By Cathy He
A forensic analysis shows that the Wuhan Insitute of Virology (WIV) was genetically manipulating the Nipah virus, a highly lethal pathogen, in violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, according to an expert who testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing on Aug. 3.
The finding was another piece of evidence showing that the controversial Wuhan lab was conducting gain-of-function research—experiments that ultimately resulted in the COVID-19 pandemic via a leak from the facility, according to Dr. Steven Quay, CEO of Atossa Therapeutics. Gain-of-function research involves enhancing the potency or transmissibility of a virus.
Quay said he and other scientists conducted an examination of COVID-19 patient specimens from December 2019 sequenced and published by the WIV. Through that analysis, published in a preprint paper that hasn’t been peer-reviewed, they found 20 unexpected contaminants that they believe are evidence of other research conducted at the lab.
“For 19 of the 20 unexpected contaminants, we then found published research from the previous two years, confirming that the lab had indeed been working on these unexpected genes,” he said in written testimony (pdf) before a hearing on gain-of-function research held by the Senate subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight. The hearing was only attended by the subcommittee’s Republican members.
But the one contaminant not accounted for in papers published by WIV was cloning vectors of the Nipah virus, according to Quay.
“This is the most dangerous research I have ever encountered,” he said in the written testimony.
The Nipah virus has a lethality of more than 60 percent, more than that of Ebola, although it’s less transmissible than the latter virus since it isn’t airborne, the expert said at the hearing. The Nipah virus is also about 60 times deadlier than COVID-19.
“A laboratory-acquired infection with a modified Nipah virus would make the COVID-19 pandemic look like a walk in the park,” he said.
This kind of synthetic biology is a breach of international law, according to the expert.
“It’s actually against the biological weapons treaty to take the Nipah virus apart and then put it back together again,” Quay told The Epoch Times in an interview before the hearing.
In the hearing, Quay listed a series of evidence that he said pointed to COVID-19 originating from a lab leak from WIV.
Among these is the fact that the WIV’s public database of 22,000 samples and viral sequences was taken offline on Sept. 12, 2019, before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the facility stated that this was because of cyber hacks, Quay called this act “suspicious,” and he believes that the database was taken offline to remove evidence of close precursors to COVID-19, which would have been a “smoking gun” showing that the virus leaked from the lab.
He also highlighted that the WIV was the world’s leading center for the study of coronaviruses, noting that before 2019, the facility was responsible for 65 percent of all published research in the area.
“For almost a decade, they were going into bat caves throughout China and … back into Africa as well, 20 visits a year in bringing these samples back to the laboratory,” Quay said at the hearing. “They had the largest collection of raw material backbones from nature to then do gain function research on.
“I believe it’s the confluence of those two activities … bringing things back from bat caves and gain-of-function research that led to the pandemic.”
The WIV has repeatedly denied that it was the source of the pandemic, but the Chinese regime has persistently refused to open the lab and its records to outside authorities, making an independent investigation of the hypothesis nearly impossible.
A 2021 U.S. State Department fact sheet stated that WIV researchers had begun conducting experiments involving RaTG13, identified to have the closest genetic similarity to the COVID-19 virus, from as early as 2016.
Besides engaging in “’gain of function’ research to engineer chimeric viruses,” the WIV has engaged in laboratory animal experiments on behalf of the Chinese military since at least 2017, according to the fact sheet.
Eva Fu contributed to this report.