Proximal Origin: The goal of this paper ‘was not to discover origin of Covid, but to supress the lab leak theory’

Proximal Origin: The goal of this paper ‘was not to discover origin of Covid, but to supress the lab leak theory’


US House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic report released last week details how former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) manipulated and arm-twisted the scientific community suppress details of the origins of coronavirus.

Dr Fauci – a physician-scientist and immunologist – and other senior government official in presidents Donald Trum and Joe Biden administrations went into overdrive to sell the contested theory that Covid-19 was a natural occurrence as opposed to the view that had gained currency it was a lab-leak.

Kristian Andersen, a professor of immunology and microbiology at the California-based Scripps Research Institute “also found a paper written by Dr Ralph Baric and Dr Zhengli Shi … that purported to have inserted furin cleavage sites into SARS.”

According to the report, Farrar described the Baric/Shi paper as a “how-to manual for building the Wuhan coronavirus in a laboratory.”

Baric is an epidemiologist, microbiologist and immunologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Shi is the director of the Centre for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the WIV. Interactions, including several phone calls and emails, followed between Fauci and Andersen throughout January 2020, leading up to the February 1, 2020, conference call to “discuss a path forward.”

Andersen testified to the committee that during the February 1, 2020, call, he expressed his concerns that Covid-19 may have been developed in a laboratory, adding that during the call, Fauci “really didn’t say much of substance” – instead, “Farrar was clearly sort of introducing and ending the meeting. It was his call to make.”

“Through its investigation, the Select Subcommittee has learned that Dr Fauci and the NIH exerted more influence over the conference call than previously disclosed,” the report states, and that by the end of the conference call, Fauci “suggested the drafting of a paper regarding the potential of a lab leak to Dr Andersen twice.”

“This suggestion was what ‘prompted’ Dr Andersen to draft Proximal Origin” – with the first draft completed “only hours after the conference call.”

However, the report says that, based on Andersen’s testimony, the goal of this paper “was not to discover the origin of Covid-19 nor protect from future pandemics, but instead, to disprove the lab leak theory” – with Farrar having said the intent of the paper was for it to serve as a “go-to scientific statement to refer to.”

Such efforts proceeded despite a lack of evidence.

For instance, in a February 8, 2020, email, Andersen wrote: “Our main work over the past 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.”

And in a February 20, 2020, email, Andersen wrote: “Unfortunately none of this helps refute a lab origin and the possibility must be considered as a serious scientific theory (which is what we do) and not dismissed out of hand as another ‘conspiracy’ theory. We all really, really wish that we could do that (that’s how this got started), but unfortunately it’s just not possible given the data.”

Throughout the process, the report states, “the authors of Proximal Origin were keenly aware of the influence of Dr Fauci, Dr Collins and Dr Farrar,” with drafts of the paper shared with the three officials –  sometimes referred to in emails as the “Bethesda Boys” – on several occasions in early February 2020.

Indeed, the report states that Farrar would “push” for the publication of “Proximal Origin” in Nature Medicine later in February 2020, while Andersen testified that Farrar was the “father figure” of the paper.

Bethesda, Maryland, is home to NIH headquarters.

According to a press release on the report, the co-authors of the “Proximal Origin” paper “skewed available evidence when executing Dr Fauci’s vision of a single narrative,” adding that “The facts and science relied upon to draw conclusions in ‘Proximal Origin’ have never been proven or verified.”

“Many of the arguments championed by the publication suffer from inaccurate assumptions and obvious inconsistencies” and were “fatally flawed,” the report states.

The report further states that the conclusions of the “Proximal Origins” paper relied on three primary –  but “flawed” – arguments: “(1) the presence of a non-optimal RBD and that RBD appearing in other viral sequences – particularly pangolins, (2) the presence or furin cleavage sites in other coronaviruses and (3) the concept that any laboratory manipulation would have used an already published viral backbone.”

Emails revealed in the report show that the co-authors were advised – perhaps by Fauci – to “redraft” the paper to “come down more on the natural origin,” given the three arguments the paper was using as its basis of analysis.

