Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and CHD Urge Congress to Investigate the Origins of COVID-19
October 6, 2020
Children’s Health Defense
1227 N. Peachtree Pkwy, Suite 202
Peachtree City, GA 30269
Congressman Bill Posey
2150 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman Posey,
Since it first emerged in China in November of last year, SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) has swept across the globe and ravaged communities throughout the United States. The CDC reports that 209,560 Americans have died from COVID-19 as of today, October 6. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs and thousands of U.S. businesses have shut their doors permanently. Our children have had their education and lives disrupted. This disease has reshaped our country.
We are writing to request that you fully investigate this matter of great importance to our nation and to the thousands of individuals and families who are members of Children’s Health Defense. You serve on the House Science, Space, & Technology Committee and these matters fall within the purview of your responsibilities on that Committee. You have the jurisdiction and the duty to lead these investigations, to bring greater understanding and transparency to what happened, and to help the nation.
Defeating this pandemic should be our first priority but we should not be reticent to also ask questions about the virus itself. As humans, we are driven to ask questions and explore the world around us. That is why we have gone to the moon, it’s how we discovered penicillin, and it’s why science continues to advance. This inquisitive spirit that leads us to ask questions and research the problems that we face is the underlying foundation of science, freedom of speech, democracy, and western philosophy.
“Consider this hypothetical scenario: an important gain-of-function experiment involving a virus with serious pandemic potential is performed in a well-regulated, world-class laboratory by experienced investigators, but the information from the experiment is then used by another scientist who does not have the same training and facilities and is not subject to the same regulations. In an unlikely but conceivable turn of events, what if that scientist becomes infected with the virus, which leads to an outbreak and ultimately triggers a pandemic?”
These are not our words, but rather they are the words of Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, in a 2012 letter to the microbiology journal mBio advocating for gain-of-function experiments. Today, questions about the origin of COVID-19 have largely been dismissed without answers. We believe Dr. Fauci laid out a scenario eight years ago that deserves a full investigation today, particularly when you consider that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was doing the very type of research set forth in Dr. Fauci’s hypothetical scenario.
It would be unthinkable to not investigate the causes leading up to and contributing to the circumstances around the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accidents. Is it not strange that we have so quickly moved past the origin of this pandemic? We have a virus that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people—mostly the elderly—caused severe global economic damage, and destroyed thousands of small businesses across America, and there is little serious consideration as to where this virus originated. Common sense says that we should do everything possible to understand exactly how this novel coronavirus pandemic came about so that we may take steps to ensure that it will not and cannot be repeated.
Some reputable scientists have raised the issue that the virus could have escaped from a lab as Dr. Fauci said was a possibility in 2012. Others have suggested that COVID-19 was a natural result of contact between animals and humans. That may indeed be the case; however, given the magnitude of the impact this pandemic has had on humankind, we need more than mere speculation or finger pointing about its origins. It is our duty to ourselves, to our children, and to humanity to seek out and discover the truth.
A virus escaping from a lab and leading to a pandemic is not just a hypothetical horror story; it is an historical reality—in 1977, the H1N1 flu reappeared in China and swept across the globe. Scientists have identified this outbreak as the result of an escape from an unidentified lab. Moreover, USA Today has done extensive reporting on other dangerous pathogens, including Ebola, SARS, and Anthrax, escaping from labs between 2004 and 2016. More recently ProPublica has reported on the exposures of researchers to chimeric coronaviruses at the University of North Carolina. The National Academy of Science and the Federal Select Agent Program have both documented the risks of research being done on highly dangerous pathogens. Some of these escapes have involved viruses similar to SARS-CoV-2. Fortunately, these escapes have rarely led to any infections, but we must take this investigation seriously because these pathogens represent some of the deadliest diseases humanity has encountered. COVID 19 is the sentinel deadly warning of worse to come and we ignore its origins at our own peril.
COVID-19 first broke out in the city of Wuhan, in the shadow of the world’s leading coronavirus research lab, but the communist Chinese government originally labeled a neighboring wet market as the point of origin of the virus. Investigations have shown that the virus started in the province as early as November 17th and that the market was only an early super spreader event. The Huanan market in Wuhan is very far from the Yunnan province caves where similar coronaviruses were found but it is only a few miles from the Wuhan Institute of Virology which was performing coronavirus research on SARS-like viruses.
