Scientists have called on Peter Daszak, president of the US research organization EcoHealth Alliance (EHA), to resign, accusing him of covering up conflicts of interest, withholding critical information and misleading public opinion during the COVID pandemic.
The EHA has been propelled into the public eye during the pandemic due to its work on bat coronaviruses with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which is located in the Chinese city that was the first epicenter of the COVID epidemic.
The EHA has recently come under intense scrutiny after a group of researchers and online correspondents known as the Decentralized Radical Autonomous Search Team Investigating COVID-19 (DRASTIC) released a 2018 proposal to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for research that allegedly involved upgrading viruses to study them. Documents could not be verified by News week.
DARPA rejected the 2018 proposal, in part because it did not address regulatory or ethical issues.
News week has previously reported on how DRASTIC uncovered the details of the WIV research in China, as well as Daszak’s collaboration with WIV director and bat virologist Shi Zhengli, and the scrutiny surrounding the ‘EcoHealth Alliance.
Daszak has co-authored nearly a dozen articles with Shi Zhengli and has spent at least $ 600,000 in US government funding for his research.
An access to information request showed that Daszak organized a letter to crush rumors that COVID had leaked from a lab, in a way that does not refer to collaborations between WIV and EHA. Before his role as organizer was revealed, Daszak called the Leak Lab Theory with terms such as “absurd”, “baseless” and “sheer nonsense”, and claimed that the WIV did not cultivate similar viruses. SARS-CoV-2.
It later emerged that WIV had worked with RaTG13, one of the known closest relatives of SARS-CoV-2. Daszak had denied that WIV was actively working on RatG13, telling Wired: “We thought it was interesting, but not high risk … So we didn’t do anything and put it in the freezer.”
On September 30, ten researchers from around the world, including four members of DRASTIC, signed a letter calling on the EHA board to remove Daszak from his post as president. In addition to EHA officials, the letter was also addressed to people including the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci and Xavier Becerra, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services. social.
The letter criticizes Daszak for claiming in May 2020 that there was “no evidence” for the COVID lab leak theory, which is now widely considered plausible after being considered a conspiracy theory at the time .
He also accuses him of falsely claiming that Chinese EHA collaborators did not keep any bats alive as the evidence shows. The letter also said it had “gone too far” in allowing EHA to offer to make “human-optimized virus constructs” as part of DARPA’s rejected proposal.
The letter reads: “There is now evidence that Dr. Daszak covered up several extreme conflict of interest situations, withheld critical information and misled public opinion by telling lies.
He continues: “We therefore call on the Board of Directors of the EcoHealth Alliance to fulfill its role and take immediate action towards the removal of Dr Peter Daszak from the presidency of your organization.”
Signatories to the letter include Jamie Metzl, former member of the World Health Organization’s Expert Advisory Committee on Global Standards Development for the Governance and Oversight of Human Genome Editing; Rolan Wiesendanger, nanoscience researcher at the University of Hamburg; and Milton Leitenberg, an arms control and biological weapons researcher at the University of Maryland.
News week contacted Daszak and EHA for comment.