This was despite a number of statements from several of the paper’s co-authors, directly cited in the report, indicating their belief and knowledge at the time that “it is possible to manipulate a novel coronavirus in a lab” in order to develop attributes that would make it more infectious for humans.

In a series of Slack conversations between these scientists, revealed in the report, statements such as “you can synthesise bits of genes de novo with perfect precision then add them back in without a trace” and “Molecular biologists like myself can generate perfect copies of these viruses without leaving a trace,” were presented.

Such characteristics, such as a furin cleavage site, are unique to Covid-19 among SARS-related coronaviruses, the report states, further lending credence to the theory that the virus was manipulated to be more infectious toward humans.

Further Slack conversations between the paper’s co-authors also revealed discussion indicating that they could “make a CoV reverse genetics clone from scratch” within a week and that scientists had “created a reverse genetics system for their bat virus on a whim.”

Nevertheless, other Slack messages decried the political influence involved in the process of drafting “Proximal Origin.” In one message, Andersen said, “Although I hate it when politics is injected into science – but it’s impossible not to, especially given the circumstances.”

According to the report, “Proximal Origin” was pitched to Nature Medicine on February 12, 2020, and a manuscript of the paper was submitted five days later. The report states that “Proximal Origin” was rejected by Nature Medicine on February 20, 2020 – not because of deficiencies in the evidence it relied upon, but “because it didn’t sufficiently downplay the lab leak theory” and because concerns were raised during the review “about whether such a piece would feed or quash the conspiracy theories.”

As a result, “The co-authors amended their paper to include stronger language that would unequivocally rule out the lab-leak hypothesis to ensure approval by Nature Medicine.” The revised manuscript was submitted on February 27, 2020.

The report revealed that Garry, one of the co-authors of the paper, even appears to have suggested reviewers to the journal’s editors, stating that “there are some natural choices” for individuals to review the manuscript.

“These comments raise serious bias concerns with both the review of Proximal Origin and the peer review process generally,” the report stated.

According to the report, “Investigating any egregious Covid-19 cover-up is essential to preserving future scientific integrity.” Given the “colossal reach” and “dubious conclusions” of the paper, “it is necessary to analyse the process and publication of this paper to prevent the suppression of scientific discourse in future pandemics,” the report further states.

The press release adds that the committee’s investigation will continue, as, “There are still outstanding requests for transcribed interviews and documents from Dr Fauci and Dr Collins. The Select Subcommittee will follow through on these requests.”

For Boyle though, more action is needed. He told The Defender: “All of the scientists involved in this ‘Proximal Origins’ cover-up must assume their legal responsibility for this national tragedy. If not for their cover-up, this tragedy of massive American deaths and disabilities because of Covid-19 could have been substantially ameliorated.

“All of the scientists involved in this cover-up must be indicted and prosecuted. Congress must terminate all gain-of-function ‘research’ and impose draconian criminal sanctions upon all scientists who engage in it, up to and including life imprisonment.”

“All BSL3s and BSL4s [biosafety level 3 and 4 labs] in the world must be immediately shut down in order to prevent another global pandemic that could be even more lethal and more infectious than Covid-19,” Boyle said, adding his view that the virus “was manufactured as an offensive biological warfare weapon with gain-of-function properties” in Wuhan and at the University of North Carolina.

Aside from Tuesday’s testimony, the committee has heard from figures such as the now-departed former director of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Dr Rochelle Walensky last month, by former CDC director Dr Robert Redfield in March, stating Covid-19 was engineered and by other public health experts critical of gain-of-function research that same month.

In February, the US Department of Energy said it now believes Covid-19 most likely emerged from the Wuhan lab – a position subsequently adopted publicly by FBI Director Christopher Wray. The next month, Congress passed a bill demanding federal agencies declassify documents pertaining to the origins of Covid-19.

The committee’s report comes as a federal judge in Louisiana ruled against the Biden administration in an ongoing lawsuit last week, ordering some government officials and federal agencies to not communicate with social media platforms after finding evidence they colluded to censor Covid-19 counternarratives, including the lab-leak theory.

  • The Defender report / By Michael Nevradakis, Athens-based, Greece senior reporter for The Defender 
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