A scientist who formerly worked at a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-funded U.S. non-governmental organization says he believes the COVID-19 pandemic leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Andrew Huff, the former vice president at EcoHealth Alliance and an infectious disease epidemiologist in his own right, said, according to the Washington Times, that his organization engaged in "gain-of-function" research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology for years prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. Huff said he believes the Wuhan lab, which he notes as a Chinese bioweapons research facility that he was aware of since 2010, manufactured the coronavirus that would later escape and cause a worldwide pandemic.
"I suspected," Huff said, "that this was a lab leak from day one and as time went on the information gaps that I had were filled." The epidemiologist notes that no evidence supports a theory of the virus emerging out of the Wuhan wet market.
"The scientific evidence [for a laboratory leak] it's overwhelming," Huff continued. "There's no evidence of natural emergence because based on all the scientific papers that have been published, it's all data that was censored or curated and handed to us by the Chinese."
In his new book "The Truth About Wuhan: How I Uncovered the Biggest Lie in History," Huff argues that the international scientific community covered up the COVID-19 outbreak to conduct more gain-of-function research.
Huff, who did pandemic research at Sandia National Laboratories until leaving in 2014 to join EcoHealth Alliance, said of the company's President Peter Daszak that he is a man who "I would later realize was directly responsible for our greatest modern pandemic."
Reflecting on his departure two years later, Huff notes that the New York-based NGO aimed to portray its work as protecting wildlife. But speaking as the former vice president of EcoHealth, he says this is not the case.
Instead, Huff notes that "while EcoHealth Alliance was receiving millions of dollars from U.S. government agencies to conduct global biosurveillance, none or very little of the work resulted in reducing the burden of disease or improving ecological health. This was the snake oil Dr. Daszak was selling to billionaires, global governments, academics, and to conservationists."
Around the time of Huff's book release, a spokeswoman from EcoHealth, Majelia Ampadu, contended that it was "not true" that the NGO was involved in gain-of-function research and that "Mr. Huff is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts."
EcoHealth later added that Huff never worked at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and, therefore, "cannot be trusted."
"Mr. Huff makes a number of other speculations and allegations about the nature of the collaboration between EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Given that he never worked at or with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, his assertions along these lines cannot be trusted."
"Mr. Huff," the statement continues, "argues that the origin of COVID-19 is definitely due to a lab leak, yet he provides no scientific evidence to support his case. To the contrary, the emerging consensus, based on peer-reviewed scientific evidence, is that COVID-19 originated through zoonotic spillover."
Despite the NGO's rebuttal, Huff's claims of EcoHealth's work with the CIA paints a different picture. When asked about it, Huff says Daszak told him about the intelligence organization approaching him to work on a project together. It would later be revealed that EcoHealth developed a funding proposal for the CIA-backed venture firm, In Q Tel.
Huff says he played a role in developing slides for a presentation to In Q Tel. The presentation posited that EcoHealth would "hunt for viruses … and then do humanized mice gain-of-function work."
Huff also said that Daszak is the progenitor of the natural origin theory of SARS-CoV-2, a theory that China has disseminated to sway the international scientific community.
But one of the "smoking guns" of a lab leak theory, Huff says, is the number of genetic sequences "engineered and patented by doctors" who worked on them. A strain of natural origin, he argues, would not contain such sequences.
"That alone tells you that this likely came out of a laboratory," he says.
In terms of failures to identify the virus' origins, he adds that no host animal has yet been identified, and that the failure of scientists comes from their aim to discover the virus's origins through virology rather than epidemiology.
"That's not the U.S. government handbook on how to handle these situations," Huff continued. "They use epidemiology, or epidemic intelligence officers and criminal epidemiologic investigators, and I happen to be one."
Huff then points to an example of how smoking was linked to lung cancer as his reasoning that epidemiology is the proper discipline to confirm the virus's origins.
"The old saying in epidemiology," Huff says, "is 'guilt by association.' That's how we proved that smoking causes lung cancer. There were no studies that said, 'Oh, you know, you could get into the minutiae.' And that's actually what the tobacco industry tried to do to discredit the epidemiology, actually."
Subsequently, Huff says Daszak tried to control the narrative in this way by setting up his own journal.
"Once Peter was able to gain control of the emerging infectious disease narrative and simultaneously held seats on powerful review boards, he could help direct the sea of government funding to people and projects that supported his scientific narrative. This behavior has the net effect of silencing dissenting opinions and prioritizing work that supports his agenda," Huff said.
The former EcoHealth vice president is one of an emerging group of experts combatting the natural origin theory.
In August 2021, Marine Corps Maj. Joseph Murphy with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in a memo to the Pentagon inspector general, said that based on his research, COVID-19 was the result of work done by EcoHealth Alliance, the NIH, and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
"SARS-CoV-2," he says, "is an American-created recombinant bat vaccine, or its precursor virus. It was created by an EcoHealth Alliance program at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), as suggested by the reporting surrounding the lab-leak hypothesis."
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