Naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the N.I.H. grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the Covid-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false. — Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the N.I.H.
Naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the N.I.H. grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the Covid-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false. — Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the N.I.H.
N.I.H. Says Bat Research Group Failed to Submit Prompt Virus Findings
In recent months, N.I.H. officials have rejected claims — sometimes in heated exchanges with congressional Republicans — that coronaviruses studied with federal funding might have produced the pandemic. Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the N.I.H., released a statement Wednesday night reiterating that rebuttal.

“Naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the N.I.H. grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in the statement. “Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false.”


EcoHealth Alliance has come under scrutiny because of its collaboration on coronavirus research with researchers at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is situated in the city where the pandemic began.

Robert Kessler, a spokesman for the group, said on Thursday that EcoHealth Alliance was trying to resolve what it described as a “misconception” about its findings with the N.I.H. He said that the group had reported data from its studies “as soon as we were made aware” in April 2018, and that the agency had reviewed the data and never indicated that further reviews were needed.

Some scientists have argued that it’s possible SARS-CoV-2 was the result of genetic engineering experiments or simply escaped from a lab in an accident. But direct evidence for those theories has yet to emerge. Others have deemed those scenarios unlikely, pointing instead to many lines of evidence suggesting that people acquired the coronavirus in a natural spillover from bats or an intermediate mammal host.

The controversy has drawn scrutiny to the experiments that EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology carried out with funding from the N.I.H.

... Mr. Kessler, the EcoHealth spokesman, said that no coronaviruses studied by the group were genetically similar enough to the virus behind Covid-19 to have played a role in the beginning of the pandemic.

On a web page posted Wednesday night, the National Institutes of Health provided additional details about the viruses in the EcoHealth experiments, demonstrating that they were not closely related to SARS-CoV-2.

Bats harbor thousands of species coronaviruses, and since the start of the pandemic, researchers have searched for the closest relatives of SARS-CoV-2 that infect the animals. They have found several coronaviruses that are much more closely related to SARS-CoV-2 than WIV1.


The analysis, Dr. Tabak wrote in his letter, “confirms that the bat coronaviruses studied under the EcoHealth Alliance grant could not have been the source of SARS-CoV-2 and the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/21/science/bats-covid-lab-leak-nih.html