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COVID-19 virus sequence data being kept from public

EcoHealth Alliance president Peter Daszak tries to bar the public release of COVID-19-related virus sequence data that has been gathered from China, as part of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) PREDICT program.

In late April 2020, employees of EcoHealth Alliance, a nonprofit organization, received millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money as funding to genetically manipulate coronaviruses. One of these projects includes the one with the Wuhan Institute of Virology and Metabiota, a San Francisco-based biotechnology company backed by Google. Together, they worked on the PREDICT program, which tracks down unknown viruses.

A Metabiota scientist, Tammie O’Rourke, emailed the coordinator of EcoHealth programs in China and Southeast Asia, Hongying Li, an attachment with virus sequences detected in China that had been submitted to the public genetic sequence database GenBank and discussed whether or not the generic sequences should be uploaded into the public database.

Li wanted to hold off on uploading the virus sequence data for several reasons, including the fact that relevant data publication needs to be reviewed and approved by the institution in China due to COVID-19.

Daszak, however, was adamant about keeping the information from public access, saying that it is “extremely important” that they don’t have the sequences as part of the PREDICT release, because the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just terminated their grant, referring to an article where Trump cut U.S. research on bat-human virus transmissions. (Related: Peter Daszak recused from The Lancet’s COVID-19 commission.)


“Having them as part of PREDICT will being [sic] very unwelcome attention to UC Davis, PREDICT and USAID,” said Daszak in the email.

The correspondence was released as part of the California Public Records Act request to UC Davis. However, they do not contain attachments, which is why the actual viral sequence data were not included in the information. It is not yet known whether or not the data referred to in the emails were embargoed or subsequently shared on GenBank.

EcoHealth Alliance also denied that any sequences were kept out of GenBank. Daszak emailed a Nature Communications article in August 2020, writing that all sequences of SARS-related coronaviruses discovered by EcoHealth Alliance in China were sequenced through NIH funding, and have been made public in peer-reviewed scientific papers, and publicly through the GenBank database.

China keeps tight control over coronavirus findings

The Chinese government is now only allowing hand-picked research teams to look into the origins of the coronavirus, clamping down on information while actively promoting theories that COVID may have come from outside the country.

While the government is handing out thousands in grants, it is also monitoring their findings and mandating that publication of any data or research must be approved by a new task force managed by China’s cabinet, under direct orders from President Xi Jinping.

Because of this, very little information about the coronavirus has been made public, as authorities are limiting information and impending cooperation with international scientists.

The pandemic has severely impacted Beijing’s reputation and leaders are wary of any findings that could suggest they were negligent. China’s foreign ministry said that scientists should carry out international scientific research as the coronavirus had been discovered in many parts of the world. (Related: High-ranking CCP defector claims to have “direct knowledge” of Chinese special weapons programs, including biological weapons like SARS-CoV-2.)

Some Chinese scientists also said that little has been shared simply because they were unable to discover something of significance.

Other public health experts warn that the country’s refusal to grant further access to international scientists has already jeopardized global collaboration that pinpointed the source of the SARS outbreak nearly 20 years ago.

Jonna Mazet, founding executive director of the UC Davis One Health Institute, said: “There’s so much speculation around the origins of this virus. We need to step back and let scientists get the real answer without the finger-pointing.”

Watch the video below to get more updates on the COVID sequencing data and more

This video is from the “Andrew Zebrun III” channel on

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