by Dr. Joseph Mercola, ©2022

(Aug. 23, 2022) — Dr. Peter Hotez, dean for the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, has repeatedly dismissed the idea of a lab accident or deliberate spread, calling it “an outlandish conspiracy theory.” He’s also a fierce critic of the ongoing Congressional probe into gain-of-function research, decrying it as a “threat to American biomedical science.”1

Well, Hotez, the lab leak denialist and Congressional probe critic, has now been outed as a funder and project leader of risky gain-of-function research on coronaviruses at the now-infamous Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Hotez Developed SARS Vaccine in Case of Lab Release

Hotez’s dismissal of the lab escape theory is particularly ironic considering he received a $6.1 million grant2 from the National Institutes of Health in 2012 for the development of a SARS vaccine in case of an “accidental release from a laboratory,” “deliberate spreading of the virus by a terrorist attack,” or a zoonotic spillover event. According to the grant abstract:3

“We have identified a highly promising lead candidate vaccine antigen, the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV spike (S) protein that can induce potent neutralizing antibody response and protection against SARS-CoV infection.

Our objective is to develop a highly effective and safe recombinant RBD-based SARS vaccine that can be used in humans for prevention of future SARS outbreak and for biodefense preparedness.”

The research under that grant took place from 2012 until 2017. After spending five years preparing for the possibility of an accidental or deliberate release of SARS, why would Hotez think a lab leak of SARS-CoV-2 was out of the question?

Hotez Funded Creation of Chimeric Coronavirus

Clearly, Hotez is no stranger to the possibility of lab leaks. Could it be that his dismissal of the lab leak theory, and the Congressional inquiry into gain-of-function research, is based in fear that he may be implicated in SARS-CoV-2’s creation? As reported by U.S. Right to Know (USRTK):4

“While casting concerns about Wuhan’s labs as ‘fringe,’ Hotez has not mentioned his own connection to a project involving a laboratory-generated chimeric SARS-related coronavirus that has come under Congress’ microscope. The project was helmed by Zhengli Shi, a senior scientist and ‘virus hunter’ at the Wuhan Institute of Virology nicknamed the ‘Bat Lady.’

As part of his NIH grant, Hotez subcontracted funding for research on combined or ‘chimeric’ coronaviruses, a scientific paper5 shows. Hotez’s grant6 underwrote two of Shi’s collaborators on the project.

In the 2017 paper7 co-funded by Hotez, Shi and her colleagues generated a recombinant virus from two SARS-related coronaviruses: ‘rWIV1-SHC014S.’ It’s not clear whether the paper co-funded by Hotez should have been stopped under a temporary ‘pause’ on gain-of-function work before 2017.

However, some independent biosecurity experts have said research on this chimeric virus in some ways epitomizes lapses in NIH oversight of risky research in the years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

A prior study8 of one of the coronaviruses that comprised the chimera, WIV1, found it to be ‘poised for human emergence.’ Another prior paper9 on the other coronavirus, SHC014, stated that its future study in lab-generated viruses may be ‘too risky to pursue.’

‘The work here should have been at the very least, heavily scrutinized,’ said David Relman, a Stanford microbiologist and biosecurity expert. ‘This work should have been heavily reviewed for [gain-of-function], and probably should have been subject to the pause prior to December 2017.’”

The Ties That Bind Hotez, EcoHealth Alliance and the WIV

As explained in USRTK’s report10 and revealed in the 2017 paper11 titled, “Cross-Neutralization of SARS Coronavirus-Specific Antibodies Against Bat SARS-Like Coronaviruses,” another funding source of this joint project was the EcoHealth Alliance. The NIH grant12 behind EcoHealth’s part of the study has already come under scrutiny, as it involved the creation of chimeric coronaviruses at the Wuhan lab. As reported by USRTK:13

“Specifically, an EcoHealth Alliance grant report14 obtained by congressional investigators demonstrated that a WIV1-SHC014 chimera generated thousands of times the viral load and enhanced lethality in mice with human airway cells. This prompted concerns among some biosecurity experts, scientists and members of Congress.

In response to questions from congressional Republicans, NIH acknowledged15 that the research was out of compliance with its own regulations on gain-of-function research.’

In this limited experiment, laboratory mice infected with SHC014 WIV1 bat coronavirus became sicker than those infected with WIV1 bat coronavirus,’ the letter read. ‘As sometimes occurs in science, this was an unexpected result rather than something the scientists set out to do.’”

So far, Hotez has not been forthcoming about his apparent conflict of interest. On the contrary, he’s denied that his NIH grant supported Shi’s controversial research project at the WIV.

In an August 9, 2022, Twitter post,16 Ebright pointed out that such denials are provably false, as funding from NIH grant AI09877517 (Hotez’s grant) is acknowledged as a funding source in Shi’s paper,18 “Cross-Neutralization of SARS Coronavirus-Specific Antibodies Against Bat SARS-Like Coronaviruses.”

Hotez Is Part of The Lancet COVID-19 Commission

Hotez’s conflicts of interest are all the more pertinent when you consider he’s on The Lancet COVID-19 Commission, where he co-chairs the COVID-19 Vaccines and Therapeutics task force.19 Richard Ebright, a professor of chemistry at Rutgers University, told USRTK:20

“The construction and threat-characterization of rWIV1-SHC014 was — unequivocally — gain-of-function research. It is a conflict of interest that, to my knowledge, has not previously been disclosed to The Lancet Commission … and that surely will be of interest to The Lancet Commission.”

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