The live panel discusses the new documentary, Tracking Down the Origin of Wuhan Coronavirus. The panel includes the following speakers:
Jan Jekielek, Host of American Thought Leaders
Joshua Philipp, Senior Investigative Reporter at The Epoch Times
Joe Wang, Ph.D., President of NTD Canada
Sean Lin, Ph.D., Former U.S. Army Officer and Microbiologist
About the Documentary
As the world is gripped by the ongoing pandemic, many questions remain about the origin of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus—commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
Join The Epoch Times’ senior investigative reporter Joshua Philipp as he explores the known facts surrounding the CCP virus and the global pandemic it caused.
In his investigation, Philipp explores the scientific data and interviews top scientists and national security experts. Despite the mystery surrounding the origin of the virus, much is learned about the CCP’s cover-up that led to the pandemic and the threat it poses to the world.
We approached this project with an open mind. From the start, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has not been forthcoming with information about the virus. In the early days of the outbreak, medical professionals who sounded the alarm were reprimanded by police for spreading “rumors.”
As the situation became uncontrollable, the CCP said the virus originated at the Huanan Seafood Market. But when it became clear that patient zero had no connection to the market, the CCP shifted its narrative to suggest that the virus originated in the United States and was brought to China by the U.S. military.
As a leading voice in covering China for the past 20 years, we understand very well the CCP’s deceptive nature and its cover-ups. With this outbreak, we saw a case of history repeating itself—in 2003, we exposed the CCP’s cover-up of the SARS epidemic in China, far ahead of other media.
In this documentary, we seek to present viewers with the known scientific data and facts surrounding the origin of the virus—which continues to be a mystery. We don’t draw any conclusions. But we point out that serious questions remain about the CCP’s handling of the virus outbreak and its true impact within China and around the world.
Jan Jekielek: Hello everyone, and welcome to Exploring the Origins of the Wuhan Coronavirus. This is our live panel at The Epoch Times. We’re looking at this hit film that we’ve just put out that’s garnered over 70 million views across YouTube, Facebook and a variety of other channels: “Tracking Down the Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus.”
We’re here today with a panel of experts. We’ve got Dr. Sean Lin. He is one of the experts in the documentary; former lab director for viral diseases branch at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. We’ve got Dr. Joe Wang. Dr. Joe Wang is the president of NTD Canada. Back in the day, he spearheaded SARS vaccine development at one of the largest vaccine companies in the world. And of course, we’ve also got Joshua Philipp, who is of course the star investigative reporter who started this whole thing, who started digging. And myself, I’m Jan Jekielek, the host of American Thought Leaders and senior editor at The Epoch Times. Let’s start with Josh. Josh, what motivated you to do this investigation?
Joshua Philipp: So, at Epoch Times, we saw an issue that I think a lot of people were going through, which is you’re being bombarded with information from all sides, you’re seeing contradicting information, and even a lot of trusted sources like the WHO seemed to have been just repeating what the Chinese Communist Party was saying, and so it was very hard to really get an idea of what’s happening with this virus. And when you’re dealing with something that’s affecting everyone in the way that this virus has been—where a lot of us like myself, for example, are working from home, a lot of us are out of work, people are quarantined, some semi quarantined—and I think people want answers. They want to figure out what the heck is going on.
And so, we looked into several different tracks of information to figure out first in this documentary, where did this thing come from? Where did it really come from? Now we look into this Wuhan seafood market, the Huanan seafood market, and I think we mostly debunk the idea that it came from there. And of course, we look into these laboratories and the possibility that it leaked from a laboratory. Now, that does not mean man-made. We do show evidence that they were making chimeric viruses there. We also show evidence that they had viruses, bat coronaviruses namely, that didn’t need intermediary species and things they wrote about. It does seem that following the release of this documentary that there have been several, actually exclusive articles [from] Washington Post, Fox News, that really corroborate what we found. And again, we don’t try to draw hard conclusions in it. The idea of this documentary is just to look down the different avenues of where this thing could have come from, and present people with information that they can use to figure out, draw their own conclusions on it, figure it out, get a clearer sense, and of course have a better idea of what is true, as information comes out, as we go forward.
Mr. Jekielek: Dr. Wang, what are the actual possibilities around this origin?
