Scientist Who Denounced Lab Leak Theory Now Says Investigation Needed Into Origins of COVID-19

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.
June 7, 2021 Updated: June 7, 2021

A scientist who signed a letter denouncing any notion that the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus didn’t originate naturally now backs an investigation into the origins of the virus.

Dr. Peter Palese, a microbiologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, was one of 27 scientists who signed the letter, which was published in The Lancet on March 7, 2020.

“We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin,” the scientists wrote.

Palese now says he supports a probe.

“I believe a thorough investigation about the origin of the COVID-19 virus is needed,” Palese told the Daily Mail. “A lot of disturbing information has surfaced since the Lancet letter I signed, so I want to see answers covering all questions.”

The doctor didn’t respond to a request for comment, nor did many of the others who signed the letter, apart from Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust.

The scientific community is divided over the origins of the virus, which first appeared near a top-level laboratory in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

Calls for an investigation into the origins have grown sharply in recent weeks, after some experts and media tried to write off any questioning of claims that it originated naturally. To this day, no animal host has been identified. Backers of the natural theory point to genomes of the virus and other evidence.

“The origins of Sars-Cov-2 are not yet certain—it is possible the origin will never be fully established—but nature is a powerful force and, in my view, the most likely scenario is that the virus crossed from animals to humans and then evolved in humans,” Farrar told The Epoch Times in an email.

“The best scientific evidence available to date points to this. It is most likely it crossed the species barrier to infect and then adapt to humans at some point in 2019, but there are other possibilities which cannot be completely ruled out and retaining an open mind is critical. There is no place for unsubstantiated rumour, or conspiracy theories often fuelled for other purposes.

“Understanding the origins of this disease, and any zoonotic infection, is absolutely critical to successfully preventing future outbreaks and protecting lives globally. The answers can only be found in robust scientific evidence, with full transparency from all involved. There has been too much conjecture and theory without data or evidence, although still there is not enough transparency.”

A former State Department contractor who helped lead a probe into the origins said last month that the virus likely came from the Wuhan lab.

“It came out of nowhere, and it was optimized for transmission between humans in a way that no bat-borne coronavirus ever had been,” David Asher said.

U.S. intelligence officials recently said they’re not sure when, how, or where the virus originated. President Joe Biden announced on May 26 that he had asked the intelligence community to work harder “to collect and analyze information that could bring us closer to a definitive conclusion, and to report back to me in 90 days.”

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. and world news. He is based in Maryland.