The biological weapons industrial complex, the bureaucrats who fund it, the corporations that shape it and the existential risk that genetic engineering and synthetic biology pose to us all
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is an ongoing project. Check back frequently as we add new profiles to our Gain-of-Function Hall of Shame.
Below the surface of the various COVID-19 origin narratives being circulated—by the Chinese government, the Trump Administration, Big Pharma and the corporate-owned mass media—there is a secretive and dangerous labyrinth of money, politics and militarism that connects Wuhan and its sister biowar/biodefense/gain-of-function laboratories across the U.S. and the world.
There are hundreds of labs—in the U.S., China and around the world—that collect and manipulate viruses, including coronaviruses, and bacteria, fungi, and other toxins that cause disease and death. COVID-19 could have come from any number of them—so could the next pandemic.
In these labs, scientists use genetic engineering and synthetic biology to give pathogens new functions, making them more lethal, contagious, infectious or resistant to treatment.
This research is euphemistically called gain-of-function research.
But we should call it what it is: biological weapons—or “gain-of-threat”—research.
If the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) were strengthened, labs whose work on coronaviruses could be used to make biological weapons, would be required to disclose their research and BWC investigators would have the power to search them.
With BWC enforcement, there could be a full investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus. Without this scrutiny, if SARS-CoV-2 did come from a lab, it would be nearly impossible to prove.
As we follow the evidence—and follow the money—we come face to face with a cast of out-of-control Mad Scientists, militarists and biotech/bio-pharmaceutical entrepreneurs.
Which of these self-serving characters brought us SARS-CoV-2, which we believe was an accidental, rather than a deliberate release? And who will be responsible for unleashing the next, possibly deadlier, weaponized viruses, bacteria and gene-altered microorganisms in the future?
Any scientific lab work that involves making pathogens more lethal, contagious, infectious, or resistant to treatment, even when done, ostensibly, for defensive purposes or medical countermeasures development, is really too risky to do at all—especially when you consider that 30 years’ worth of gain-of-function research has produced no vaccine, and no cure for a pandemic.
But perhaps an even better reason to stop experiments that could be used to create biological weapons, or the next pandemic, is the large number of high-profile—some accidental, some nefarious—releases of deadly pathogens from U.S. labs.
One U.S. government scientist who’s been linked, at least indirectly, with one gain-of-function research lab failure is Dr. Christian Hassell. Yet somehow, Hassell still holds the power to secretly exert major control over the so-called “biodefense” industry—by deciding which research gets approved and which corporations receive government contracts.
Dr. Robert Kadlec's title is Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. In that role, Kadlec oversees a multi-billion-dollar stockpile of medical countermeasures to "defend" the American people against any biological threat, whether military, criminal, natural or accidental.
The stockpile overseen by Kadlec used to be housed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. But Kadlec fought to put it under his control.
In a normal year, this would mean Kadlec managing a budget of more than $2 billion. But with COVID-19 this year, Kadlec is spending $11.5 billion just on companies’ efforts to develop, manufacture, store and deliver new vaccines.
Kadlec’s responsibilities don’t end with his role at HHS. He also plays a big role in overseeing all federal biodefense activities and budgets. And he has a long track record of doling out big contracts to his buddies in the vaccine industry.
Guess what year this ScienceDaily headline appeared:
“New SARS-Like Virus Can Jump Directly from Bats to Humans, No Treatment Available.”
If you guessed 2020, you’re wrong. The article was published in 2015. The source was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
That’s where scientist Ralph Baric, Ph.D, and a team that included Baric’s Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) colleague, Shi Zhengli, used genetic engineering and synthetic biology to create a “new bat SARS-like virus . . . that can jump directly from its bat hosts to humans.”
Baric is known as the Coronavirus Hunter. Zhengli’s nickname is Bat Woman. The two are scientists whose work involves collecting samples of the nearly 5,000 coronaviruses in bat populations and manipulating them for the sole purpose of making them more infectious to humans.
Ostensibly, the research Baric and Zhengli conduct is intended to help scientists get ahead of any coronavirus that might have the potential to emerge as a human pathogen. The reality is this: There is little evidence that this research has prepared us to meet the challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, there are suspicions that the research may have caused the virus.
There’s also ample evidence that Baric has strong ties to Big Pharma—thanks to laws that allow researchers at publicly funded universities to commercialize their research.
On behalf of the U.S. government, often the military, Daszak and his teams scour the globe for animal pathogens, then bring them back to high-containment laboratories where they catalog, investigate and use genetic engineering and synthetic biology to make the pathogens more infectious, contagious, lethal or drug-resistant.
Daszak works in labs controlled by the U.S. Department of Defense, in countries in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East, South East Asia and Africa. Many of these labs are staffed by former biological weapons scientists. (See Arms Watch’s reports).
Daszak and other gain-of-function researchers justify their experiments this way: If/When an outbreak of a new virus occurs, they can compare it to the ones in their labs, and maybe glean how the novel virus emerged.
Critics of virus hunting say scientists like Daszak could make a greater contribution to human health by going after the viruses that commonly infect humans, not the ones that never have.
But that logic doesn't prevent Daszak from pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars to fund his gain-of-function experiments.
Do Daszak and his collaborators do it just for the money? Or do they have a bigger agenda? And why is the Pentagon constructing new laboratories around the globe, for the “consolidation and securing of pathogens?”
PROFILE #5: Shi Zhengli
She’s known as China’s “Bat Woman.” Shi Zhengli is a virus hunter and microbiologist, and director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
She also plays a central role in a whodunnit that may ultimately prove impossible to solve.
Shi’s work involves collecting bat viruses and using techniques of genetic engineering and synthetic biology to enable these viruses to infect human beings.
In other words, Shi, and other scientists like her, are in the business of weaponizing viruses by genetically engineering or otherwise altering them to make them more lethal, and more easily transmitted, to humans.
Did Shi have a hand in creating the SARS-CoV-2 virus causing the current COVID-19 pandemic?