Dr. Joe Wang: I think there are five possibilities. Number one, the virus might have occurred naturally—developing in an animal host and then jumped to humans somewhere around November last year. The second scenario is that the jump actually happened earlier than November last year from animal to human, and the virus evolved within the human body for a period of time, gaining something we call the gain of function, so that the virus can jump from human to human; human-human transport. So, this function was gained within the human body of the virus’s evolution. So, that’s scenario number two. Number three, there are a lot of biological labs with viruses in their storage, and the culture of different viruses exists all over the world in lab settings, and maybe some cultures escaped and started infecting people—this is scenario number three. Scenario number four is that we know that scientists around the world are trying to develop vaccines against different pathogens, for instance, HIV or SARS, or other things, and they use viruses as a vector. So, these kinds of constructs may have escaped from the lab setting and started to infect people.
So scenario number four would be [that] it’s a by-product of genetic engineering, but the purpose was benign. The last scenario is bioweapon development. Of course, this is regarded as a conspiracy theory, so it is probably for another discussion. But this virus we know didn’t just fall from the sky, it came from somewhere, and with more than 150,000 people killed by the virus. This is really tragic–(a tragedy) that the human race has never seen before. It demands the scientific community to look at all possibilities.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m going to take a question from our audiences here. And this is going to Dr. Lin: “Is it true that SARS-CoV-2 contains sequences of HIV and Ebola? If so, why aren’t we hearing more about that? Seems like the odds of that happening naturally are next to nothing, which certainly means that it was engineered.”
Dr. Sean Lin: Okay. Thank you Jan, for inviting me to this panel. So, a quick summary: I think the origin of the virus is still mysterious. One of the biggest mysteries right now. So, I did see reports mentioning that people are seeing sequences of GP120, one of the HIV glycoproteins in the SARS-CoV-2 S-proteins. But I haven’t seen a report talking about the Ebola sequence in SARS-CoV-2 sequence. But overall, I think right now, there’s very little evidence to prove them, cause most of these studies tried to compare different virus sequences. Sometimes you’re using big blast and you identify a sequence, maybe showing homology to HIV gp120 the envelope protein, and some people said part of the gp41 was also there. However, I think, through blast and alignment sometimes you’ve got a lot of virus protein sequences that can align together. And it depends on the homology percentage. And so, it’s hard to have solid evidence (and) say, “Alright, you got these other virus sequences inserted into the SARS-CoV-2.” So, for this part, it’s hard to be solid evidence.
And meanwhile, I want to mention a couple of reports mentioning the study about the animal origin of the virus. So, one report is on Nature Medicine. The title is: The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. This is done by a research group in Scripps Institute led by Kristian Andersen. So, in his papers, he highlighted a receptor binding domain in Spike Protein of SARS-CoV-2, and he mentioned there are five important amino acids actually showing optimal binding to the receptor—ACE2 receptor. However, they argue that this binding [affinity] is not an ideal one as predicted by the computer model. So, their rationale is that (if) it is lab-engineered, there should be an ideal binding, not just optimized binding. So, this is one argument. But I think this argument has some flaws in their rationale because the receptor and spike protein binding is just an initial step, and there are many factors that influence the virus fusion and entry. Also, they mentioned, if it’s a lab engineered virus, then it should use some of the current reverse engineering systems. And they cited a reference, actually it was in 2014, but when I looked at those review articles, they mentioned about three reverse engineering systems. But when I checked Dr. Shi Zheng-Li at the Wuhan Institute of Virology lab, checking on her previous publications, I actually saw, even just in 2016, she had actually upgraded part of her reverse engineering system too. For example, on the in vitro ligation system, she upgraded it from a six-segment to eight-segment system. So basically, as long as the lab is working on this gain-of-function study or on the reverse genetic studies on coronavirus, the system that can always evolve. So, I think that rationale from the Scripps [Research Translational] Institute’s papers is still flawed.
Also, I want to mention the key issue here. When most people think about lab-engineered viruses, they are primarily thinking, kind of like doing different matching processes, i.e., I can put different pieces together. But actually, one of the biggest lab engineer processes is called “animal selection”, or “in vitro selection”. For example, if you put the virus, maybe it’s a natural generated virus, if you put it into an animal model and do serial passages. At each round of the passages, I select even higher pathogenicity for the virus. Then I can get a very strong pathogenic virus up to, for example, a dozen rounds or even 20 rounds of passages. Even as early as 2007, a similar gain-of-function study was already established for coronavirus. So, for this kind of gain-of-function study in animal models, it’s very hard to track from different segments to see whether it’s lab-engineered, because it can use a wild type virus, but after through intentional passaging, it’s also manipulated. So, in this way, it’s very hard to track from the end-product to see whether it is engineered. Because when the virus replicates quickly in an animal host, its sequence can be mutated quickly and also get selected intentionally, humanly selected for higher pathogenic ones. So, that’s why I think this is also the biggest flaw in that paper’s rationale—you cannot exclude this possibility. Simply based on gene sequence alignment or homology analysis is not enough to prove whether the product is lab-produced or not.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s very fascinating, actually. I can’t help but think, you mentioned virologist Dr. Shi Zhengli who is actually featured in this documentary prominently, and we have a question from one of our audience, and I’ll actually give this to Josh. “The best question is, where is virologist Shi Zhengli, the bat-woman of China?”
