LAB LEAK (4): Has the US been developing biological weapons with China?
The Chinese Wuhan lab, with US funding, was doing GOF research to make SARS viruses more contagious and lethal to humans. Is this really medical research? Or is this bioweapons research?
The Wuhan lab has been engineering dangerous viruses.
It’s a Chinese military lab.
Why has the US government given them financing and technical assistance?
The most famous version of the lab-leak hypothesis claims that SARS2 (full name: SARS-COV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, was engineered at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (the ‘Wuhan lab’). Four important reasons for thinking so are:
the first few cases of COVID were recorded just a few miles from the Wuhan lab;
the Wuhan lab has specialized, as discussed in my previous piece, on ‘gain of function’ (GOF) research on SARS coronaviruses from bats meant to modify those viruses to make them more contagious and lethal to humans;
SARS2 is descended from a SARS coronavirus found in horseshoe bats just like the ones studied at the Wuhan lab; and
Independent investigators have established that Zhengli-Li Shi—the famous Wuhan lab ‘Batwoman’ whom a lot of evidence has identified as the probable creator of the SARS2 virus—was working with a virus very similar to SARS2.
Given that the Wuhan lab very likely gave us the COVID pandemic, and given that its gain-of-function work was conducted with US funding and scientific collaboration, an obvious question is: Why did the US government think that doing gain-of-function research with China was a good idea?
The official explanation is that ‘gain of function’ work in virology is medical research meant to get ahead of the natural evolution of dangerous viruses and thus learn in advance what a future pandemic might bring.
Suppose we accept this explanation. Even so, there is no denying that augmenting a wild virus in this manner presents an obvious risk: because an augmented virus might escape the lab, causing the very pandemic it was supposed to help you prepare for.
Do the theoretical benefits outweigh these giant risks? Nicholas Wade has pointed out that, to date, “The benefits of the [gain-of-function] research in preventing future epidemics have so far been nil, the risks vast.” And, “if indeed the SARS2 virus was generated in a gain-of-function experiment,” then, “[in] hindsight … one can say that the value of gain-of-function studies in preventing the SARS2 epidemic was zero.”1
Now, since it turns out that viruses escape from the most ‘biosecure’ labs all the time, this means the catastrophic risk was well known. Why, then, would research with a known catastrophic risk to human health be conducted by medical researchers? That seems contradictory.
Can this contradiction be resolved? Perhaps.
‘Gain of function’ research is what they call ‘dual use’ technology. In other words, an augmented virus is useful as a biological weapon of mass destruction. And—at risk of stating the painfully obvious—those who develop weapons of mass destruction do not have the protection of human health as their first priority.
So the question must be asked:
Might this gain-of-function stuff really be biowarfare research?
There seems to be some resistance to ask this question—so strong that some authors end up making, let us say, surprising arguments.
Consider Zeynep Tufekci, writing in the New York Times. She comments on the fact that the Chinese government and Zhengli-Li Shi famously obstructed investigation into SARS2 origins. Though Tufekci takes the lab-leak hypothesis seriously, nevertheless she writes:
“The secrecy and the cover-ups have led to some frantic theories—for example, that the virus [SARS2] leaked from a bioweapons lab, which makes little sense …” (my emphasis)
“Frantic theories”? “Little sense”? I am confused by Tufekci’s logic. Imagine for the sake of argument that SARS2 was an experimental bioweapon. Would Tufekci then expect the Chinese government and Zhengli-Li Shi to confess? Or would she expect “secrecy and … cover-ups”?
Or perhaps such “frantic theories” make “little sense” to Tufekci because she finds it inconceivable that the Chinese government might be developing biological weapons? In that case, she needs a quick refresher on recent history.
The Chinese Communist Party has oppressed and purged the long-suffering Chinese with unbelievable terror (consult the casualties in the tens of millions suffered during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, not to mention sundry other crimes committed by Mao Zedong and narrated in detail by Jung Chang & Jon Halliday).2 It has been reported that, at the present moment, China is constructing nuclear silos at top speed.3 And the Chinese Communist Party recently threatened to destroy Japan with a nuclear attack.4 Why should anybody doubt that the Chinese communists might take an interest in biological weapons?
But this apparently may not be said. Even Nicholas Wade, thanks to whom the words ‘lab leak’ may now be pronounced, is leery of suggesting SARS2 might be a bioweapon. In fact, he doesn’t even want to blame the lab leak itself on “China’s central authorities,” as if the Wuhan lab could be considered an independent civilian institution—in China.5
The reticence by these and other authors to consider the bioweapons hypothesis, which pushes them into incoherence, is truly surprising for two reasons:
the Wuhan lab was developing chimeric SARS viruses; and
the US government has itself stated that the Wuhan lab works for the Chinese military.
