The communications were revealed by reporter Emily Kopp and U.S. Right To Know (USRTK), a watchdog group that advocates for transparency in public health and has released a number of bombshell reports on the origins of COVID-19. Advocates of the lab-leak theory of COVID-19 origin believe that the deadly global pandemic emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). Believers in the lab leak most often believe either that the virus was captured in nature before being brought back to the WIV for research, from where it was accidentally released in a tragic mishap, or that it was genetically engineered in some fashion by researchers connected to Baric and Daszak at the WIV.

According to the new revelations from USRTK, Baric and Daszak said of their 2018 “Project DEFUSE” grant proposal that they needed to conceal how much of the work was being done in Wuhan, lie to the Pentagon about how secure the laboratory at the WIV was and downplay the involvement of Chinese scientists in the project.

“Ralph, Zhengli. If we win this contract, I do not propose that all of this work will necessarily be conducted by Ralph, but I do want to stress the US side of this proposal so that DARPA are comfortable with our team,” Daszak wrote to his colleagues. “Once we get the funds, we can then allocate who does what exact work, and I believe that a lot of these assays can be done in Wuhan as well…”

“Zhengli” refers to Dr. Shi Zhengli, China’s now-infamous “bat woman” researcher from Wuhan. Zhengli regularly partnered with other researchers like Daszak and Baric on gain-of-function research (GoF) — dangerous work that involves genetically altering viral pathogens to make them more contagious, more deadly, or both. Opponents of gain-of-function research argue that it needlessly makes pathogens more dangerous for little-to-no benefit, with tremendous downside risk in the event that said pathogens are accidentally released to the public.

As Daszak alluded to, DARPA would likely be more comfortable with work conducted by Baric in the United States, but much of the work funded by EcoHealth grants was ultimately done in Wuhan by Chinese researchers with some connections to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

“I’m planning to use my resume and Ralph’s,” Daszak wrote. “Linfa/Zhengli, I realize your resumes are also very impressive, but I’m trying to downplay the non-US focus of this proposal so that DARPA doesn’t see this as a negative.”

Daszak is well aware of the negative optics that come with doing dangerous GoF research in China with Chinese researchers. In the early days of the pandemic, he helped engineer a letter from scientists, many of whom had financial conflicts of interest, advocating against the lab leak theory due to the blowback it would cause for Chinese scientists. (RELATED: Not Just China: The US Government, Universities Are Hiding Evidence On The Origin Of COVID-19, Experts Allege)

Daszak and Baric also sought to mislead the Pentagon on the nature of the facility where their work would be conducted. Project DEFUSE involved work that falls into the dangerous category of GoF research — the pair wanted to genetically engineer coronavirus spike proteins and test their ability to infect human cells. The evolution of the spike protein in COVID-19 is a critical component that made it so contagious in humans.

Labs that house research like this range in security from levels of BSL-1 to BSL-4. In private communications revealed by USRTK, Baric and Daszak can be seen lamenting the fact that the Wuhan lab they were working with was not as secure as it should be.

“In the US, these recombinant SARS-CoV are studied under BSL3, not BSL2, especially important for those that are able to bind and replicate in primary human cells,” Baric wrote. “In china, might be growin these virus [sic] under bsl2. US reseachers [sic] will likely freak out.”

The initial draft of the Project DEFUSE grant advertised that the work would be done in a BSL-2 laboratory to cut down on costs; however, it was at some point edited to say the work would be done in a BSL-3 laboratory.

Prominent scientists have long sounded the alarm on conducting these dangerous experiments at insecure facilities. “Performing these in BSL-3 (or less) is just completely nuts! IMO it has to be performed at BSL-4 with extra precautions,” Dr. Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Institute said in 2020.

“Surely that wouldn’t be done in a BSL2 lab?” former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Francis Collins once opined about coronavirus GoF research. (RELATED: NIH Officials Repeatedly Warned Bosses In 2016 About Funding Dangerous ‘Gain Of Function’ Research In Wuhan Lab)

EcoHealth Alliance issued a statement Tuesday denying any wrongdoing regarding the Project DEFUSE grant proposal. “In 2018, EcoHealth Alliance drafted and submitted a proposal to DARPA for funding along with partners at UNC, USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Duke-NUS, PARC and the WIV. The proposal was rejected for funding and the work was never done.”

“However, documents representing incomplete or early drafts of the proposal have been acquired via the Freedom of Information Act and published along with allegations regarding their intent,” EcoHealth’s statement continued. “These allegations are false, based on misunderstanding of edits and comments on the document, and based on misleading out-of-context quotations, and a lack of understanding of the process by which federal grants are awarded.”

Baric and Daszak have been at the center of controversies surrounding their work a number of times since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of roughly a decade, Daszak has funneled millions of dollars from U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to the Wuhan Institute of Virology via EcoHealth Alliance.

Daszak was also on the initial World Health Organization (WHO) team tasked with investigating the origins of the pandemic, before international outcry led to the team’s disbanding, due in part to Daszak’s blatant conflicts of interest. Before that, though, Daszak admits he convinced WHO investigators not to pursue missing data from the WIV because he personally vouched for the lab, arguing the data was irrelevant.

In 2020, Daszak thanked then-NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci for his work dispelling “myths” about the origins of COVID-19. Fauci has been a strong ally of Daszak and Baric, repeatedly denying that the U.S. government funded GoF research in Wuhan, China. Leading scientific experts have called that assertion from Fauci a lie.

Meanwhile, Baric said during a panel in 2016 that his colleagues in China were doing engineering on “killer viruses,” and the University of North Carolina has repeatedly stonewalled efforts to acquire more information about his work there. Baric met personally with Fauci in the early days of the pandemic, USRTK previously revealed.

Daszak finally agreed to testify for Congressional investigators earlier this year. In the meantime, EcoHealth is still receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer funds.