Mr. Philipp: Yeah, so this bat-woman of China, this doctor, she was one of the world-renowned, world-famous, bat coronavirus researchers. And during the time when you would expect the Chinese Communist Party to put her front and center, as the number one propaganda figure of representing the Chinese Communist Party’s “advanced research coming to save the world” by doing all this Mask Diplomacy, and trying to promote themselves as having the China model, this totalitarian communist system as being “the most effective” in combating the virus, which is what the narrative they’re spreading is—you would think they would take her out and show her around, and say, “Look at the research she’s been doing. It’s going to save all of us,” and she is dead quiet. That laboratory in China is dead quiet despite the fact that they were researching viruses just like this. At all possible times, in any normal circumstance, would be the time the Chinese Communist Party would use this front and center in all of their propaganda, and we’re hearing nothing from them. And so, for me, this is an indicator, something to look at. The data suggests something weird is going on when it comes to that laboratory. Why are they keeping it quiet? Why are they all quiet?
Mr. Jekielek: That’s actually incredibly interesting and speaks to another question. Our audiences are very, very in tune with what we’ve done here. Recently, there have been these reports, and I think I’ll pass this question on to Dr. Wang. Recently, there have been media reports about the State Department cables. I think this was Josh Rogin in The Washington Post talking about safety concerns at precisely this lab, the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Do you share these concerns?
Dr. Wang: Well, I would love to see evidence showing that there is no lab origin of this novel coronavirus. I actually wrote to Dr. Anderson at the Scripps Institute in California, basically asking for evidence that this virus didn’t come from a lab, because his paper didn’t give us the evidence. So, I don’t want to hear that somebody actually made this [virus] that cost so many people [to] die from it. But we cannot afford not asking this question if the evidence doesn’t show it. So basically, the State Department diplomatic cable is based on information that we in the public don’t really have. But what we have is that the virologist in that Wuhan Institute, Dr. Shi Zhengli, and her colleagues have been manipulating coronavirus. That’s the fact that we know and they have published extensively on their research—this is fact number one.
Fact number two is that we knew that Chinese labs have leaked. Some viruses have escaped from the lab setting. For instance, in 2004, the SARS virus escaped labs in Beijing—that’s very well documented. So, putting the two together with some information, maybe the diplomatic people have access that we don’t have, it’s very reasonable to ask the question. So, can we look at the lab? Why not? This is like a red line from the scientific community that somehow it’s not politically correct, or it’s a red zone that we cannot go in. But you know, we just have to ask this question.
Mr. Jekielek: I’m going to volley a question over to Josh right now. Something that’s really important, and I’ve seen this conflated a lot, in a lot of journalistic pieces and so forth. The idea of lab origin and the idea of it being engineered, people kind of use them interchangeably, but I know we don’t see it that way. I wonder if you could break that down for us, Josh.
Mr. Philipp: We don’t see it that way at all. Honestly, in my personal analysis based on the research from this documentary, I do not think this is a man-made virus. Just because I think it is not a man-made virus, doesn’t mean I’m not going to show other evidence suggesting otherwise. The fact is that they were making chimeric viruses there. They were doing experiments with which Dr. Sean Lin noted at that laboratory. They did have these programs. I’m not going to write that off just because I don’t agree that may be the origin of it. At the same time, yes, … just saying it came from a lab does not mean that it’s man-made. These two should not be conflated. And frankly, I think it’s disingenuous that a lot of journalists are trying to conflate the two to discredit the idea that it may have come from this laboratory at a time when the world needs answers. And frankly, when in any normal circumstance, as Dr. Wang noted, this should be the main place we start looking. This should be the first place we started looking, and allegedly in China, this was the first place the Chinese Communist Party started looking when news came out. So, why is the rest of the world seemingly quiet on that possibility? Why is this not being taken seriously? But I guess saying that now it does seem to be the case, that after we publish this documentary, at least, other articles came out suggesting that it may have come from this laboratory, it is now being seen as a real possibility. But again, yes, coming from that lab does not mean it was necessarily man-made because as Dr. Shi’s papers in the past noted, which were public, she was traveling all around the world and collecting bat coronavirus from every corner of the world. And so, that laboratory had these viruses there.