In order to determine the cause of COVID 19, the first question to ask is “do we know what research the scientists conducted at the Wuhan Institute of Virology?” We can answer this question with information from grants provided to the Wuhan lab and its very own scientific publications.
The Wuhan Institute of Virology is a biosafety level-4 lab that has made its reputation studying infectious diseases, particularly coronaviruses similar to SARS. In fact, because coronaviruses are endemic to bats, Zheng-Li Shi, the virologist directing coronavirus research, was nicknamed China’s “Bat Woman.” As a part of their work, researchers in the Wuhan lab were engaged in engineering SARS-like viruses through what is known as “gain-of-function” coronavirus research. We also know that U.S. taxpayer dollars through the National Institutes of Health were funding some of that work (see below, NIH grant NIAID R01AI110964 that was awarded in 2014 via a third party – EcoHealth Alliance in New York). Gain-of-function research takes existing pathogens and tries to make them more dangerous for humans with the ultimate goal being to prepare vaccines and therapeutics to combat future emergent viruses. The Wuhan Institute of Virology was combining and manipulating SARS-like coronaviruses in the hopes of better understanding how the original SARS pandemic came about and to prepare for new viruses that could emerge from bats. In the course of this research they engineered new SARS-like viruses that were efficient at infecting humans cells through the same receptor that the SARS virus uses. SARS-CoV-2 is this exact type of virus that Wuhan researchers were creating and storing. In fact, the closest relative of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is the RaTG13 virus which is studied and stored exclusively at the Wuhan Institute. Moreover, Ralph Baric, a leading U.S. coronavirus researcher, has pointed out that it is possible to engineer a virus without leaving a trace. He notes that SARS-CoV-2 was not engineered with any known published genetic information and that it is not possible to tell if it was engineered using an unpublished genetic sequence.
In the November 30, 2017, issue of the medical journal PLOS Pathogens, Zheng-Li Shi and other Wuhan researchers describe how they constructed chimeric novel coronaviruses – that is new genetically-engineered coronaviruses by combining the genetic materials from various known coronaviruses. They show in the paper that three of these chimeric coronaviruses were found to be easily transmitted in human cells. In other words, they were potentially highly infectious to humans. This paper also notes that it was partially funded by the 2014 U.S. National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) grant (R01Al110964) provided to New York-based EcoHealth Alliance. A number of other federal grants, in the amount of $53 million, have been awarded to EcoHealth from various federal agencies over the past decade. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the NIH recently demanded that EcoHealth turn over all of the information they have about the research resulting from their work relating to Wuhan and coronaviruses. The US Congress and the American people have a right to know exactly what work their tax dollars supported in China. Even without China’s assistance, much of this information may be obtained in greater detail, and by subpoena if necessary, from quarterly and annual reports, emails, meetings, and phone communications by the grant program managers and involved staff at NIAID and EcoHealth both between themselves and Wuhan.
The timing of the 2014 grant has raised additional questions; it was awarded at the same time the United States was imposing a moratorium on gain-of-function research. The NIH put this moratorium in place due to concerns of prior pathogen escapes from biosafety rated laboratories. In 2015, University of North Carolina virologists, who had previously been studying coronaviruses, published a paper with researchers in Wuhan. As noted in the paper, this work was funded by a grant awarded prior to the moratorium. These researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology later continued their work after the moratorium using grant money awarded to EcoHealth Alliance from NIAID. The Wuhan Institute has performed groundbreaking studies of SARS and made tremendous gains in coronavirus research, but no lab is immune to safety failures or escapes. In fact, the Washington Post reported that 2018 internal State Department memos outlined serious concerns about safety lapses at the Wuhan lab.
More recently, on September 15, the Telegraph reported that “an international team of scientists will examine the possibility SARS-CoV-2 leaked from a laboratory.” The article also reports that the leader of this team will be Peter Daszak who is the President of EcoHealth Alliance which funded gain-of-function coronavirus research in the same Wuhan lab that he is being called to investigate. While Dr. Daszak is a well-respected expert on emerging infectious diseases, there are clear conflicts of interest that must be addressed.
