Review and interviews with the authors by Claire Robinson
A new book has been published on the origin of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. As you’ll gather from my review, it doesn’t pull its punches. That’s both refreshing and important because the origins issue has been bedevilled by censorship, including self-censorship. I explored this problem of censorship with two of the books’ authors when I interviewed them recently to discuss their book. I wanted to know whether they'd had direct experiences of censorship – and if so, what were the motivations behind it, in their view. I give the answers that emerged at the end of this review. They’re eye-opening.
Combining investigative journalism with scientific analysis made accessible to the layperson, this book argues that a “crime against global health” has been committed by certain entities and individuals, starting with the Chinese government and including scientists and institutions in the West.
Between the end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020, the authors contend, Beijing intentionally omitted to warn global health authorities and policymakers of the especially infective nature of SARS-CoV-2, even though they were fully aware of it since the early stages of the Wuhan epidemic. Had they done so, they believe, more effective management measures could have been enacted by world leaders and lives would have been spared. In addition, the book concludes that there is “overwhelming” evidence that the virus was genetically engineered for enhanced infectivity in gain-of-function experiments and then escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China.
Titled The Origin of the Virus: The hidden truths behind the microbe that killed millions of people, the book is authored by the Italian investigative journalist Paolo Barnard, in collaboration with two distinguished scientific co-authors, Prof Angus Dalgleish and Dr Steven Quay, in a year-long investigation.
Prof Dalgleish is a cancer specialist who is best known for his contributions to HIV/AIDS research and who has helped develop a potential vaccine for COVID-19. It was in the course of his vaccine research that his co-researcher Birger Sørensen hit upon the idea that the virus did not appear natural and was likely an engineered lab creation – a conclusion that Prof Dalgleish came to share.
Dr Quay is the founder, chair and CEO of the biopharmaceutical company Atossa Therapeutics. He published a statistical analysis that concludes “beyond a reasonable doubt” that SARS-CoV-2 is not the result of natural zoonosis (natural spillover from animal to human) but a lab escape.
“Criminal” omissions and lies
GMWatch readers will be familiar with the lab escape theory, though not so much with this book’s chief allegations that the “criminal” scientific omissions and “outright lies” by the Chinese government most likely caused the deaths of many COVID-19 victims who would otherwise be alive today. The book also summarises in a short and easily digestible form the story of the corruption and cover-ups around the discussion of the virus’s origin. It features two chapters in which Prof Dalgleish and Dr Quay explain the reasoning that led them to believe that the lab escape theory was not only more plausible, but far more likely than the zoonosis theory. And readers will (perhaps for the first time) find in these pages an accessible explanation of what lies at the molecular heart of the virus, why it infects as efficiently as it does, and why it is virtually impossible that nature could have endowed a bat virus with such properties.
The book is a compelling and lively read that does not compromise on scientific rigour. Nor does it mince its words regarding the primary responsibility of the Chinese government and the the culpability of key figures in the pandemic and the subsequent cover-ups. The culprits include:
* Shi Zhengli, the “batwoman” who led gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) that made bat viruses more infectious and virulent to humans, and who was under the yoke of the ever-present Chinese People’s Liberation Army medical staff, who, the book claims, have long been the supervisors of her labs;
* The US scientists and institutions that collaborated with the WIV researchers;
* Peter Daszak, the “batman” who via his nonprofit, the EcoHealth Alliance, funnelled millions of dollars of US taxpayer money into funding the dangerous research at the WIV, and who manipulated scientists into publicly denying the lab origin theory even though they privately believed it to be plausible;
* Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). These institutes gave the taxpayer dollars to EcoHealth to give to the WIV;
* The World Health Organisation, which embarrassed itself by arranging a “farcical” investigation into the virus’s origins, with none other than Daszak on its team. The team studiously avoided looking at any evidence that could lead to the conclusion there had been a lab escape and then, unsurprisingly, claimed that there was no evidence of one;
* The scientific journals which, hobbled by their fear of upsetting their major sponsor, China, refused to publish any paper that cast doubt on the zoonosis theory or supported the lab origin theory. Scientists that have fallen victim to this unwritten policy include the two co-authors of the book, Prof Dalgleish and Dr Quay.
Barnard writes with passion – even controlled fury – about these people. He describes Daszak, in his role in the WHO investigation, as having a conflict of interest “visible from the moon” and quotes a world renowned virologist who spoke on condition of anonymity as calling Fauci “a narcissistic megalomaniac and far too powerful”, due to his ability to “sign off large multi-million dollar grants” without the usual independent scrutiny. And all three authors are united in exposing how this web of political deceit and shady scientific practices coalesced across the two major superpowers to conceal from the world the vital warnings of the impending COVID-19 pandemic.
Prof Dalgleish and Dr Quay add crucial scientific heft to the argument for a lab escape. The former recounts key elements of certain gain-of-function studies carried out with coronaviruses by Shi Zhengli and her collaborators, that could have produced the unusual – in some cases deadly – human infectivity of SARS-CoV-2. He also points to research that throws light on the precise symptoms suffered by people with COVID-19, including the characteristic loss of taste and smell, and explains the links with the gain-of-function research performed at the WIV and its partnering institutions. While writing about these latter observations, his level of confidence in the lab origin of SARS-CoV-2 reaches the point where he writes that in his view, “The 2019 pandemic virus comes from the 2015 chimeric virus [engineered by researchers from the WIV and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill] that has been purposely optimized to disable our taste and thus our airways immunity.”
