According to leaked grant proposals from 2018, Wuhan scientists planned to deploy altered airborne coronaviruses into Chinese bat populations to inoculate them against diseases that could spread to people.
Researchers submitted proposals to deploy skin-penetrating nanoparticles harboring "novel proteins" of bat coronaviruses into cave bats in Yunnan, China, just 18 months before the first Covid-19 cases surfaced, according to new documents.
They also wanted to make chimeric viruses that were genetically modified to infect humans more easily, and they asked the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) for $14 million to do so.
The researchers hoped to introduce "human-specific cleavage sites" to bat coronaviruses, which would make it easier for the virus to enter human cells, according to papers confirmed as authentic by a former member of the Trump administration.
Sequencing Covid-19's Genome
When scientists initially sequenced Covid-19's genome, they were perplexed how the virus had evolved such a human-specific adaption at the spike protein's cleavage location, which is why it is so contagious.
Drastic, a web-based investigation team formed by scientists worldwide to delve into the origins of Covid-19, released the materials.
"Given that we discover a mention of the anticipated introduction of human-specific cleavage sites in this proposal," Drastic stated in a statement, "an assessment by the larger scientific community of the plausibility of artificial insertion is warranted."
In addition, the idea proposed combining high-risk natural coronavirus strains with more infectious but less harmful variants.
The proposal was made by EcoHealth Alliance, a US-based organization that has collaborated extensively with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) on bat coronavirus research.
Dr. Shi Zhengli, the WIV researcher, dubbed "bat woman", and US researchers from the University of North Carolina and the US Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Centre, were among the team's members.
Darpa declined to support the project, claiming that "it is evident that the planned project lead by Peter Daszak could have put residents at risk" and that the researchers had not adequately evaluated the risks of strengthening the virus (gain of function research) or delivering a vaccine by air.
According to grant paperwork, the team was concerned about the immunization program and stated that they would "conduct educational outreach... to ensure that the public understands what we are doing and why we are doing it, particularly given the practice of bat consumption in the region."
Professor of Oncology at the St George's University of London, Angus Dalgleish, who struggled to get work published showing that the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) had been conducting "gain of function" research for years before the pandemic, believes the study would have gone ahead even if the funding had not been available.
"Engineering the cleavage site and polishing the new viruses to boost human cell infectibility in more than one cell line is a gain of function," he said.
Daszak was also the author of a statement published in The Lancet last year that effectively ended a scientific dispute over Covid-19's origins.
Viscount Ridley, who has co-authored a book on the origins of Covid-19, which is due out in November, and has consistently urged for a new probe into what caused the pandemic in the House of Lords, said: "For more than a year I tried to ask Peter Daszak questions but had no response.
"It turns out he wrote this crucial piece of virus research in Wuhan but refused to share it with the rest of the world. I'm enraged. So should the rest of the globe.
"Peter Daszak and the EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) advocated infusing lethal chimeric bat coronaviruses collected by the Wuhan Institute of Virology into humanized and 'batified' mice, among other things."
The grant proposal includes intentions to improve the more lethal disease of Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome, according to a Covid-19 researcher from the World Health Organization (WHO) who asked to remain unnamed (Mers).
The worrisome thing, according to the source, is that scientists were creating infectious chimeric Mers viruses.
"These viruses have a fatality rate of over 30%, which is at least a factor of ten higher than Sars-CoV-2.
"This epidemic would be practically apocalyptic if one of their receptor substitutions made Mers spread similarly while preserving its lethality."
The Wuhan Institute of Virology and the EcoHealth Alliance have been contacted for comment.
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