Leaked DARPA Documents Reveal Risky Research Plans With Wuhan Laboratory | Taiwan News

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Leaked documents from a scuttled research grant proposal calling for collaboration between Wuhan labs and the U.S. military raise concerns about the dangerous nature of coronavirus experiments possibly conducted before the start of the pandemic

On September 21, Drastic Research, an international network of scientists investigating the origins of the pandemic, unveiled a grant proposal presented to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) by the US research organization EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) and directed by the British zoologist Peter Daszak. The documents, which were leaked by an anonymous whistleblower, detail a US $ 14 million proposal dubbed “Project DEFUSE” which sought to identify the risk of coronavirus spillovers on “American fighters” but was ultimately rejected due to ” a potential gain of function (GoF) and DURC research elements (dual use research of concern).

The US $ 14 million grant proposal, titled DEFUS (Disable the Threat of Coronaviruses Transmitted by Bats), was submitted in 2018 and would have run from that year until 2022. EHA was requesting funding from US $ 14,209,245 and reportedly allocated US $ 1,182,877 to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), with much of the rest being contracted out to the University of North Carolina, National University of Singapore , United States Geological Survey Wildlife Health Center, and Palo Alto Research Center.

Among the more controversial proposed experiments presented in the application were the creation of bat coronavirus chimeras that would contain human-specific furin cleavage sites (FCS), the introduction of these viruses into humanized mice and “batified”, and a grandiose plan to “vaccinate” wild bats in caves against coronaviruses.

The mention of the insertion of FCS is important because scientists consider that their presence on the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is one of the reasons why the virus is able to easily infect humans. Within the sarbecovirus B-line beta-coronavirus, the polybasic furin cleavage site is unique to SARS-CoV-2, according to News Medical Life Sciences.

Scientists who favor the laboratory leak hypothesis point to the unusual presence of FCS as an indication of manipulation in a laboratory. Proponents of the natural origin hypothesis argue that although FCS is not documented in other sarbecoviruses, it does appear in other distant relatives such as MERS.

“Humanized mice” describe mice that have been genetically engineered to express the human ACE2 protein, and in this proposal, WIV principal investigator Shi Zhengli (石正麗) – also known as “Bat Woman”, would oversee the work. on these rodents. “Batified mice” refer to mice that have been irradiated and injected with the bone marrow of bats to simulate the bat response to viruses and treatments.

The most ambitious phase of the project was to vaccinate wild bats using aerosolized viruses. This was to include both large-scale immune stimulation with “immune modulators” and targeted immune stimulation with “novel chimeric polyvalent recombinant spike proteins”.

In one of the more controversial segments, the authors of the project proposed to synthesize advanced glycoproteins, which bind to human cell receptors, and insert them into SARSr-CoV backbones to assess whether they could cause disease. SARS type while stating that it would not constitute GoF or DURC “.

Gimlett went on to say that the team’s approach of synthesizing advanced proteins and inserting them into the backbones of SARS-linked coronaviruses “potentially involves the search for GoF / DURC” and that if the project is approved, an “appropriate DURC risk mitigation plan should be incorporated” into the documentation. His conclusion was to deny funding for the proposal due to lack of “data, statistical analysis, model development”, doubts about the effectiveness of the bat inoculation program, and concerns about the bat. GoF / DURC.

Regarding similar projects that were successful in securing funding, The Intercept on September 6 released 900 pages of documents detailing the work EHA has undertaken with the WIV with funding from the US National Institute of Health (NIH). . One of the grants was a 5-year project scheduled to run from 2014 to 2019 titled “Understanding the Risk of Emerging Bat Coronavirus”, which provided EHA with a total of $ 3.1 million. , of which USD 599,000 allocated to the WIV.

In the grant notice, the EHA stated that it generated a chimeric virus with a spike protein with a 10% divergence from SARS-CoV. The notice added that the chimera had “replicated in the primary epithelium of the human respiratory tract, using the human ACE2 receptor to enter cells” in the transgenic mice.

In 2019, just before the known onset of the pandemic, WIV assistant researcher Hu Ben (胡 犇) began work on a project titled “Pathogenicity of 2 new bat SARS-related covs on transgenic mice expressing human ACE2 ”. No information on this research has been made public since the start of the pandemic, including data on the eight chimeric viruses with which WIV infected mice.

Stuart Neil, professor of virology at King’s College London, conceded the Twitter that the DARPA documents reveal “GoF as you want to cut it.” Neil said he was “troubled” that the information would not be released until this late date and that there are “aspects of this proposal that are of concern from the point of view of DURC and GoF.”

WHO committee member Jamie Metzl said on Twitter that given Daszak’s revelation of the “undisclosed conflicts of interest and material non-disclosure” of the DARPA grant application, the moment came for the WHO to open an official investigation into its participation in the study. of the origins of COVID and to “withdraw its deeply flawed report.” Rutgers University microbiologist Richard Ebright wrote that the EHA app “presents several risky research projects” that included the introduction of human-specific cleavage works into SARS-like viruses.

Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard, reacted on Twitter to the leaked DARPA documents by noting that such information would have been invaluable at the start of the pandemic: “Imagine if the public had this information in January 2020. “

Chan noted that while scientists such as Neil have pointed out that the proposal was unsuccessful, that does not mean that such work was not already underway at the time of the proposal. “When you see this level of detail, there’s a good chance that some preliminary work has been done. “

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