Mr. Jekielek: Dr. Lin, do you think this whole wet market story based on the progression of events that Josh uncovered, and whatever scientific information is available, is some kind of cover story as an increasing number of people now are suggesting?
Dr. Lin: Yes, I think the wet market stories, initially the Chinese government heavily emphasized that potential. But I think based on the science reports, first, there’s a report mentioning at least 14 out of 41 of the early cases in December and early January, were not related to the Huanan seafood market. Also, now tracking back to earlier cases in November and early December, those patients had nothing to do with the Huanan seafood market. So basically, that means these stories (are) probably just a smoke. Then I think this question deals with the basic issue about what is the animal reservoir or intermediate animal hosts for this virus because most people would think that the outbreak comes from a zoonotic change, from one animal, or two different animals, to humans, right? So, this is the biggest question. These also have two aspects. One is, why the Chinese government, especially local Wuhan CDC, did not collect the animal samples in Wuhan area (and) not just in the Huanan seafood market, because even if you mistakenly closed down the Huanan seafood market, there are other seafood markets in Wuhan too. And why don’t you collect animal samples and give rounds of testing to identify which animal might have the virus?
Recently, I saw a report from Dr. Shi Zhengli’s group. They published in late March mentioning they identified SARS-CoV-2 in domestic cats, right? And what’s more bizarre is that they designed this experiment in January, and so they started collecting the cat samples in January, but you didn’t see any alarm sent to the public. As a scientist, you know the risk that the coronavirus may infect some domestic cats and rodents as well. Why don’t you quickly collect those samples in January and do a quick test to tell the public. Instead you design a study that takes 2-3 months to publish, and you didn’t give any warning to the public, right? Many individuals in Wuhan may be carrying these cats as pets, right? Will they be infected by sick cats, right? So, it’s a risk there. The scientists didn’t do that. So, this is one big issue about this animal reservoir. And then also, regarding potential animal intermediate hosts, there are reports mentioning pangolin maybe being the reservoir. The most recent report is by Dr. Guan Yi’s group from Hong Kong. I think that was a really nice article because his group identified pangolin coronavirus showing high homology to the SARS-CoV-2. Now, that also has a question—those samples actually were obtained in an anti-smuggling operation from 2017 to 2018.
So, there is no animal sample collected during this pandemic either in Guangdong or even in Wuhan, and no results proving that currently any sick pangolins are carrying the virus. That’s really weird because when we look back to SARS (outbreak), we identified civets, palm civets, as intermediate animal hosts. During that time, you [could] identify several strains of the virus in civets. There are strains showing low infectivity and binding affinity to the receptors, and there are intermediate types, and there are high affinity and high infectivity types. So, you can probably see the virus mutated in animals too, gradually reaching a higher infectivity. But for these SARS-CoV-2, we never see any real animal testing sample results from Guangdong or from any part of China to identify any animals during the last 3-4 months as testing positive as for SARS-Cov. Only when we see a report from Shi Zhengli’s group, we suddenly see, “Oh, cats can carry the virus.” So, this is really weird. And also it’s malfeasance—at least malfeasance, if I’m not mentioning covering up about investigations on animal samples.
Mr. Jekielek: Dr. Wang, there’s another question here from a viewer, and I’m just thinking back to the fact that I happen to know that you are from rural China yourself. The question is about the wet markets. The question is “If the virus is of natural origin, then why are the wild animals back in the markets? Should we not be banning those markets with thousands of people dying because of it? And what about the local residents claiming that they have been eating bats and wildlife for decades, but nothing’s happened before?” What are your thoughts on this, Dr. Wang?
Dr. Wang: Well, in China, you have laws, and you have ways to get around laws. So, the law that the CCP, the Chinese Communist Party, put in place may seem to be very reasonable and they’re good, but the CCP officials themselves would try to find ways to get around the laws and they still do whatever they want. So basically, it’s a lawless country, and whatever the CCP wants to do, they can do it. So, in terms of eating wild animals, I don’t understand why they do it—people are different. Apparently, there are huge profits to be made and some CCP officials benefited from the market financially. I would assume that.
But if it’s a democratic country, then people can ask these questions and make the officials accountable for whatever is happening. But in China, you can only praise the CCP and you cannot disagree with them. So, I grew up in China; I know the system, and people just try very hard to not cross the red line that the CCP put in front of them, and the red line is everywhere.
