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According to a British newspaper, Chinese scientists at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) were secretly conducting advanced gain-of-function research on newly discovered coronavirus strains just prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.

An article published Sunday in The Times reported that U.S. Department of State investigators believe COVID-19 was created by scientists at the Wuhan lab who were developing highly infectious forms of coronavirus using strains of the virus discovered in an abandoned mine shaft in Yunnan province.

The scientists were using gain-of-function research methods developed and shared with them by U.S. virologist Ralph Baric, Ph.D., and British zoologist Peter Daszak, Ph.D., both of whom worked for EcoHealth Alliance.

However, according to The Times, Chinese researchers were conducting the program in secret, as part of a bioweapons program funded by the Chinese military.

“It has become increasingly clear that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was involved in the creation, promulgation and cover-up of the Covid-19 pandemic,” a State Department investigator told The Times.

The Times said it reviewed hundreds of documents that included confidential reports, internal memos, email correspondence and interviews with unnamed State Department investigators who had conducted a U.S. inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 in 2021. The Times did not include links to any of those documents.

Much of the information provided by the government officials in the article is summarized in this fact sheet from January 2021.

Francis Boyle, J.D., Ph.D., bioweapons expert and professor of international law at the University of Illinois, told The Defender the report confirmed what he and others have been saying — that COVID-19 was a bioweapon produced in the Wuhan lab, which, he said, is China’s version of Fort Detrick.

But Boyle said the implication that the research was kept secret from the U.S. government — which funded Baric’s gain-of-function research at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and the WIV and invests billions of dollars into intelligence on the Chinese government — was not plausible.

Boyle was the first person to alert the public in January 2020 that COVID-19 was most likely an offensive biological weapon with gain-of-function properties that leaked from the Wuhan lab. He is the author of several international law textbooks and a bioweapons expert who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989.

“Unfortunately, rather than dealing with it [lab leak] directly, there was a massive coverup by the United States government authorities, the Chinese government authorities, the scientific community and the medical community establishment that has now led to the deaths of maybe 20 million people worldwide,” Boyle said.

He added:

“As a matter of principle, because of my opposition to the Vietnam War, I’ve never worked for the United States government. So I have never had a security clearance.

“I have never had access to classified information. Nothing. All this is available in the public record if you read the scientific literature — which I have done. So if I could figure this out all by myself, they certainly could.”

Igor Chudov, who has written extensively on the “lab-leak” theory similarly commented on his Subtack, “I want to underscore that I did not have access to any secret materials,” but by reading information publicly available, one can develop strong support for the lab-leak theory.

Gain-of-function research at the Wuhan lab

The article outlines the “increasingly risky” gain-of-function research carried out at the Wuhan lab since 2003, funded and supported with expertise in part by EcoHealth Alliance through grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

According to the article, after the SARS virus outbreak in 2002, Shi Zhengli, Ph.D., at the WIV, nicknamed the “Bat Lady,” began investigating potential sources of SARS.

She collaborated with Daszak, head of the organization that would later become EcoHealth Alliance, who directed research funding from sources such as USAID’s “virus-hunting” PREDICT program and from the NIH to the Wuhan lab.

At UNC, Barick had developed gain-of-function research techniques that made it possible to fuse together different pathogens and test them on “humanized” mice. In 2013, he began working with Shi on gain-of-function research — inserting “spike genes” into SARS viruses.

Even at the time, critics wondered why Baric, with funding from the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, chose to share this dangerous technique for weaponizing pathogens with Chinese scientists who have clear links to the Chinese military.

Shi and her colleagues at the WIV subsequently demonstrated their mastery of Baric’s high-risk technique in a series of published — and highly controversial — gain-of-function experiments at the Wuhan lab.

In May 2014, EcoHealth Alliance was awarded a $3.7 million grant from the NIH, with more than $500,000 of it going directly to the Wuhan lab and $130,000 to Shi and her assistant.

Researchers at WIV continued to develop research using Baric’s techniques with EcoHealth alliance funding.

This included research that combined different viruses and injected them into the noses of albino mice with human lungs to see if the viruses “had the potential to spark a pandemic if they were fused together,” The Times article said.

Daszak continued to develop gain-of-function research proposals, including EcoHealth Alliance’s infamous DEFUSE proposal to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) which describes the gain-of-function techniques in detail.

This included research that attempted to insert a furin cleavage site, “a tiny section of a virus’s genetic order that makes them more infectious,” into the pathogens.

Although DARPA declined to fund the research and Daszak and the Wuhan lab say they did not carry it out, “When Covid-19 emerged the following year, it was notable for being the first Sars-like coronavirus with a furin cleavage site,” The Times reported.

According to The Times, State Department investigators believe the WIV was running a separate shadow project that Daszak and others were unaware of.

The Times alleged that in 2016, after several men died from an unknown coronavirus they got from an abandoned copper mine in the Mojiang region of southern China, Shi’s team set about collecting new viruses from the cave. It says one version of that virus is the closest known relative to COVID-19.

At that point, U.S. investigators believe researchers at WIV launched a classified research program that sought to make the new strains of coronavirus discovered in the cave more infectious by merging it with other viruses and inserting furin cleavage sites into the viruses. They say the scientists then conducted “serial passaging experiments” in mice to produce more virulent strains of the virus.

The investigators wrote that they believe researchers did not publish any reports on the research because the WIV was working with the Chinese military. They wrote:

“Despite presenting itself as a civilian institution, the United States has determined that the Wuhan Institute of Virology has collaborated on publications and secret projects with China’s military. The Wuhan Institute of Virology has engaged in classified research, including laboratory animal experiments, on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017.”

The investigators allege that the virus then accidentally leaked from the Wuhan lab through a laboratory accident. They say that links to the Mojiang mine were covered up and eventually all research on COVID-19 origins was suppressed.