New details have emerged about a teleconference convened by Dr. Anthony Fauci on Feb. 1, 2020, when he and a small group of scientists discussed the likelihood that the COVID-19 virus had leaked from a lab.
While the basic outlines of the teleconference became known last year when a batch of Fauci emails was released under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), many crucial details were redacted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Those details were made public last week because of a successful FOIA lawsuit by independent journalist James Tobias.
It was known from the earlier Fauci email release that a group of scientists who receive funding from Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) believed that the virus might have leaked from a Chinese lab. One leading scientist, Kristian Andersen, had told Fauci in a Jan. 31, 2020, email that “some of the features (potentially) look engineered.”
Another scientist, Robert Garry, wrote on Feb. 2, 2020, “I just can’t figure out how this gets accomplished in nature.”
However, immediately after the Feb. 1 teleconference, the entire group, including Andersen and Garry, publicly aggressively pushed the opposing natural origin narrative. On Feb. 4, at a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences, Andersen ridiculed claims that COVID-19 came out of a lab as “crackpot theories.”
Andersen and other members of Fauci’s group later claimed that they had changedtheir minds about the origin of the virus after more evidence became available. However, Fauci’s newly unredacted emails prove otherwise.
Instead, the emails present the most damning evidence to date that Fauci’s group deliberately conspired to suppress public discussion of the lab leak scenario and brazenly lied about the underlying science.
Among the emails contained in the 174-page batch is one that Fauci sent shortly after midnight on Feb. 1, 2020, as he was scrambling to set up the teleconference on the same day. The email is addressed to British pharmaceutical trust director Jeremy Farrar, with whom Fauci had co-organized the Feb. 1 conference. It isn’t known why Farrar, a UK citizen with no known role in the U.S. government, was chosen to co-organize the teleconference. Fauci and Farrar control a significant portion of funding for virologists in the Western world.
Fauci, who also copied Andersen and two of his NIH colleagues, mentioned the COVID-19 virus’s unusual features and suggested contacting the FBI and the British security service MI5:
“[I]f everyone agrees with this concern, they should report it to the appropriate authorities. I would imagine that in the USA, this would be the FBI and in the UK, it would be MI5.”
It isn’t known why Fauci made contacting the FBI dependent on everyone agreeing with concerns about the virus’s unusual features.
It’s notable that Farrar later claimed to have been using a burner phone during this time.
In the same post-midnight email, Fauci also stated he would alert “my” U.S. government officials of the possibility that COVID-19 was made in a lab. It isn’t known whether Fauci contacted anyone.
However, the real smoking gun is manifested in a Feb. 4 email exchange between Fauci, then-NIH head Francis Collins, and Farrar.
Early on Feb. 4, Farrar shared a draft of what would later become known as the Proximal Origin paper with Fauci and Collins. Proximal Origin, co-authored by Andersen, Garry, and three other scientists, including Edward Holmes who also attended the teleconference and who worked for the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2014 to 2020, publicly promoted the natural origin theory. The paper was a direct product of the teleconference and would later be used by the media and Fauci as the scientific basis for dismissing the possibility that COVID-19 might have come out of a lab.
The Feb. 4 email exchange reveals that, after reading the draft paper, Fauci sent Collins and Farrar a one-line response: “?? Serial passage in ACE2-transgenic mice.” ACE2-transgenic mice are mice that are used in virus experiments to mimic human lungs. It appears that Fauci was concerned that Proximal Origin was pointing to a possible lab origin.
Farrar replied “Exactly!,” apparently sharing Fauci’s concern. Collins then asked “surely that wouldn’t be done in a BSL-2 lab,” apparently expressing his incredulity that the Wuhan lab would have conducted such risky experiments in low biosafety level 2 labs—equivalent to the biosafety level of a U.S. dentist’s office. The fourth and final email in the exchange came from Farrar, who simply referred to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) as “Wild West ... .”
WIV Director Shi Zhengli later conceded in an interview that her lab had indeed conducted its coronavirus experiments in biosafety level two labs.
Taken together, these emails provide the strongest evidence yet that Fauci and his group knew on Feb. 4 that the virus had characteristics that pointed to lab manipulation, that the Wuhan lab had conducted experiments that were consistent with creating such characteristics, and that the lab didn’t follow proper safety protocols. Yet, instead of sounding the alarm, Fauci’s team saw to it that offending passages were removed from the as-yet-unpublished Proximal Origin paper.
While the Feb. 4 draft of the paper that had been shared with Fauci stated that the available data was consistent with both a natural and a lab origin and that it was “currently impossible to prove or disprove either,” the published version omitted this language. Instead, the final version claimed, “[W]e do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”
Fauci’s role in editing the paper and shaping its narrative should have been disclosed in the paper’s acknowledgments section–as is the case with all contributions to scientific work–but instead, his involvement was concealed.
Another email in the new FOIA release underscores the lengths to which Fauci’s group went to cover up the possibility of a lab leak.
In a Feb. 4 email to Fauci and Collins, Farrar explicitly acknowledged that there was a “very real possibility of accidental lab passage in animals to give glycans.” Glycans are carbohydrate-based polymers produced by humans or—as Farrar evidently knew—by lab animals such as transgenic mice. The Feb. 4 version, as well as the final published version of Proximal Origin, fudged this issue by falsely claiming that it was unclear how glycans might have been acquired in a lab.