He also explains important elements of the virus, such as the furin cleavage site and certain insertions with unusual amino acid sequences, that point to laboratory manipulation with the deliberate aim of increasing infectivity.
Interviews with Paolo Barnard and Angus Dalgleish
As Paolo Barnard notes in the book, acceptance of the lab leak theory is increasing, largely because of the departure of US President Trump, which has removed some of the stigma attached to the idea that the virus may have been engineered in the lab.
But clearly the idea is still sensitive in some quarters. I asked Paolo Barnard and Prof Dalgleish about their experiences of censorship (in addition to the journals issue already mentioned) when trying to voice their ideas on the lab origin theory – and what, in their view, were the reasons behind that censorship.
The first issue was the reaction from fellow scientists, who said the virus was clearly natural and that I didn’t know what I was talking about. All the considerations that point to a laboratory origin, from the furin cleavage site to the inserts, were all brushed aside as natural mutations.
Then my medical school (St George’s, part of the University of London) issued advice that no one was to enter discussion on the origins. When this news reached Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, he went ballistic. He is chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of London and he said no scientist was going to be silenced on his watch.
Other people said we had to get on with the vaccine programme and where the virus came from is unimportant. But this was the point – the changes in the virus that my vaccine co-researcher Birger Sørensen and I had observed guided our design for an effective vaccine. The search for the vaccine led us to the conclusion about a likely lab origin.
Reluctance, censorship and mute responses have plagued this book since before it was even written. My search for scientific co-authors fished, predictably, into the pool of eminent researchers that had somehow expressed doubts about a SARS-CoV-2 spillover from bats to animal hosts to humans. How many did I find? Quite a few willing to blast (to different degrees) the zoonotic theory on social media, but when it came to them committing to an actual written investigation into the theory, their tenacious engagement invariably went the way of a flat tyre in seconds.
Take, for example, the most vociferous Wuhan lab- and NIH-basher on Twitter in the United States, a renowned microbiologist, who, to my question, "Why agitating on Twitter and not writing a ground breaking book to expose this?" flatly replied, “Writing is formal... thus dissent in writing is career-threatening”.
His stunningly honest response speaks volumes about what I went through to find reputable scientists who were willing to speak up on SARS-CoV-2’s origin.
But the most brazen admission that inviolable taboos exist in the search for COVID-19 origins that ever came my way was this: "[Paolo], just be aware Fauci and NIH is a no go area for this book. My total funding for [the] last 15 years has been from NIH and similarly into the future and I have never come across a more conscientious and public health orientated body."
So much for the latter statement, given the latest revelations. But what is of interest here is that this was a veto that I received from an internationally renowned scientist and a critic of zoonosis who had actually accepted full authorship of this book back in 2020 and who had sent me a particularly pugnacious list of topics he promised to cover in this investigation. Then he got cold feet. I had to jettison him shortly afterwards. Again, it speaks volumes.
In the United Kingdom the book was submitted to a number of so called “courageous indie publishers”, who all turned it down with, at times, spurious replies (a great one was “An important unsettling book, but we sense the British public is tired of reading about COVID”). This despite all of them having been told that in Italy a major publishing house called Chiarelettere Ltd had accepted the challenge of publication. It was subsequently printed in the UK by Clinical Press, a small and dignified medical publisher in Bristol.
But then even in Italy, the moment the book was out on bookshelves, its promotion hit a brick wall. All of the national TV networks and print outlets that customarily review Chiarelettere Ltd’s investigative books refused to even consider it. Fortunately, in spite of this, it’s selling well.
The Italian publisher’s international rights manager pitched the book to no less than 86 EU publishing houses and it was turned down by all of them. The Brazilian LAYLA had at first agreed to publish it but then vanished into thin air.
In the US, the PR firm that manages Dr Steven Quay’s media relations has been facing an unexpected uphill struggle to pitch the book even with the US conservative media, which have collectively toned down their fierce allegations against China’s handling of the pandemic’s outbreak after President Trump was dethroned this year.
The reasons for this sorry state of affairs can be summed up as follows:
* NIH research grants – the fear of losing them, since Fauci is up to his neck in this scandal and desperately wants it to go away;
* Academic careers (impossible without said research grants in most Western countries);
* Chinese funding of Western universities and scientific journals (hugely expanding);
* The hypertrophic reach of political correctness into mainstream media (anyone pointing to China in the COVID story must be by default a racist xenophobic conspiracist and a Trumpist);
* Colossal business interests in not triggering an unprecedented commercial/legal confrontation with China;
* Biotech interests – don’t alert the public to the insane biotech experiments like gain-of-function, which gave rise to the worst crime against global health in a century.
Taken together, these are more than enough for the truth about the preventable death of almost 5 million humans never to come out.