For instance, Dr. Li Wenliang’s case, I assume all the audience would have heard about his case, he’s just an ordinary person, and he’s got a doctor degree and was working in a prestigious hospital. He’s just fine to live his life and be a middle class citizen of China. When he told his colleagues that there was this disease happening, and of course he would have to warn his friends and colleagues about this, “Be careful,” and even this is a red line for the CCP, and what happened to him, you all know, he actually died, eventually. It was a tragedy, but that’s how people live their lives in China.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk a little bit about red lines. I think Josh will be the right person for this next question. “Once the CCP realized that it had bungled the containment of the epidemic and the extent of the economic damage that would occur, is it possible that the CCP used WHO to spread the contagion worldwide with the hopes of leveling the international economic playing field?” Now, this is something that we’ve explored a little bit on American Thought Leaders. Josh, why don’t you give us your take here?
Mr. Philipp: There’s a great timeline that was put together by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which shows that the lies the Chinese Communist Party was telling based on dates, how these lies were repeated by Tedros at the WHO, by date, and what the truth of the situation was at those exact same times, and it shows that the Chinese Communist Party was lying to the world on many different fronts. … Lying to the world about how contagious this virus was; whether it can transmit from human to human. It’s coming out now that Taiwan had alerted the WHO in December, that there was human to human transmission—WHO denied it. And then Taiwan made the letter public that they had sent to them, showing that people had to be isolated, and by that suggesting that the virus was contagious. The WHO seemed to ignore a lot of warnings. They seem to ignore information showing that, again, what the Chinese Communist Party was telling them wasn’t accurate. But instead of looking into it independently, instead of investigating it, instead of calling the Chinese Communist Party’s narratives into question, they lied to the world at every single turn. And when China closed down Wuhan, when China started closing things down and they still had flights leaving the country, of course, had the WHO acted and warned that there was risk of a pandemic and there were problems of this virus spreading, had they been forthright, had they been honest, maybe a lot of countries wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in now.
Mr. Jekielek: Joshua, quick follow up question, because this is exactly related to what you were just saying. “Is it true that 5 million Chinese flew out of Wuhan the day before they locked down? Is it also true that these people flew all over the world as potential carriers?”
Mr. Philipp: Yes, that was accurate. That’s what was reported, actually. And, of course, you could find public information on this. There were even some different research institutes that traced a few thousand of the individuals who did leave at that time. The outbreak took place right before the Chinese New Year, and you have about 3 billion travel arrangements in China during that time, which was the worst possible time and notably in the worst possible place, Wuhan, which is basically the transit hub of all of China. And so, yes, a lot of people left the city. Again, it happened right before the Chinese New Year when people are traveling, going home, visiting friends and family abroad, and yes, that very likely contributed to the spread of this virus. And that’s one of the reasons why the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship of it, and even arresting individuals who tried warning the world about it, is being taken so seriously, because they’re lying to the world about it, let people leave the country and let them travel to all parts of the world, and very likely could have contributed to this becoming a pandemic instead of a localized virus.
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve got a related question for Dr. Lin, and this is regarding patient zero. We’ve heard there’s been a lot of speculation about patient zero. Our documentary goes into this a bit. What do we know so far about patient zero?
Dr. Lin: Based on reports by Chinese medical doctors and scientists, now they officially say that patient zero will be one person that got infected on December 1. However, there are other studies saying that maybe other people got infected in the middle of November in the Wuhan area. It’s still an ongoing investigation. There is no really strong conclusive evidence to prove that someone is patient zero because it’s even hard to check on which animal would be the intermediate host. Because if it happened naturally, if you can identify patient zero, you usually can identify how he got infected. So, you could identify what kind of animal, maybe this person got interaction and got infected, right? So, all these parts are still mysterious in China. So, I think this is the biggest question. Even though the Chinese government tries to blame that patient zero could have come from other countries, I don’t think any of the phylogenetic analysis so far can prove that. Even though the recent studies showing that the coronavirus could have potentially different types based on genetic code analysis, but all these types A-B-C being reported, they all have cases from Wuhan showing more ancestral sequences. I think the patient zero [is] still in China, but we just don’t know who is the patient zero right now.
Mr. Jekielek: And a follow up question to Josh. This is actually the second part of this question. Patient zero, could it have been a researcher who was cremated, and I’m wondering if there’s any further info on this.
