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A Summary of the “Origins of the Pandemic” Webinar

On November 1, SDSN and the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University (CSD) hosted the first of three webinars to further discussions on the Lancet COVID-19 Commission’s findings and recommendations presented in their final report, The Lancet Commission on lessons for the future from COVID-19The Lancet COVID-19 Commission, which ran from July 2020 to October 2022, was an interdisciplinary initiative encompassing the health sciences, business, finance and public policy. From 2020 - 2022, the Commissioners and Task Forces focused on four main themes: (1) recommendations on how to best suppress the epidemic; (2) addressing the humanitarian crises arising from the pandemic; (3) addressing the financial and economic crises resulting from the pandemic; and (4) rebuilding an inclusive, fair, and sustainable world.

The webinar on Origins of the Pandemic offered an open dialogue on both the zoonotic and research-related origins hypotheses of the origin of SARS-CoV-2; the need for an unbiased, independent, transparent, and rigorous investigation into both theories; and the need for biosafety regulations to prevent research-associated outbreaks.  

Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, Chair of the Lancet COVID-19 Commission, highlighted the Commission’s conclusion that there are two leading viable hypotheses – that the virus emerged from a zoonotic spillover from wildlife or a farm animal, or that the virus emerged from a research-related incident – and that neither hypothesis has been fully investigated nor dispositively proven. He stressed that regulatory oversight lags far behind the realities of the research on pathogens of pandemic potential and highlighted his concern that there has not been a transparent public discussion on both theories of origins.