Expert Warns That Fears of Chinese Coronavirus Being a Bioweapon Should Not Be Dismissed
A molecular biologist is blowing the whistle regarding reports that the Chinese coronavirus was not designed as a weapon of bioterrorism.
Richard H. Ebright, a professor of chemical biology at Rutgers University, believes that it is entirely possible that the coronavirus could be a bioweapon and those claims should not be dismissed before serious inquiry can be conducted.
“A denial is not a refutation,” Ebright said in reference to Chinese virologist Shi Zhengli, who works at the research lab in Wuhan that has been widely speculated to be behind the coronavirus outbreak.
The research facility in Wuhan opened up in 2017 despite objections that highly infectious diseases could spread from the center. Just two years after it was established, the Chinese coronavirus pandemic would go on to rock the world:
A laboratory in Wuhan is on the cusp of being cleared to work with the world’s most dangerous pathogens. The move is part of a plan to build between five and seven biosafety level-4 (BSL-4) labs across the Chinese mainland by 2025, and has generated much excitement, as well as some concerns.
Some scientists outside China worry about pathogens escaping, and the addition of a biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations. But Chinese microbiologists are celebrating their entrance to the elite cadre empowered to wrestle with the world’s greatest biological threats.
“It will offer more opportunities for Chinese researchers, and our contribution on the BSL‑4-level pathogens will benefit the world,” says George Gao, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Key Laboratory of Pathogenic Microbiology and Immunology in Beijing. There are already two BSL-4 labs in Taiwan, but the National Bio-safety Laboratory, Wuhan, would be the first on the Chinese mainland…
Many staff from the Wuhan lab have been training at a BSL-4 lab in Lyon, which some scientists find reassuring. And the facility has already carried out a test-run using a low-risk virus.
But worries surround the Chinese lab, too. The SARS virus has escaped from high-level containment facilities in Beijing multiple times, notes Richard Ebright, a molecular biologist at Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey. Tim Trevan, founder of CHROME Biosafety and Biosecurity Consulting in Damascus, Maryland, says that an open culture is important to keeping BSL-4 labs safe, and he questions how easy this will be in China, where society emphasizes hierarchy. “Diversity of viewpoint, flat structures where everyone feels free to speak up and openness of information are important,” he says.
Yuan says that he has worked to address this issue with staff. “We tell them the most important thing is that they report what they have or haven’t done,” he says. And the lab’s international collaborations will increase openness. “Transparency is the basis of the lab,” he adds.
Ebright praised Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) for his willingness to push back against Chinese propaganda with regards to the origins of the coronavirus.
“After concealing the virus for many weeks in December and then minimizing its severity for most of January, they then peddle an origin story about the food market in Wuhan.” Cotton said during an interview with The Daily Caller.
“Given their dishonesty and the proximity of these labs, which we know were working with coronaviruses, it is only reasonable and responsible for us to ask the question and demand the answers,” he added.
That was scenario discussed in your Fox interview
I am pleased to hear you now distinguish between possibility virus was engineered bioweapon (which can be dismissed) and possibility virus entered human population through lab accident (which cannot–and should not–be dismissed)
— Richard H. Ebright (@R_H_Ebright) February 17, 2020
Although Ebright does not necessarily contend that the coronavirus is a Chinese bioweapon, he advocates that the possibility should be thoroughly investigated.