It has now emerged that those messages are part of a much larger trove that was apparently being held back by House Republicans. The additional messages contain some of the most significant evidence to date that there was an orchestrated coverup of the origins of COVID-19.
It isn't clear whether House Republicans used cropped images in their report or whether they intended to withhold the additional text messages for future release. Following publication of this article, the House GOP removed the report from its website.
However, in their private Slack group, the authors acknowledged that the virus likely came out of a lab.
"The main issue is that accidental escape is in fact highly likely – it's not some fringe theory," lead author Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Institute wrote in a message to his fellow authors.
In reference to gain-of-function research activities at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), Mr. Andersen wrote in the private chat group that “For the SARS GOF studies, they created a reverse genetics system for their bat virus on a whim.”
That statement is in direct contradiction to claims made in Proximal Origin, in which the authors claimed that since COVID-19 didn't contain the backbone of any previously published virus, it couldn't have come out of a lab. In another message, Mr. Andersen stated that gain-of-function experiments were “exceptionally dangerous” and that “It only takes one mistake.”
With respect to how the WIV conducted its experiments, Mr. Andersen told the other authors that it would be “completely nuts” to carry out gain-of-function experiments at “BSL-3 [biosafety level 3] or less.” The WIV conducted its coronavirus experiments at biosafety level 2, which is akin to the biosafety level of a dentist’s office.
In another private Slack message to his co-authors, Mr. Andersen appears to support one of the main arguments for a lab leak, specifically that it's inconceivable that a highly contagious virus traversed all of China, from the bat caves of Southern China to Wuhan, without leaving a trace, before suddenly emerging on the doorstep of a lab containing the world’s biggest collection of bat viruses.
"I believe RaTG13 [one of the viruses held by WIV] is from Yunnan, which is about as far away from Wuhan as you can be and still be in China," Mr. Andersen told the group. "What are the chances of finding a viruses [sic] that are 96% identical given that distance?"
Mr. Andersen appears to have also been aware of the large collection of pre-pandemic studies published by the WIV, which detailed the institute’s prowess at manipulating various viruses.
"The main concern coming up reading through all these papers is the kind of stuff that is being done — getting MERS-like viruses to infect humans, getting SARS-like viruses to cause disease in and infect humans, etc.” Mr. Andersen told his fellow authors.
He also texted, “There's a very strong focus on the spike protein for all of that work."
This statement is notable because it means that Mr. Andersen understood that the pre-pandemic work carried out by the WIV was concentrated on spike proteins, which is the part of the COVID-19 virus that contains its anomalous furin cleavage site. No such site has ever been observed in naturally occurring viruses of this kind. In fact, Mr. Andersen pointed out this exact anomaly to Fauci in a Jan. 31, 2020, email.
"The presence of furin a posteriori [reasoning that works from an effect to its causes] moves me slightly more towards accidental release, but it's well above my paygrade to call the shots on final conclusion," Mr. Andersen wrote, according to a screenshot of the message contained in the House GOP report.
Mr. Andersen’s co-author, Mr. Robert Garry of Tulane University, in reference to the highly unusual furin cleavage site, wrote that it was "relatively easy to drop 12 bases in." In layman’s terms, "dropping bases in" means inserting genetic material into a virus. The 12 bases mentioned by Mr. Garry refer to the insertion of a furin cleavage site, thereby creating the feature of the virus that causes COVID-19 to be so virulent.
Mr. Garry went on to say that this "Makes me think the cell culture passage scenario is possible/probably [sic].” Cell culture passage is part of the process of manipulating viruses in laboratories.
Another co-author, Andrew Rambaut of the University of Edinburgh, also weighed in, stating that COVID "easily could have" leaked out of a lab and that the group should therefore limit dissemination of its findings. Mr. Rambaut agreed that the correlation of the virus’ features and the WIV’s activities "smells really fishy" but admonished the group to "get away from all the strange coincidence stuff.”
He went on to say that "The truth is never going to come out (if escape is the truth).