Peter Daszak, head of the New York-based nonprofit the EcoHealth Alliance, has been recused from the COVID-19 commissions being set up by medical journal the Lancet.
The Lancet COVID-19 Commission describes itself as focusing on “analyzing data on all of the theories put forward on the origins of COVID.” Daszak had originally been appointed as chairman of the task force, but has now been “recused from Commission work on the origins of the pandemic,” the commission’s website states.
The COVID-19 commission is organized by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Daszak recused after conflict of interest discovered
On Monday, June 21, the Lancet stated that Daszak, one of the leading virologists who signed a letter published last year essentially debunking the COVID-19 “lab leak” theory, failed to disclose “competing interests” as required by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors.
Daszak was one of 27 scientists who signed a letter “Statement in support of the scientists, public health professionals, and medical professionals of China combatting COVID-19.”
In this letter, Dazak and his fellow signatories condemned “conspiracy theories suggesting that COVID-19 does not have a natural origin.” It became one of the most influential documents early in the pandemic that shaped discussion on the coronavirus’ origin.
According to the Lancer, when it had invited all 27 signatories to reevaluate their competing interests, Daszak submitted an updated disclosure statement noting that his remuneration came solely in the form of a salary from the EcoHealth Alliance.
The EcoHealth Alliance has worked directly with China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) on gain-of-function research on coronaviruses. In particular, it received $3.7 million in funding from Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), of which at least $600,000 was diverted to the WIV. (Related: New book details Dr. Fauci’s involvement in Wuhan and the Chinese military’s dangerous gain-of-function coronavirus research.)
Gain-of-function research includes altering the DNA of viruses to give them characteristics, including greater transmissibility and resistance to vaccines. This is done with the intention of better understanding current and future pandemics.
Daszak played key role in suppressing lab leak theory
Daszak had played a key role in suppressing the debate on whether the WIV could be connected to the pandemic. On top of orchestrating the letter that condemned discussion on COVID-19’s links to the WIV as “conspiracy theories,” he was the only U.S. citizen allowed to participate in the World Health Organization‘s (WHO) investigation into the disease’s origins in China earlier this year.
As part of the WHO’s investigative team, Daszak vouched for the WIV. This meant that the team did not even ask to see deleted databases containing information on the over 16,000 virus samples it had studied prior to the pandemic.
Daszak later said that U.S. intelligence on the WIV should not be trusted after he and his colleagues concluded that it was highly unlikely that COVID-19 came from the lab.
But in recent weeks, numerous media outlets have published stories supporting the legitimacy of the lab leak theory after having denigrated it as baseless conspiracy last year.
On May 23, the Wall Street Journal reported that three WIV researchers were hospitalized in November 2019 with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. As part of this, the newspaper cited unnamed U.S. government sources familiar with a previously undisclosed U.S. intelligence report.
Following this, on May 26, President Joe Biden ordered instructed the U.S. intelligence community to begin an investigation into the lab leak theory, giving them a 90-day deadline while asking them to “redouble” their efforts.
Since then, more evidence of the coronavirus’ laboratory origins has surfaced, including genetic proof that it was subject to gain-of-function research.
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