Prominent scientists demand retractions from journals that published ‘unsound’ articles downplaying possible COVID-19 lab origins

News & Politics

Former National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci, EcoHealth Alliance boss Peter Daszak, and
elements of their inner circle were far from the only people in the Western medical establishment who actively downplayed the possibility that COVID-19 leaked from a lab where the likely patients zero executed dangerous experiments on coronaviruses with American taxpayer dollars.

Early in the pandemic, multiple scientific publications ran articles decrying “conspiracy theories” that suggested the virus may have originated in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Various authors argued, instead, that it was more likely that the virus made a cross-species leap into humans, possibly at a Chinese wet market.

Now that it’s abundantly clear that the lab origin theory was all along the
most likely explanation, molecular biologist Dr. Richard H. Ebright of Rutgers University and dozens of other scientists are seeking accountability for perceived efforts to cure the origins narrative. They have sent open letters to the editors of the journals Science, Emerging Microbes & Infections, and Nature Medicine, requesting the retraction of “scientifically unsound papers” concerning the origins of the virus.

“Scientists have a responsibility to science and the public to point out scientific misconduct, particularly scientific fraud, when they discover it,” Dr. Ebright told Blaze News. “This is especially true for scientific misconduct on matters of high public importance, like the origin of COVID-19.”

Emerging Microbes & Infections

The first of the four papers of interest was published online in Emerging Microbes & Infections on Feb. 26, 2020, and authored by
Shan-Lu Liu and Linda Saif of Ohio State University; Susan Weiss of the University of Pennsylvania; and Lishan Su of the University of Maryland.

The paper, entitled, “No credible evidence supporting claims of the laboratory engineering of SARS-CoV-2,” stated, “There are speculations, rumours and conspiracy theories that SARS-CoV-2 is of laboratory origin. Some people have alleged that the human SARS-CoV-2 was leaked directly from a laboratory in Wuhan where a bat CoV (RaTG13) was recently reported, which shared ∼96% homology with the SARS-CoV-2.”

After downplaying a number of possible lab-made culprits, including a
chimeric coronavirus that could replicate in human airway cells and possibly transmit to humans, the authors concluded, “There is currently no credible evidence to support the claim that SARS-CoV-2 originated from a laboratory-engineered CoV.”

June 14 open letter to the editors of the journal stated, “The authors’ and editor’s private email communications, obtained through an Ohio Public Records Act request, provide compelling evidence that there is clear basis to infer the paper may be the product of scientific misconduct, up to and including fraud.”

When Weiss, for instance, expressed uncertainty about how the
furin cleavage site could possibly end up in the virus naturally, her colleague Liu “completely agree[d]” but signaled a greater eagerness to dispel the notion that the “furin site may be engineered.”

Despite publicly suggesting there was no credible evidence of a lab origin, Weiss noted days before the publication of her paper:

Henry and I have been speculating- how can that site have appeared at S1/S2 border- I hate to think it was engineered- among the MHV strains, the cleavage site does not increaser (sic) pathogenicity while it does effect entry route (surface vs endosome). so for me the only significance of this furin site is as a marker for where the virus came from- frightening to think it may have been engineered.

Concealed doubts and persuasive counterpoints were not the only things said to have compromised the integrity of the paper.

University of North Carolina virus expert
Ralph Baric has long toyed with coronaviruses. Years ahead of the pandemic, he expressed an interest in continuing to experiment with a chimeric virus that could infect human lung cells. He even shared transgenic mice with the Wuhan lab where Chinese virologist Zhengli Shi was executing radical experiments.

In violation of publisher Taylor and Francis’ authorship policies, “Ralph Baric and Shi Zhengli, despite clear conflicts of interest, made substantial contributions to the manuscript but were not credited as authors or acknowledged,” said the letter.

Besides secretly involving people with potential conflicts, Su, Liu and the journal’s editor-in-chief Shan Lu reportedly also had “privileged information about a SARS-CoV-2 infection in a Beijing lab in 2020,” but decided to keep this under wraps.

Su wrote to Lieu on Feb. 14, 2020: “Your former colleague was infected with sars2 in the lab?”

“Yes,” responded Liu. “He was infected in the lab!”

“I actually am very concerned for the possibility of SARS-2 infection by lab people. It is much more contagious than SARS-1. Now every lab is interested in get a vial of virus to do drug discovery. This can potentially [be] a big issue. I don’t think most people have a clue,” wrote Shan Lu.

Despite weighing in heavily on the paper, Lu elected not to be included in the coauthorship, stating in a Feb. 12, 2020, message, “I definitely will not be an author as you guys did everything. It can also keep things somewhat independent as the editor.”

Extra to collapsing the distance between author and editor, Lu subsequently admitted he accepted the paper with “basically no review.”

“Taken together, the authors’ and editor’s private communications indicate the paper is a product of scientific misconduct, up to and including fraud, by the authors and by the Editor-in-Chief of
Emerging Microbes & Infections, Shan Lu,” said the open letter. “Now that these documents have come to light, we urge Emerging Microbes & Infections to issue an Expression of Editorial Concern for this paper and to initiate a retraction process.”

