The COVID-19 origins task force affiliated with the prominent British scientific journal The Lancet has disbanded because of its connection to the controversial researcher whose work on bat coronaviruses was funded by Dr. Anthony Fauci’s agency.
The researcher, New York-based British zoologist Peter Daszak, led the Lancet COVID-19 Commission until he recused himself from that role in June because of a clear conflict of interest. Daszak was the sole U.S. representative on a World Health Organization panel that concluded the novel coronavirus pandemic had a natural origin. But evidence continues to emerge that the virus was engineered in the dangerous gain-of-function research he helped lead at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China.
Now, Columbia University professor Jeffrey Sachs, the current chairman of the commission, says the commission is being disbanded.
“I just didn’t want a task force that was so clearly involved with one of the main issues of this whole search for the origins, which was EcoHealth Alliance,” Sachs told the Wall Street Journal.
Daszak is the founder of EcoHealth Alliance, which has received funding from Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for work on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab. Several members of the now-disbanded Lancet commission collaborated with Daszak or his group on past projects.
Last week, the Telegraph of London reported Daszak sought $14.2 million from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to fund gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab. The proposal, which was rejected by DARPA as too risky, included a startling project to genetically enhance coronaviruses and innoculate bats in Yunnan, China, with the aim of stopping new viruses from “spilling over” from bats to humans.
Even more alarming was a plan to graft “furin cleavage sites” onto SARS-like bat coronaviruses via genetic engineering to make the viruses more deadly and more transmissible to humans.
Scientists point out that SARS-CoV-2 has such a furin cleavage site, which is strong evidence that the virus was engineered in a lab. Similar feature have not been observed in other SARS-like coronaviruses in nature.
Early in the pandemic, Daszak dismissed the possibility of a lab leak as a “conspiracy theory” in a letter published in The Lancet that framed the media narrative.
Earlier this month The Lancet published a letter from 16 scientists calling for another look at the lab-leak theory. The scientists said The Lancet’s publishing last year of the letter organized by Daszak disregarding the theory as “conspiracy” had “a silencing effect on the wider scientific debate, including among science journalists.”
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