Photo shows Yuan Zhiming, professor with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences as well as director of the National Biosafety Laboratory (NBL) at the WIV answering questions of journalists at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office of China on July 22. (Photo by Xu Xiang/Website of the State Council Information Office of China)
It has become a general consensus among scientists and scholars that the novel coronavirus originated naturally, and scientific evidence has already disproven the “lab leak” theory, stressed a professor of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, where it has been claimed that the virus might have escaped from.
Yuan Zhiming, also director of the National Biosafety Laboratory (NBL) at the WIV, made the remarks at a press conference held by the State Council Information Office of China on July 22, in response to a question on the COVID-19 origins asked by a reporter who cited an article published by some scientists on the peer-reviewed academic journal Science in May, in which they pointed out that it is necessary to consider the possibilities that the virus either arose naturally or escaped from a lab.
On July 5 this year, 24 world-renowned experts once again published a paper in The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, in which they stressed that there is no scientific evidence to support the theory that the novel coronavirus leaked from a Chinese lab, Yuan noted.
Later on July 7, experts from the U.S., the U.K, and Australia published a preprint of their findings on Zenodo, a European platform for scientific data sharing, pointing out that there is no evidence that the virus came from a Wuhan lab, the early cases were connected to the WIV in any way, or that the WIV had or studied ancestors of the COVID-19 before the outbreak of the pandemic.
Just a few days ago, 22 Chinese and foreign scientists published an article in a Chinese academic journal Science China, in which they demonstrated convincingly why the virus could only have evolved naturally and couldn’t be man-made with classical evolutionary theory and methods and refuted the “lab leak” conspiracy theory with scientific evidence.
The NBL, a P4 or biosafety level-4 (the highest level) lab, is as good as any other P4 labs in operation in the world in terms of hardware facilities, management, team composition and working protocols, Yuan said.
Since it was officially put into operation in 2018, the NBL has not had any incident of leakage or staff infection, according to Yuan.
Designed, constructed and operated according to international requirements and the national standards of China, the NBL has not only been equipped with stable and reliable biosafety protection facilities, but established a complete biosafety management system and a professional team to support, manage and maintain its operation.
Before Dec. 30, 2019, the WIV hadn’t come into contact, stored, or researched the COVID-19 virus; and it has never designed, made or leaked the virus, Yuan stressed.
After the sudden attack of the virus, the WIV promptly identified it, isolated the virus strain, and determined its whole genome sequence by making use of its platform, technology, and talent advantages accumulated over the years. Besides, it reported the whole genome sequence of the virus to the World Health Organization (WHO) in time on Jan. 12, 2020.
“After isolating and obtaining strain of the virus, we began the screening of antiviral drugs, vaccine research and the establishment of animal models, providing effective support for the fight against the pandemic with scientific and technological means,” Yuan said.
When asked about a WIV virus database at the press conference, Yuan pointed out that the database is actually a preliminary framework established by research teams of the WIV, and its structure and content have been continuously improved.
Considering that the website of the WIV and the work and private mailboxes of many employees have suffered from plenty of malicious attacks, the database is only shared within the WIV at present.
It is a tradition in the scientific circle that a research team publishes its findings in the form of papers after analysis and systematic organization of some primary data in the database, and then makes its papers available for viewing and retrieving in databases, Yuan noted, adding that the WIV will display and share its database while strictly conforming to the rule in the scientific circle.
Yuan also contradicted some doubts about the WIV with solid facts. Having always upheld the idea of sharing scientific research information in time, the WIV reported the whole genome sequence of the virus to the WHO promptly after it acquired preliminary results of pathogen identification.
Back on Feb. 3, 2020, the research team of Shi Zhengli, a WIV researcher, published a paper in Nature, a leading multidisciplinary science journal, pointing out that the COVID-19 came from nature. One day later, researchers at the WIV published in an international magazine their research results of the antiviral activity of several drugs at the cellular level.
The WIV has also actively participated in international video and audio academic conferences held by the WHO, National Academy of Sciences of the U.S., French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, Russian Academy of Sciences and other organizations, and shared with its international counterparts in a timely manner its results in the establishment of animal models, antiviral drug screening, and development of inactivated COVID-19 vaccines.
No country can survive the raging pandemic all by itself, said Yuan, who believes only through cooperation and coordinated actions can countries contain the spread of the virus effectively and bring people around the world back to a prosperous and harmonious life.
The WIV will continuously contribute to the fight against the pandemic together with scientists from across the world with an open and transparent attitude, Yuan said.