Another issue that was flagged by Fauci’s group in their early Feb. 2020 emails is the virus’s furin cleavage site. During the Feb. 1 teleconference, the scientists circulated a slide titled “Gain of furin cleavage site in nCoV – not present in bat coronaviruses, SARS, or MERS,” as well as emails expressing bewilderment as to how this site may have arisen.
The furin cleavage site, which has never been observed in naturally occurring SARS coronaviruses, is the COVID-19 virus’s standout feature that makes it particularly virulent in humans.
While the Feb. 4 draft of Proximal Origin made repeated reference to the possibility that the furin cleavage site might have arisen in a lab, these references were expunged from the subsequent Feb. 7 draft–which also is included in the newly unredacted emails.
While the term “furin” is mentioned 19 times in the Feb. 4 draft, it’s mentioned only four times in the published article. In downplaying the furin cleavage site, post-Feb. 4 versions of Proximal Origin cited a Chinese study that initially claimed to have found a 99 percent match to the COVID-19 virus in pangolins.
However, by the time the Chinese study was published on Feb. 20, the match was revealed to be only 90 percent, which is far less than other coronaviruses known to have been kept by the Wuhan lab. The pangolin virus also didn’t have a furin cleavage site. However, despite the Chinese pangolin paper having quickly proven to be a false alarm, the scientists kept falsely maintaining publicly that the pangolin virus had something to do with COVID-19.
One curiosity that remains unanswered is why Fauci’s group didn’t invite Ralph Baric to participate in their deliberations. Baric, a professor at the University of North Carolina, is a pioneer in manipulating coronaviruses and had previously worked with the Wuhan lab. It was a study conducted by Baric, Shi, and others in 2015 that had initially set off alarm bells, both at the NIH and in the wider scientific community, about the risks associated with manipulating coronaviruses. Rutgers University biologist Richard Ebright noted at the time that “[t]he only impact of this work is the creation, in a lab, of a new, non-natural risk.”
The Baric–Shi study led the NIH to suspend its funding of the Wuhan lab. However, the NIH inexplicably allowed the work to resume in 2016.
It’s inconceivable why Baric, perhaps the most knowledgeable person in the United States on the issue of manipulating coronaviruses, as well as on the capabilities of the Wuhan lab, wasn’t included in Fauci’s teleconference.
The only plausible explanation appears to be that Baric was part of a 2018 proposal to insert furin cleavage sites into coronaviruses. The existence of this proposal was revealed in September of 2021, when a whistleblower leaked a document that showed that the Wuhan lab wanted to insert furin cleavage sites into SARS coronaviruses.
Baric’s presence at the Feb. 1 teleconference would have likely exposed that inconvenient fact to a larger group of people.
It isn’t known whether Fauci or any other teleconference participants knew of the 2018 proposal before it was leaked in 2021. However, it is plausible that at least Fauci had been briefed about the proposal. That’s because the proposal had been submitted to—and rejected by—the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). At the time, DARPA program manager James Gimlett flagged the proposal as too risky to undertake.
Although the DARPA proposal involved Baric and the WIV, it was formally submitted by Peter Daszak on behalf of EcoHealth Alliance. EcoHealth also happens to be the organization through whom Fauci has been funding the Wuhan lab since at least 2014. Given EcoHealth’s dual roles, both as Fauci’s intermediary to the Wuhan lab, and as the Wuhan lab’s instrument for obtaining DARPA funds, it’s only a short leap between Gimlett being alarmed by the proposal and Fauci being informed of his concerns.
Another revelation contained in the new emails is that at least two of the participants in Fauci’s teleconference explicitly acknowledged that the aim of the conference was to smother the lab leak theory. While this was widely known, it wasn’t expected that participants had said as much in writing.
On Feb. 8, Andersen wrote the group, claiming that their “main work” had “been focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory.” At the same time, he lamented that “we are at a crossroads where the scientific evidence isn’t conclusive enough.”
Christian Drosten, a COVID-19 adviser to the German government who had also attended the teleconference, emailed Fauci’s group on Feb. 9 to complain about the Proximal Origin draft that Farrar had shared with him. Drosten wasn’t happy that Proximal Origin mentioned the lab leak at all, asking “didn’t we congregate to challenge a certain theory,” sarcastically adding, ”[a]re we working on debunking our own conspiracy theory?”
Another participant in the Feb. 1 teleconference, Dutch virologist Marion Koopmans, emailed on Feb. 9 to say that the group shouldn’t publish anything about the lab leak scenario as “this could backfire” and “because putting that in the public domain as a hypothesis in my view will be read as ’see, they also thought so.'”
The truth is that Fauci’s group also thought so and colluded to conceal not only that they thought so but also to conceal the evidence for a lab origin that they had gathered. Some of that evidence, such as the highly unusual furin cleavage site, has been known for some time, while other evidence, such as the presence of highly unusual restriction sites in the virus’s genome, have only been scientifically addressed recently.
By concealing what they knew about the virus’s unusual features, Fauci and his group of scientists critically hobbled scientific efforts to better understand the virus. This may have had negative effects on treatments as well as on efforts to develop counteracting agents. Perhaps even more successful was the attempt by Fauci and his group to cover up the origin of COVID-19. Fauci’s full-court press effectively led to a complete media blackout on the issue and the public castigation of anyone who didn’t toe the line.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.