I’ll shall examine each point in turn.
The Wuhan lab was developing chimeric SARS viruses
A chimera-type virus combines DNA from different species. And that’s what they were doing at the Wuhan lab. For example, this 2015 paper co-authored by Zhengli-Li Shi and others, published in Nature Medicine, reports that,
[using] a SARS-like virus, SHC014-CoV, which is currently circulating in Chinese horseshoe bat populations … we generated … a chimeric virus expressing the spike [protein] of bat coronavirus SHC014 in a mouse-adapted SARS-CoV backbone.”6 (my emphasis)
This matters because, whereas nature can produce chimeric viruses, this requires, as evolutionary biologist Alexandre Hassanin explains, that “two divergent viruses must have infected the same organism simultaneously.”7 The chances of that are—to put it mildly—low. And the chances that nature will in this manner produce the very chimeric virus that was imagined in the Wuhan lab are essentially nil. One should therefore be skeptical when the lab creation of chimeric viruses is justified as medical research meant to get ahead of a future natural epidemic.
Chimeric viruses are more useful, as the late virologist Marc S. Collett has explained, for the development of biological weapons.8 No doubt this is why the Soviets had “two chimera projects” in their “mammoth biological weapons program,” as revealed by defector Ken Alibek (Kanatjan Alibekov), “the program’s first deputy director from 1988 to 1992.”9
The US government knew that the Wuhan lab did military work
An official document published online by the US Department of State, dated 15 January 2021, asserts the obvious: 1) that the Chinese military was supervising the Wuhan-lab research; and 2) that this is likely biowarfare research.10 To wit:
“Secrecy and non-disclosure are standard practice for Beijing. For many years the United States has publicly raised concerns about China’s past biological weapons work, which Beijing has neither documented nor demonstrably eliminated, despite its clear obligations under the Biological Weapons Convention.
Despite the WIV [Wuhan Institute of Virology] presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the WIV has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. The WIV has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.
The United States and other donors who funded or collaborated on civilian research at the WIV have a right and obligation to determine whether any of our research funding was diverted to secret Chinese military projects at the WIV.”
Once again, at the risk of stating the painfully obvious, the only reasonable precautionary stance was simply to assume, even without explicit and direct evidence, that the Wuhan lab was developing bioweapons—because this is China, a xenophobic and paranoid totalitarian State intent on growing and projecting its military power.
So did the US government really send funding and scientific collaboration to the Wuhan lab expecting this would be medical research?
Or is the Department of State—with its offended posturing—taking us for fools?
Don’t let them. Let us ask the following questions:
Might the US government be developing biological weapons too?
And, if so, has the US government been outsourcing some bioweapons research to the Wuhan lab?
To properly evaluate these questions we need some historical context, namely:
Did US biowarfare research ever stop?
Officially, the US does not develop bioweapons, because the US bioweapons program, initiated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1947, was officially suspended—unilaterally—by President Richard Nixon in 1969, after which Nixon led the signing of an international treaty to control, worldwide, the proliferation of these weapons of mass destruction: the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC).
Unlike the international treaties to restrict the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, which provide sophisticated mechanisms to verify and control, “the prohibition against bioweapons proliferation carried no comparable system whatsoever.” The various signatory States can tell us they are sticking to the BWC, but there is no way to confirm that. One must take government officials at their word.
The most generous interpretation indeed takes Nixon at his word and accepts that the US really did suspend—even though it cannot be confirmed—its bioweapons development program.
The most cynical interpretation, by contrast, says that Nixon and his successors were just trying to slow down other countries, gaining an advantage for their own secret bioweapons research program, which was never interrupted.
Which hypothesis is more reasonable?
Partisans of the cynical hypothesis will point out that any kind of disarmament will require mutual verification; since no such mutual verification exists, the most obvious guess here is that, in violation of the BWC, the US government has continued to develop biological weapons in secret. Because, who would really expect US bosses to implement—unilaterally—a military disadvantage?
Does the evidence support this view?
