IN-DEPTH: Before the Suspected Wuhan Lab Leak, a Key Scientist Knew of the Risks

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New document reveals Peter Daszak who collaborated with Wuhan Institute of Virology knew of lab-enhanced virus outbreak risks

Before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group initiated by Peter Daszak was soliciting funding for a lab leak prevention and preparation program, a newly discovered document reveals. Daszak later became known as a leading figure in Dr. Anthony Fauci’s funding of gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.

Daszak also helped instigate the infamous Lancet letter, which was published at the start of the pandemic in February 2020, that had the aim of shutting down any discussions about the possibility that COVID-19 had emerged from a lab.

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” Daszak and his partners stated in the Lancet letter.

However, before the pandemic, as the newly released document proves, the group initiated by Daszak had been soliciting–and receiving–taxpayer money to prepare for the likelihood of a lab leak involving a lab-enhanced virus.

The document is in the form of a 2017 PowerPoint presentation that was obtained through freedom of information litigation by the transparency group U.S. Right to Know. A second version of the presentation with slight variations was recently found by data scientist and COVID-19 origin investigator Gilles Demaneuf using an image search.

The PowerPoint presentation was part of a pitch to potential funders to bankroll a new project called the Global Virome Project. This project was the brainchild of Daszak and a number of collaborators, with the ostensible aim to collect virus data to prevent and prepare for pandemics. The project sought $1.2 billion to $3.4 billion in funding over a 10-year period.

The first slide of the presentation, immediately after the cover page, explains that “[t]he world is facing an increasing dual threat from the natural emergence of deadly infectious pathogens, and the accidental and/or intentional release of their laboratory-enhanced variants.”

Notably, it acknowledged that dangerous viruses were being brought to labs to be made more dangerous, and that they could escape from such labs. As the world would later learn, at the same time that Daszak was pitching the Global Virome Project, he and the Wuhan Institute of Virology were collecting wild viruses and enhancing them at the Wuhan lab under the auspices of Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

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