Mr. Philipp: So, in our documentary, we tell the story of this intern who was working at this Wuhan laboratory who a lot of people believe may have been the real patient zero. And we note how her information was scrubbed from the website of that laboratory—notably scrubbed very hastily, it seems, and then very sloppily because they left some information about her on the website even though they denied she was ever there. Now, some of the different news articles coming out actually corroborate our findings on that, corroborate our claims on that. And of course, we can’t take exclusive credit for that because her story was spreading around even before. It was in the public domain. But it does seem, at least in my analysis, that her story is a very plausible one. She may have been the real patient zero. And the story generally goes like this: She was one of the researchers there. There were reports coming out that there were some accidents in the handling of bats, and there was cross infection to a human. This intern in particular got out; passed it to her boyfriend; began spreading it around Wuhan unknowingly. And so, yes, we do tell her story in the documentary.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s jump to a bit of a different vantage point. I think we’ll have to talk to Dr. Wang about this because this is his specialization. The question is: The whole world is putting huge hope on vaccine development, and that the population could get a vaccination, inoculate and develop herd immunity. What is your view on the progress of vaccine development as we stand right now?
Dr. Wang: Well, let me answer this question first, and I have something to say about the patient zero as well, if I may. In terms of vaccine development, vaccines by definition are going to be given to healthy individuals. So, you want to protect people; you don’t want to poison people. So, the first and the most important thing for vaccine development would be safety. So, you want to vaccinate a large part of the population with your vaccine and the last thing you want is actually causing disease to the people vaccinated. So, safety is number one, and then efficacy. So, the vaccine has to do the job. So, stimulating immune response from people, and when they’re infected by the virus, their immune system is ready. So, you cannot escape these two things at all when you develop your vaccine, so it takes time. We will be extremely lucky if we have a vaccine by this time next year. I know from my experience that’s how long it would take to make sure it’s safe and it’s working. Of course, technology [could be] developed to be better and you can speed up things. It’s just certain steps you cannot skip. So, I’m glad to see there are a lot of people who are putting a lot of effort into developing different kinds of vaccines against this virus, I hope—I’m confident—that sometime next year, we’ll see effective vaccines in the market.
And going back to the patient zero thing, it’s about transparency and basically, when we deal with this virus, it’s a common enemy of all human beings and we should all put our efforts together to fight this. So, it requires the entire scientific community, doesn’t matter if you’re in China or in the U.S., to put your mind and effort together, share the knowledge and share the information in a 100% transparent fashion in order to fight this, and defeat this quickly. What we see in China is that right after the lockdown in Wuhan and other places in China, they basically blocked all the information. In the earlier days, Chinese scientists actually were able to submit papers to international journals. But later on, they basically blocked everybody, and they have to go through certain censorship to be able to submit their information—which tells me there’s something they have to hide. And that’s exactly why it’s important for the international scientific community to really practice academic freedom, and we just have to dig deeper to find the truth. But what I found troubling was that actually the scientific community was trying to be politically correct. Nature has published apologies and so on and so forth—I get it. Some people actually discriminate against Chinese because the viruses come from China—we’ll always see people like that—but that shouldn’t prevent us from asking the questions and digging deeper to find the truth. I found the international scientific community’s attitude in sacrificing academic freedom for political correctness very troubling.
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve got a question. I’m going to lob this over to Dr. Lin. Josh talked about how bizarre it is that this lab and this researcher isn’t front and center of the whole discussion, even for potential propaganda purposes. We have an audience member asking: “What factors or conditions would need to have been present to result in a virus escaping from the Wuhan P4 lab? What are the protocols? Has anybody alerted, or was it covered up?”
Dr. Lin: So I think one important issue needs to be pointed out. For study of the coronavirus, even for gain-of-function study, you only need a P3 facility. You don’t even have to go to a P4 facility. So, for leaking this virus, there could be many situations. I remember when I was working on HIV, It was a P3 facility. There’s one time we were using a centrifuge, you know, to spin a virus through the tubes to pellet the virus. Somehow, one day one tube got cracked inside the centrifuge. Fortunately, we saw a little bit of liquid come out of the centrifuge cover, so we didn’t even open it. This is a simple example. Even just a simple failure of a tube can cause a leakage, right? If you’re a technician, [and] you didn’t pay attention, you may get infected. You May contaminate yourself. So, there are other potential management issues in this kind of lab, especially when you’re dealing with animal studies. So, how do you handle the animal corpses and the environment, whether the technicians handling animals are following the proper procedures, precaution measures. So, the technician may get infected. The animal corpses, if it’s not treated, handled properly, may be even sold to the wet market. These are the potential sources that you can spread the virus to the community as well. It’s lab management issues. That’s why it’s always a high risk to study these highly pathogenic pathogens. It really needs a strict management for these handling of the virus and for these highly pathogenic pathogens.