Cynics will say ‘yes.’ They’ll point out that the US Biological Warfare Laboratories (BWL) created by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Fort Detrick, Maryland didn’t really disappear when Nixon decreed his ban on biological warfare research in 1969. They simply gave new names to everything, including to the Army Medical Unit (AMU) that was part of the BWL. Wikipedia explains:
“In 1969, the BWL were formally disestablished and the Institute underwent a formal name change from the AMU to the ‘U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases’ [USAMRIID]. The Institute’s mission did not really change and it received additional funding and personnel authorizations to hire biomedical and laboratory scientists who were losing their jobs as a result of the termination of the United States’ offensive BW [biological warfare] studies.” (my emphasis)
But you don’t have to believe Wikipedia. Leonard A. Cole (Rutgers New Jersey Medical School), a leading academic expert on the US biowarfare research program, writes that:
“In 1969, when President Nixon announced the end of the United States’ offensive biological warfare program, a large facility was already under construction at [Fort] Detrick to house medical research associated with biological warfare. The sprawling structure was completed in 1971 and became the home of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID). It has become the principal location on the base for continued biological warfare research.”12
The cynics will point out, furthermore, that the BWC explicitly allows ‘defensive’ biological warfare research, which gives away the store, because, as Cole explains,
“[there is a] virtual unity of offensive and defensive research. The army’s official history of Fort Detrick, written in 1968, indicated that ‘research and development in the offensive aspects of BW [biological warfare] proceeded hand in hand with defensive developments for, in truth, the two are almost inseparable.’ The army must wish this clause had never been printed, since the government’s position now is that America is engaged only in defensive research.”13
And, as noted, under guise of gain-of-function ‘medical’ research, bioweapons can be developed even outside of Fort Detrick by allied laboratories (such as the Galveston National Laboratory at the University of Texas Medical Branch) that pretend to be non-military.
It is relevant, moreover, that….
The US military appears to have zero scruples
In the period 1949-1969 the US Army secretly sprayed experimental bioweapons on millions of its own citizens. You read correctly: millions of US citizens.
Hardly anyone knows about this Nuremberg-level crime against humanity (I haven’t seen others mention these obviously relevant crimes in the context of the COVID crisis). Yet these are undisputed historical facts, documented by two special committees of the US Senate in the period 1975-77, and validated by the confessions of US military personnel brought to testify before said committees.
The alleged end-date for these massive, unethical, clandestine biowarfare experiments, 1969, coincides with Nixon’s biowarfare research ban. But, as I have explained elsewhere, there is every reason to believe that the US Army, in secret, has continued spraying experimental bioweapons on US citizens.
And that’s not all they’ve been doing. As an example, consider what was reported in the journal Science in 2018: a group of scientists were complaining about a program from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that meant
“to use insects such as aphids or whiteflies to infect crops with tailormade viruses that can deliver certain genes to mature plants.”14
They call this “gene therapy for crops.” That’s the official explanation. And it sounds nice. But perhaps the obvious question has already popped into your head: Why is an ostensibly agricultural project—“gene therapy for crops”—being funded by DARPA?
Well, perhaps because, as these critics pointed out, this technology can be used to ruin crops and therefore violates the BWC. (Any use of these technologies, by the way, could easily have unknown and devastating system-wide effects on ecosystems and evolutionary processes, regardless of why they were used, whether as medicine or poison for crops.)
Could US biowarfare research have anything to do with COVID-19?
EcoHealth Alliance, the very group that, as previously explained, has been used to funnel funds from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to the Wuhan lab, has gotten three times more funding from the Pentagon—specifically, from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA)—than it has from any other source, according to reports.15 Isn’t that suspicious?
Even more suspicious is EcoHealth Alliance’s involvement with the furin cleavage site. I won’t go into the full technical details, but I’ll give you enough context and the main takeaway.
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Furin is an enzyme found in the famous Spike protein of SARS2. It is crucial to SARS2’s ability to infect humans. What makes that possible is ‘the furin cleavage site,’ a piece of genetic code in SARS2. We must consider two important facts about this furin cleavage site that Nicholas Wade has pointed out.
First, SARS2 is descended from a family of betacoronaviruses that infect bats, but “of all known SARS-related beta-coronaviruses, only SARS2”—the virus that almost certainly escaped from the Wuhan lab—“possesses a furin cleavage site.” This raises the probability that SARS2 may have gotten its furin cleavage site via gain of function work at the Wuhan lab.
Second, it is difficult to imagine a selection pressure that would favor the natural evolution of the furin cleavage site in betacoronaviruses that infect bats, because “bat SARS-related beta-coronaviruses evidently don’t need a furin cleavage site to infect bat cells” (my emphasis). The furin cleavage site is useful for infecting humans, specifically. This once again raises the probability that SARS2 got the furin cleavage site by way of a gain-of-function work at the Wuhan lab.
