Very happy to chat with @gbrumfiel on @NPR @NPRGoatsandSoda on the topic of the #OriginsOfCovid

Also glad to hear Dr Lipkin state that it’s possible this virus passed through a lab and accidentally leaked.

We need to launch a true investigation ASAP.…
"Our lives depend on finding out how this virus got started so we can prevent another one from getting started 5 to 10 years from now."

Some might think I’m being dramatic but I don’t want to experience another outbreak like this, especially when I’m old.…
The reason why I find it hard to make up a % likelihood for #OriginsOfCovid is because evidence can emerge & flip everything we know.

Eg what if tomorrow a whistleblower tells us they’ve been putting furin cleavage sites in natural SARS CoVs?

We are going to see U-turns.
Some people might wonder what the chances of that are. Whistleblowers don’t always show up immediately or when you want. It could be this year or decades later when anyone who could be held accountable is dead.

We’ve seen in so many other cases, the truth only outs years later.
Some scientists have already been shook by hearing that these novel SARS-like viruses with pandemic potential were being collected and worked with at BSL2 for years.

If a scientist today works with SARS2 at BSL2, I think they’d be sent home to reflect on their actions.
Today @nypost amplified reports from @taiwannews that WIV researchers had posted photos in the past showing that they handled bats with their bare hands and had reported bat bites.…
And it’s not a WIV specific problem. Read about @DavidQuammen’s experience virus hunting with @EcoHealthNYC as previously reported by @NPRGoatsandSoda
They were looking for SARS viruses too.

“Oddly enough, we were not wearing masks of any sort. We were not wearing what they called personal protective equipment, hazmat suits or anything. And I describe this in the book. I asked Alexis, why the hell are we not?”
In another case, a lab in the US started working with a MERS virus at BSL2 and the PI was put on one year probation.

These lapses are sometimes inexplicable. Why scientists forget the risks of the pathogens they’re working with.
I personally think it would be wiser for scientists not to insist that their biosafety practices and those of their colleagues (in other countries) are near bulletproof. In the event that this virus is found to be from a lab, that kind of messaging will come back to haunt us.
In the form of: “scientists were covering their own butts and lying about biosafety” or “scientists couldn’t accurately assess the risks of a lab escape and their biosafety practices are ineffective.”

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More from @Ayjchan

30 May
Today, karma finally kicked in. After spending the last year "just asking questions" and trying to fish out information relevant to the #OriginsOfCovid, I finally became a target of a conspiracy theory and an anonymous twitter mob.
I had been warned about this situation by well-intentioned colleagues, journalists, and even other anonymous twitter users. That a day would come when I would get attacked by anonymous users.

There was always a stream of online harassment, but it definitely peaked this week.
It definitely made me feel more empathy for other scientists who are in a similar situation. I had already been expressing empathy for them and actively asked people on twitter please not to attack because it just makes the conversation immediately adversarial and non-productive.
Read 4 tweets
30 May
I see this is raising eyebrows so I better nip it in the bud.

The work I did on human artificial chromosomes (HAC) had been widely presented at local meetings & on the lab website. I talked so openly about it that it could not be patented because it had been publicly disclosed.
The rest of the thread above rightly criticizes the meeting being “secret” - but I always thought that it had been labeled “secret” by the organizers to drum up media coverage (sorry, organizers!).

As far as I could tell, all of the research at that meeting was in public domain.
I’m sorry to reveal this gimmick but actually I think many of the scientists and organizers were eagerly awaiting journalists to call them to talk about the “secret” meeting.

In reality, most scientific meetings happen without any journalists paying attention.
Read 12 tweets
29 May
One thing I hate about the ongoing lab leak debate is how it is getting polarized as scientists against anti-science people.

You can hold a very pro-science (maybe even pro-virus engineering) POV, recognizing the value of virus research, while asking for safeguards.
I told @onthemedia @WNYC that I think pathogen research has a lot of value and we should not stop doing it.

There are surely creative ways scientists can develop vaccines and therapeutics without the risks of an uncontrollable lab-based outbreak.
The US is not going back into the 1900s while other countries race forward, send rockets to Mars & extend their population’s healthspan by decades.

We have to be leaders in scientific technology and also leaders in biosecurity. Both go hand in hand.

Coming from a 🇨🇦 in the US.
Read 6 tweets
29 May
This is a balanced assessment of the debate around the #OriginsOfCovid by @stephenburanyi in @guardian

I particularly like the honesty at the end of the piece.…
Rather than guessing which origin scenario is more likely, it’s good to acknowledge which scenario you would prefer to be true.

“A lab-leak would tarnish the job of scientific research for a lifetime and prove some of the worst people in the culture war – partially – right.”
My guess is, for most scientists, we would prefer if this virus has 100% natural origins - zero involvement of researchers or research activities.

Then, presumably, we wouldn’t have any blame for not putting in better biosafety / research regulations years ago or even today.
Read 17 tweets
28 May
My twitter became an open forum for the #OriginsOfCovid

Starting out strong on the topics of gain-of-function research, SARS2-related viruses under study at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and the lack of intermediate hosts for SARS2.

H/t @TheSeeker268 @franciscodeasis
Interesting comparison of CRISPR babies and virus research in China by @antonioregalado on @WBUR @radioopensource

And what scientists privately said about the #OriginsOfCovid
Read 9 tweets
27 May
I would like to suggest one thing to journalists asking about the #OriginsOfCovid - whether natural or lab-based.

Everyone is asking what do we know, what evidence do we have.

Ask scientists what we don’t know, what evidence are we still waiting for.
New evidence, new information should change a scientist’s perspective.

By forcing scientists to give you a likelihood estimate now, in the absence of definitive evidence, you’re constraining their future ability to change their minds.

We’ve already seen some minds changed.
Scientists should be able to change their minds completely in the span of a year.

The lab leak hypothesis has transitioned from a conspiracy theory to a near certainty in the minds of some scientists over the past year.
Read 4 tweets

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