Given the destruction that this COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and the various issues raised above, the American people who have been harmed deserve a thorough investigation into the origins of this virus. There are many questions that the American people, the US Congress, our children and our parents deserve answers to. Among them are:
Did COVID-19 evolve naturally and if so, how did it so readily infect the human population?
- If it evolved naturally, why did the outbreak occur more than 1,000 miles from where similar strains of bat coronaviruses are found in Yunnan caves?
- The original SARS virus rapidly mutated after it entered the human population in 2002 and only stopped late in the pandemic but, from the beginning, SARS-CoV-2 (the COVID-19 virus) has remained very genetically stable in human populations suggesting a unique adaptation to the human host and transmission. What are likely explanations for this stability?
- Though scientists initially suspected that pangolins were the intermediate host, that theory has been rejected; what other intermediate hosts explain the virus’ adaptation to human transmission that has made it so dangerous?
- Why, of all places, did the outbreak occur in the shadow of the Wuhan lab where coronavirus research was being conducted, if the outbreak and the lab have no connection?
Did COVID-19 escape from the Wuhan lab? If so:
- How did this happen?
- What were the lab failures or safety protocols that were violated?
- What measures can be taken to ensure that there is never again a pandemic with lab origins?
Could COVID-19 be the result of gain-of-function research? And, if so:
- Are there are other coronaviruses, being held at the Wuhan Institute of Virology or elsewhere, that are more similar to SARS-CoV-2 than RaTG13 is?
- Has the Wuhan lab made all of the coronavirus genomes that it has sequenced publicly available for the scientific community to study?
- What did officials at NIH, NIAID, EcoHealth Alliance and other U.S. entities know about the details of the gain-of-function research taking place at the Wuhan lab?
- Do the NIH, NIAID, EcoHealth Alliance or anyone associated with these organizations know any details related to the possible origins of COVID-19 that have not been shared with the American people?
- Should U.S. taxpayer money have been provided to the Wuhan lab given the safety protocol issues highlighted in U.S. government documents and U.S. newspaper reporting?
- Did the NIH funding of gain-of-function research in Wuhan in 2014-2019 violate the letter or spirit of the U.S. moratorium on gain-of-function research that was put in place in 2014?
- Was the R01Al110964 grant from NIH to EcoHealth Alliance orchestrated in such a manner that it was intended to circumvent the U.S. moratorium on gain-of-function research? Were US government officials aware of the use of this grant for gain-of-function research in spite of the funding pause?
- Did any other U.S. government grants to EcoHealth aid the gain-of-function research taking place at the Wuhan lab? A lab that was involved in very risky “gain-of-function”
We are not suggesting malintent. Indeed, nobody at the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, or Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facilities meant for a dangerous radiation leak to happen. Harm and malevolence arise from silencing those who are demanding answers or failing to investigate the pandemic’s origin, mistakes made, and how best to prevent future events from recurring. For most people currently alive, COVID-19 is the greatest destructive event of their lifetime, and is a defining time point in world history. China, by the nature of its communist political system, cannot be relied on to thoroughly investigate this matter. It falls upon the leadership of the U.S. Congress to accept its moral duty and God-given and legally pre-ordained responsibility to launch complete and transparent investigations. The grants and publications which show that U.S.-funded coronavirus gain-of-function research was taking place at Wuhan are public and cannot be ignored forever. If we do nothing, history will hold us and our system of government accountable.
We trust that you, your office, and the House Science, Space, & Technology Committee will take the steps necessary for a full and thorough investigation into the issues of the origin of the virus. The Lancet COVID-19 Commission, which chose Daszak to lead their investigation into the origins of the virus, cannot be trusted to effectively eliminate conflicts of interest from their investigation. This shows the need for an independent investigation by the leaders that we have elected to guide us through crises such as these. This investigation must begin in earnest and with haste.
Please review the linked (attached) documents which substantiate the issues raised.
Robert Kennedy, Jr., Chairman
Children’s Health Defense
Lyn Redwood, RN, MSN, President
Children’s Health Defense