I also want to add a sentence regarding the vaccine development. So I saw Dr. Wang mentioned about the vaccine developments. I wasn’t too optimistic because for example, even in our Walter Reed Institute of Research, the military base studied dengue vaccine for the last two, three decades, but no vaccine so far. HIV [has] been known for such a long time, [but] we only have cocktail therapy. We don’t have effective vaccines, either. And the SARS outbreak [happened] in 2003, so far we still don’t have SARS vaccines. So, even though for the last 10 years, there are so many different new platforms being developed for designing vaccines. But I think one fundamental issue is we still know very little bit about immunology. How viruses evade immunities and even cause cytokines (storms), or whether there are antibody-dependent enhancement of the virus infections. Because, there are so many questions in relation to immunology still not answered. So, I wasn’t too optimistic about the vaccine developments. People can [be] hopeful in the initial result, in the phase one results, which we will probably see in a couple of months. We will see some initial results. But whether long term there will be a very effective vaccine or not is still a big issue.
Mr. Jekielek: Question for Josh. There’s been criticism around the documentary that it’s kind of promoting the engineered origin theory. And I’m wondering if you could actually speak to that.
Mr. Philipp: In the documentary, we, of course, look into this laboratory, we, of course, do look into evidence that maybe it was engineered because they were making chimeric viruses, they were creating new viruses at that laboratory. And they were working on altering natural viruses at that laboratory. All of that work was in fact being done at that laboratory. To write that off would not be responsible journalism. That is not to say, though, that we say that is the absolute case. But we do feel it necessary, at a time when there is not a clear conclusion, at a time when we don’t have answers, to at the very least show what was being done at that lab, the kinds of viruses that were present at that lab, and to show what may have happened. We of course need to acknowledge this. Now that said, they also had natural viruses there. They also had bat coronaviruses notably, that Dr. Shi had written about, that could allegedly jump from a bat to a human without needing an intermediary species. And so it’s also very possible it came from one of those bat viruses. Again, we don’t jump to conclusions. The documentary is not meant to jump to a conclusion on that. We do show evidence on both sides because that is responsible journalism, at least as far as I’m concerned.
Mr. Jekielek: So Josh, you don’t believe the documentary is making firm conclusions? What other work do you hope that this documentary will spur?
Mr. Philipp: The idea of this documentary was not to come to a hard conclusion. Because the fact is, we don’t have that. We don’t have those answers right now. Until there’s a real investigation, until we can get investigators on the ground in China, into these labs, possibly, which does appear to be the general consensus now, when it comes to international investigations on the origin. Until we get those answers, we’re not going to have a 100% answer. And so the idea with this documentary was just to look into what we can show. What evidence is there? What are the different trails of information we can follow that would lead us to having a better understanding of where this thing came from. Of course, we look into every claim, we look into the idea that maybe it came from this Huanan seafood market. The evidence we show pretty much just credits to that. Of course, that has been largely discredited already. We look into the idea that maybe it came from this P4 laboratory, and based on what we’ve seen that may very well be the case. And based on information that has come out after we published this from other media that does corroborate our findings, that may very well be the case. We also look into the idea of possible bioengineering. We show evidence of the research that they were doing around this, that they were writing about it publicly, they had reports on it. And we also show the possibility of a bioweapon. Doesn’t mean we conclude that that is the case. It’s just [us] being responsible, looking into the different claims, the different possibilities and showing evidence that could support those or disprove those. My personal analysis based on having done this documentary and looking into it, I personally think it was a natural virus. That’s my personal conclusion. And that if the documentary I know we did have individuals who did say [that] they think it may be bioengineered. That’s their opinion, of course, but as a responsible journalist, I’m not going to silence other people, just because my conclusion is different from theirs.
Mr. Jekielek: This is something I may ask more than one of the panelists, but I want to start with Dr. Wang. And it’s just kind of talking about the general reality in China. We’ve discussed that a little bit and how that actually pertains to the statistics we get from there. I’ve been very disturbed by the fact that a number of Western media carry the Chinese statistics as if they’re fact and so forth. And this is a question from the audience: “How can the world know the exact numbers of COVID-19 infection deaths from China? Because the world’s total numbers are super high compared to the epicenter, China.” What do you make of this Dr. Wang?