Taylor and Francis, the publisher of the journal, said in a statement to Blaze News, “We can confirm that the Editor of the journal forwarded the open letter to Taylor & Francis on 14th June and that our Publishing Ethics & Integrity team are investigating the concerns raised, in accordance with the Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines and our Editorial Policies.”

Nature Medicine

The journal Nature Medicine published the controversial paper “The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2” on March 17, 2020, which Fauci used on multiple occasions to suggest to the American public that COVID-19 was not a lab leak but rather an animal virus that jumped to a human.

Blaze News
previously reported that despite privately discussing the prospect that the natural-origins theory was rubbish, the paper’s four official authors — Kristian Andersen, W. Ian Lipkin, Edward Holmes, and Robert Garry — concluded, “We do not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible.”

Andersen, a Danish evolutionary biologist and Scripps Research Institute immunology professor, was especially doubtful in private about the conclusion he gave his name to.

On Jan. 31, 2020, Andersen
wrote to Fauci, “You have to look very closely at the genome to see features that are potentially engineered. … I should mention that after discussions earlier today, Eddie [Holmes], Bob [Garry], Mike [Farzan], and myself all find the genome to be inconsistent with expectations from evolutionary theory.”

On Feb. 8, Andersen
stated, “Passage of SARS-like CoVs have been ongoing for several years, and more specifically in Wuhan under BSL-2 conditions. … The fact that Wuhan became the epicenter of the ongoing epidemic caused by nCoV is likely an unfortunate coincidence, but it raises questions that would be wrong to dismiss out of hand. Our main work over the last couple of weeks has been focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory, but we are at a crossroad where the scientific evidence isn’t conclusive enough to say that we have high confidence in any of the three main theories considered.”

Andersen also
expressed concern about a paper penned by Ralph Baric and Zhengli Shi concerning the apparent insertion of furin cleavage sites into SARS, which he and his colleagues figured for a “how-to-manual for building the Wuhan coronavirus in a laboratory.”

Last month, Ebright and five others
wrote to Joao Montiero, the chief editor of Nature Medicine, requesting a retraction. They noted that documentation obtained through public records requests along with congressional testimony from Andersen and Garry “provide conclusive evidence of misconduct.”

The letter does not mention Fauci’s
alleged involvement in the development of the paper but instead World Health Organization scientist Jeremy Farrar’s unacknowledged role in the “paper’s development, including its prompting, organizing, editing, and approval.”

‘It is imperative that this misleading and damaging product of scientific misconduct be removed from the scientific literature.’

“This omission of a significant role played by the head of a funding agency, allegedly to maintain his ‘independence,’ represents a serious breach of publishing ethics that completely undermines the credibility of the journal and calls into question the motivation behind the paper,” said the letter. “The classification of the paper as an ‘opinion’ rather than a ‘research article’ further exacerbates the issue, as the authors’ intentional withholding of Farrar’s involvement damages public trust in the editorial process.”

Ebright and scores of other scientists
pressed Nature Medicine last year for a retraction as well, noting in an open letter dated July 26, 2023, “It is imperative that this misleading and damaging product of scientific misconduct be removed from the scientific literature. We, as STEM and STEM-policy professionals, call upon Nature Medicine to publish an expression of editorial concern for the paper and to begin a process of withdrawal or retraction of the paper.”

Blaze News reached out to Montiero for comment, but he did not respond by deadline.


Ebright, Stanford University epidemiologist
Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, and dozens of other scientists signed another open letter on June 14 to the editors of the journal Science with regards to two papers: “The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was the early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” and “The molecular epidemiology of multiple zoonotic origins of SARS-CoV-2,” both of which named Jonathan Pekar of the University of California, San Diego, as an author along with Andersen, Holmes, Garry, evolutionary biologist Andrew Rambaut, and Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona.

Blurbs leading into the papers, which were both largely funded by Fauci’s NIAID — whose parent agency
supported and financed research at the Wuhan lab — and published on July 26, 2022, stated, “The precise events surrounding virus spillover will always be clouded, but all of the circumstantial evidence so far points to more than one zoonotic event occurring in Huanan market in Wuhan, China, likely during November–December 2019.”

According to the scientists seeking retractions, the analyses and the premises of “Worobey et al. 2022 and Pekar et al. 2022 are unsound,” and the papers may be “products of scientific misconduct, up to and including scientific fraud.”

“Phylogenomic evidence, epidemiological evidence, and documentary evidence all indicate that SARS-CoV-2 entered humans in July-November 2019,” says the letter. “Arguments based on data for the Huanan Seafood Market on or after mid- to late December 2019 — as in Worobey et al. 2022 and Pekar et al. 2022 — cannot, even in principle, shed light on spillover into humans that occurred one to five months earlier, in July-November, 2019.”

The open letter noted that Andersen, Garry, Holmes, and others knew full well that the “premises and conclusions of their paper were invalid at the time the paper was drafted.”

A spokesman for American Association for the Advancement of Science, the publisher of the Science family of journals, confirmed to Blaze News that it had received the letter.

“We follow COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) processes to address any concerns raised on published papers and are doing so here,” said the spokesman.

The AAAS spokesman noted in a subsequent email, “We will follow up when we make a final decision.”

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