As of October 2021, U.S. intelligence agencies assess that we may never be able to identify the origins of SARS-CoV-2 in a new, more detailed declassified review of where the virus began. We may attempt to take a closer look at what unfolded over the last 10 years in the field of gain of function research and consider the possibility of non accidental leak based on the gain of function research conducted at the US universities that may contradict some elements of the IC low confidence assessment.
From the IC statement on SARS-COV-2 origins investigation:
"The IC assesses that, the virus that causes COVID-19, probably emerged and infected humans through an initial small-scale exposure that occurred no later than November 2019 with the first known cluster of COVID-19 cases arising in Wuhan, China in December 2019. In addition, the IC was able to reach broad agreement on several other key issues. We judge the virus was not developed as a biological weapon. Most agencies also assess with low confidence that SARS-CoV-2 probably was not genetically engineered; however, two agencies believe there was not sufficient evidence to make an assessment either way. Finally, the IC assesses China’s officials did not have foreknowledge of the virus before the initial outbreak of COVID-19 emerged.
After examining all available intelligence reporting and other information, though, the IC remains divided on the most likely origin of COVID-19. All agencies assess that two hypotheses are plausible: natural exposure to an infected animal and a laboratory-associated incident.
Four IC elements and the National Intelligence Council asses with low confidence that the initial SARS-CoV-2 infection was most likely caused by natural exposure to an animal infected with it or a close progenitor virus—a virus that probably would be more than 99 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 is likely incorrect.
One IC element assesses with moderate confidence that the first human infection with SARS-CoV-2 most likely was the result of a laboratory-associated incident, probably involving experimentation, animal handling, or sampling by the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Analysts at three IC elements remain unable to coalesce around either explanation without additional information, with some analysts favoring natural origin, others a laboratory origin, and some seeing the hypotheses as equally likely.
Variations in analytic views largely stem from differences in how agencies weigh intelligence reporting and scientific publications and intelligence and scientific gaps."
With Gain of function research controversy back in the news headline in October in light of Fauci’s testimonies denying the WIV funding coronavirus gain of function research grants, it is more important than ever to review the GoF research conducted on the US soil timeline and a few critical troubling elements missing so far in the current SARS-COV2 origins conversation over a year now.
The public is well aware of previously discussed natural zoonotic and lab leak hypotheses. What remained outside of last year and current dialogue is the fact that gain of function experiments increasing pathogens pathogenicity and transmissibility were funded by the NIH and the NIAID with the HHS backing and conducted on the US soil at the US universities.
A controversy had emerged when Kawaoka's team at the University of Wisconsin and University of Tokyo and Ron Fouchier's lab at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands published research about successful modification of the H5N1 bird flu virus enabling its spread in mammals using single amino acid substitution in flu stalk protein genomes in 2011. Both scientists showed that as little as single amino acid substitutions can lead to improve the ability of viral proteins to bind to receptors on the surface of host cells and significantly increase risk of pathogen spillover across species and focused on introducing mutations to the viral genome to observe changes in phenotype related to transmissibility.
Noted Kawaoka and Fouchiers experiments led to a strom in the scientific community and eventual gain of function research pause in 2014.
On October 17, 2014, the U.S. Government announced that it would be instituting a funding pause on gain-of-function research projects that could be reasonably anticipated to confer attributes to influenza, MERS, or SARS viruses such that the resulting virus has enhanced pathogenicity and/or transmissibility (via the respiratory route) in mammals after the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) evaluated and found gain of function research in question too risky and recommended a pause on this research.
The funding pause DID NOT apply to "characterization or testing of naturally occurring influenza, MERS, and SARS viruses, unless these tests reasonably are anticipated to increase transmissibility or pathogenicity". An exception to the funding pause may also be granted by the head of a federal funding agency if that official determines that the research is urgently necessary to protect public health or national security. Lastly, the U.S. Government encourages the currently-funded research community to join in adopting a voluntary pause as well. "
During the selective gain of function research ban
The scientists from the NIH and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases scientists have developed a stabilized novel CoV S protein vaccine antigen and related patent applications were filed in 2016 and October 25, 2017. Per the NIH announcement in 2017, “ This technology employs protein engineering to stabilize S in its prefusion conformation, preventing structural rearrangement, and exposing antigenically preferable surfaces. The technology has been applied to several CoV spikes, including those from human-relevant viruses, such as HKU1-CoV, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV. Particularly for MERS-COV, stabilized S proteins have been shown to elicit superior neutralizing antibody responses up to 10-fold higher in animal models and protect mice against lethal MERS-CoV infection. This technology is applicable for delivery via other platforms, such as mRNA.”
PCT Application PCT/US2017/058370
Filed on 2017-10-25
Right after the NIH and the NIAID Had filed patent applications for a coronavirus S spike for vaccine in October 2017, all previous concerns regarding gain of function research somehow had disappeared and the ban was miraculously lifted by the NIH and the HHS committee without particular reason or explanation. New GOF proposals were invited for review by a the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C., and other federal agencies in December 2017 and a handful of labs received approval for renewed paused gain of function research that created a wave of concerns in 2011 and led to its ban in 2014.
After the ban was lifted in 2017, Fouchier's previously proposed received approval and funding and became a part of a contract led by virologists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City while Kawaoka continued his gain of function research at the University of Wisconsin Madison as if previous concerns about pandemic risk never existed.
A few months after the gain of function ban was inexplicably lifted at the end of 2017 and new projects got funded and allowed to continue in 2018-2019, previously never seen in other beta coronaviruses unique Sarscov2 motif, a sequence of amino acids proline-arginine-arginine-alanine, the PRRA insertion at the furin polybasic cleavage site, that interacts with human cell enzymes, which “cut” or “cleave” parts of the viral structure preceding the S1/S2 cleavage appears seemingly out of nowhere.
Next, let's review further the nature of conducted gain of function research and its relevance to appearance of the SARSCoV2.
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