Dr. Wang: This virus comes from China, and the Chinese Communist Party is the governing body. They’re responsible for this, and there’s no other ways to look at it. The CCP has a history of censoring information, manipulating information. Their number one priority is their power and whatever they feel is threatening to their power. They will do whatever to manipulate it, and they see this pandemic as something they have to control the information [about]. Now you’ll see that … it’s almost amusing. I am using the wrong word to say because the world has suffered so much, and we still see the number in China being a few thousand deaths. This is just impossible. And they see this as something like it’s obvious and their cover up has basically backfired. So they jump their number today by 50% of the deaths in Wuhan. They have no respect for facts, everything is up for manipulation. And whoever in the West would believe in the numbers released by the CCP would be a fool—stupid.
Mr. Jekielek: Thank you, Dr. Wang. Let’s talk a little bit about the realities of these patients about the cost. So I’m going to lob this to Dr. Lin. From what we know now, will there be any long term effects for the patients who are actually recovering from Coronavirus?
Dr. Lin: There are many phases regarding this long term effect, depending on how severe people’s symptoms are developed. If they are having a severe disease they may have damaged the lungs or multiple organs. They may come back from multi-organ failures. So they will suffer for a long time, especially lung damage. Many people may live on respirators for a long time. And also maybe some mild disease, people will still need support for oxygen. Even if you just have a very mild infection, it could be embedded in your systems. Overall, if we talk about the whole population, it may be an endemic situation. So if it may become seasonal, but it’s hard to predict right now because it’s a virus. … if you’re in virology for a long time, I just feel a lot of time viruses outsmart human beings. So this one is particularly smart. And it knows how to evade (immune) systems. It probably replicated in different efficiencies in different human organs, too. So how do you handle these kinds of outbreaks with one simple vaccine? It’s a big issue. So even if people recover from it, these virus titers may resurge, maybe in a couple of months when the virus continues to mutate in your body in low titers. So one day maybe they have a breakthrough in certain organs as well. So it’s hard to predict right now because I think so far we know very little bit about virus kinetics overall in different organs, in different parts of the human body. These parts of studies [are] still missing a lot. And also regarding the immune response, how the virus evades immune response, and also how the virus titers and the kinetic was so high even before the people showing symptoms. These are all mysterious questions. So you also have consequences for people who even show like they have recovered. Even [if] they come out of the hospitals, but people don’t know when this virus may resurge, and they may already suffer from different organ damage and maybe become immune-compromised as well. So I think a lot of consequences still need an investigation.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay, so we’re nearing the end of our program here. I’m going to give everyone a chance to kind of sum up—one minute time. Let’s start with Dr. Wang.
Dr. Wang: Thank you, Jan. I’m really concerned about the fact that the WHO is actually toeing the CCP’s line. And I’m also very concerned about the scientists—the doctors within the WHO organization and actually in the West in general. We are scientists and we respect the facts more than anything else. So if we start to sacrifice academic freedom because of whatever pressure from the CCP or the WHO, that’s going to bring tragedy like this one to the human race. I’m really concerned about this. I hope people pay special attention to academic freedom from there.
Mr. Jekielek: Dr. Lin, your one minute.
Dr. Lin: Okay. I want to say congratulations to Josh and his team for the successful production for this documentary. And I think this documentary at least, brought up people’s concern about the origin of the virus. And I hope it can trigger an investigation into the Wuhan Institute of Virology, especially on the gain-of-function studies. Not necessarily saying this lab produced the SARS-COV-2. Their intense study on the coronavirus with gain of functions features that definitely need to be investigated. To me, this is ignoring biomedical ethics in the pursuit of scientific achievement. And it’s just like another example [of] making human clones. So I think even these aspects definitely need world attention, and need a thorough investigation.
Mr. Jekielek: And Josh, of course, you’re the closer.
Mr. Philipp: When it comes to this documentary, and I think maybe what I hope it could achieve. But, what we were trying to really achieve was to just give people a package of information that will help them see through all this noise going around this virus. We’ve tried to show evidence on every main track, and to show if we can disprove what we disprove. If we had evidence for it, we showed it. And I think that it’s not conclusive, it’s not absolute, and it doesn’t show every single track that there is out there when it comes to everything we can find on the virus altogether. But when it comes to the origin of it, I think we have pretty much all the bases covered and the articles now coming out in the different mainstream news outlets really do seem to be corroborating our findings. And so my hope is that people will be able to get a better idea of what we’re dealing with, the kind of threat the world is facing right now. And hopefully, this documentary and the evidence we found and presented will help in the investigations into it, the further investigations into it.
Mr. Jekielek: I certainly hope so as well.