By Jorge Casesmeiro Roger
Molecular biologist Dr. Richard H. Ebright, PhD is one of the twenty six world scientists who signed the Open Letter: “Call for a Full and Unrestricted International Forensic Investigation into the Origins of COVID-19”. A document released last March 4 by the Wall Street Journal and Le Monde that reignited the debate over the pandemic’s origin after the WHO-convened mission to Wuhan.
Board of Governors Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Rutgers University, Dr. Richard H. Ebright, PhD, is also Laboratory Director at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology and serves as project leader on two National Institutes of Health research grants.
Dr. Richard Ebright received his AB in Biology and his PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Harvard University. He has more than one hundred sixty publications and more than forty issued and pending patents. He is member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a Fellow of the American Association for Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Microbiology, and the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
Dr. Ebright is a member of the Institutional Biosafety Committee of Rutgers University and the Antimicrobial Resistance Committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. He is also been a member of the Working Group on Pathogen Security of the state of New Jersey, and the Controlling Dangerous Pathogens Project of the Center for International Security Studies. He was a founding member of the Cambridge Working Group, which advocated for biosafety, biosecurity, and risk-benefit reviews for gain-of-function research on potential pandemic pathogens.
Dr. Ebright, you are one of the 26 scientific signers of the Open Letter that stopped the release of the WHO-convened mission Interim Report and has reopened the CoV-2 origin debate. Do you think the final report of this WHO/China joint team is going to shut down COVID origin controversy?
The Open Letter explains in detail the structural and functional limitations of the WHO-China Wuhan collaborative team: exclusive Chinese field work, lack of complete access to lab installations or databases, consensus process in report making…
A credible investigation would have had Terms of Reference that: 1) Acknowledged the possibility of laboratory origin, 2) Ensured access of investigators to records, samples, personnel, and facilities at the Wuhan laboratories that handle bat SARS-related coronaviruses, 3) Enabled collection of evidence, not mere meet-and-greet photo-ops, 4) Authorized an investigation of months, not mere days. And 5) A credible investigation also would have had conflict-of-interest-free investigators, not persons who were subjects of the research and/or closely associated with subjects of the investigation.
You have said several times that this WHO mission was literally “a charade”.
Yes, its members were willing –and, in at least one case, enthusiastic– participants in disinformation.
The pre-negotiated “Terms of Reference” for the WHO study did not even acknowledge the possibility of a laboratory origin of the virus and did not even mention the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), the Wuhan Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.
Regarding the inspection personnel, at least one member of the WHO mission team, Ecohealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak, seems to have conflicts of interest that should have disqualified him from being part of an investigation of the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yes. Daszak was the contractor who funded the laboratory at WIV that potentially was the source of the virus (with subcontracts from $200 million from the US Department of State and $7 million from the US National Institutes of Health), and he was a collaborator and co-author on research projects at the laboratory.
The Open Letter also lists the elements of “What a full investigation should look like”. So again, Dr. Ebright, if you where in charge of a forensic team to investigate in Wuhan the origins of the pandemic: what would you like to see first? What kind of questions would you ask and to who?
A credible forensic investigation would require access to records, samples, personnel, and facilities at WIV, the Wuhan CDC and the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. It would entail inspection of electronic and paper records, inspection of freezer and refrigerator samples, environmental sampling of facilities, and confidential interviews with personnel–including previous and current construction, maintenance, janitorial, disposal, security, animal-facility, laboratory, and administrative personnel.
Whenever asked if this virus could have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, your answer has been: “Yes (…) This cannot and should not be dismissed”. A study on COVID origin of Dr. Steven Quay, another signer of the Open Letter, calculates the lab hypotheses to be a 99.8% probability.
At this point in time, there is no secure basis to assign relative probabilities to the natural-accident hypothesis and the laboratory-accident hypothesis.
But given the fact that lab leak is a possibility, what chance do you give for a natural zoonotic origin of this pandemic?
At this point in time, all scientific data related to the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2 and the epidemiology of COVID-19 are equally consistent with a natural-accident origin or a laboratory-accident origin…..