In this context, it is striking that EcoHealth Alliance had a documented interest in introducing a furin cleavage site—via gain-of-function—into SARS viruses, precisely in order to give SARS viruses enhanced ability to infect humans, as evidenced by a grant proposal that EcoHealth Alliance submitted to the Pentagon’s DARPA in 2018, where they asked for money to do precisely that.16 To wit:
“We will analyze all SARSr-CoV S gene sequences … for the presence of potential furin cleavage sites … [and] we will introduce appropriate human-specific
cleavage sites” (p.11)
And they meant to do that—get this—in collaboration with Zhengli-Li Shi at the Wuhan lab. To wit:
“Dr. [Zhengli-Li] Shi, Wuhan Inst. Virol. to conduct PCR testing, viral discovery and isolation from bat samples collected in China, spike protein binding assays, humanized mouse work, and experimental trials on Rhinolophus bats” (p.23)
According to the official story, DARPA rejected that EcoHealth Alliance proposal because, at the time, there was a ban on gain-of-function research. But bad things can also happen in secret. For example, the Pentagon sprayed bioweapons on millions of US citizens from 1949 to 1969 in secret.
Or bad things can be done under guise of ‘medical’ research, and we know that Dr Anthony Fauci, despite the official ‘pause’ on gain-of-function work, was authorizing NIH funds for EcoHealth Alliance’s gain-of-function experiments on bat SARS viruses at the Wuhan lab.
“Wild-type SARS-CoV (Urbani), mouse-adapted SARS-CoV (MA15) and chimeric SARS-like CoVs were cultured on Vero E6 cells (obtained from United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases [USAMRIID]).”
This establishes a direct link between USAMRIID—the Pentagon—and the Wuhan lab.
From the evidence, then (and this is just a taste), it does appear that SARS2 might have been the consequence of a bioweapons development effort supervised by the US military.
But this raises a most troubling question: Why are the US and Chinese governments collaborating in the development of biological weapons of mass destruction? Weren’t they supposed to be military rivals—even enemies?
I’ll examine that question next:
‘The origin of COVID: Did people or nature open Pandora’s box at Wuhan?’; The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists; 5 May 2021; by Nicholas Wade.
Chang, J., Halliday, J. (2012). Mao: The Unknown Story. United Kingdom: Random House.
‘China Bolsters Its Nuclear Options With New Missile Silos in a Desert’; The New York Times; 2 July 2021; by Steven Lee Myers.
‘China threatens to nuke Japan over Taiwan in video played on CCP-sanctioned channel’; Fox NEWS; 19 July 2021; by Peter Aitken
Nicholas Wade writes:
“China’s central authorities did not generate SARS2, but they sure did their utmost to conceal the nature of the tragedy and China’s responsibility for it.” (my emphasis)
What justifies a sentence like that? It is contextually nonsensical, for in a Chinese BSL-4 lab (the highest biosecurity level) such as the Wuhan lab, nothing can possibly be undertaken without the supervision of the totalitarians who are “China’s central authorities.” Therefore, if SARS2 comes from the Wuhan lab, then “China’s central authorities” did indeed generate SARS2.
Menachery, V., Yount, B., Debbink, K. et al. A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence. Nat Med 21, 1508–1513 (2015).
‘Coronavirus origins: genome analysis suggests two viruses may have combined’; The Conversation; 5 February 2021; by Alexandre Hassanin.
Collett MS. 2006. Impact of Synthetic Genomics on the Threat of Bioterrorism with Viral
Agents. In: Working Papers for Synthetic Genomics: Risks and Benefits for Science and
Society, pp. 83-103. Garfinkel MS, Endy D, Epstein GL, Friedman RM, editors. 2007.
Smithson, A. (1999). A Bio Nightmare. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 55(4), 69–71.
‘Fact Sheet: Activity at the Wuhan Institute of Virology’; Department of State”|Office of the Spokesperson; 15 January 2021.
Kellman, B. (2011). The Biological Weapons Convention and the Democratization of Mass Violence. Global Policy, 2(2), 210–216.
Cole, L. A. (1988). Clouds of Secrecy: The Army's Germ Warfare Tests Over Populated Areas. United Kingdom: Rowman & Littlefield. (p.35)
Clouds of Secrecy (op. cit) p.33
‘Crop-protecting insects could be turned into bioweapons, critics warn’; Science; 4 October 2018; by By Kai Kupferschmidt.
‘Pentagon gave millions to EcoHealth Alliance for weapons research program’; The New York Post; 1 July 2021; by Samuel Chamberlain.
‘Leaked Grant Proposal Details High-Risk Coronavirus Research’; The Intercept; 23 September 2021; by Sharon Lerner & Maia Hibbett.