The 3 traps distracting from a proper look at the lab leak hypothesis - laid bare by @danengber in @TheAtlantic
H/t @TheSeeker268…
To address each of the 3 traps:

1. There is an incredible and growing amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to a possible lab-based origin of SARS-CoV-2 / Covid-19.

But nothing definitive.
2. Gain-of-function research may have possibly been involved in the emergence of SARS-CoV-2, e.g., insertion of a furin cleavage site.

It is unclear if we will ever get evidence of that.

But it is clear that lab leaks have not required and do not require GoF to happen.
3. I understand why a lot of people, scientists and non-scientists, are determined to call out people who suppressed or obfuscated a public discussion of lab origins.

But the priority should be to actually have an international, credible investigation into #OriginsOfCovid
If the goal is to prevent pandemics, then we

1. Should not rush to rule out or dismiss circumstantial evidence for plausible hypotheses.

2. Should address the full range of lab risks, GoF or not.

3. Should focus on productive ways forward to get an investigation we can trust.
I think I better clarify about the State Dept meeting on Jan 7, 2021.

The meeting has been described to have been arranged by a small group in State Dept to "present the strongest-possible case for the lab-leak theory, and then to probe it for holes."

That wasn't in my invite.
I actually initially suspected that these emails from State Dept were a prank and had ignored the first bunch of them.

Eventually I responded.

All of the emails just asked about my preprints and if I could comment on other papers.
These State Dept meeting summaries/emails revealed by @VanityFair @KatherineEban show what happened during the meeting.…
More here:
"The panel was convened to conduct a peer level review of draft studies by two scientists... panelists were never briefed on any AVC assessment or working hypothesis nor were they made aware of internal USG deliberations."…

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More from @Ayjchan

12 Jun
Starting my 🧵 discussion of gain-of-function research based on yesterday's twitter survey.

This might be incredibly long so I will be using gifs and graphics to help keep people awake on a Saturday morning.

First things first. I made the survey yesterday morning to get a sense of the public perception of "gain of function" (GOF) research.

This phrase has exploded in the media, even making its way into a congressional hearing.…
It is clear that the public needs to know what GOF research means.

What does it mean when people say that the US might have funded GOF research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
Read 15 tweets
11 Jun
I’m starting a 24h poll to check the public understanding of gain-of-function research.

What will follow is a series of experiment scenarios. Participants are invited to pick: Yes, No, I don’t know.

Please don’t Google to find answers. Answer based on your understanding.
First one should be easy.

Is this gain-of-function?

Serially (consecutively, repeatedly) passaging a virus through cells or animals (infecting these with the virus) to intentionally derive a more infectious or lethal virus.
Second one:

Is this gain-of-function?

Serially passaging a novel virus from nature in cells to find a version that can be grown and studied in the laboratory.
Read 17 tweets
8 Jun
I promised an analysis of This Week in Virology x Bob Garry on #OriginsOfCovid but was stunned by recent events, e.g., the lead, most vocal author of Proximal Origin @NatureMedicine correspondence article deleting half of his tweets and then his account.
I'll do it now, after spending a large amount of time reassuring (rebutting) people that I'm not a Canadian-Chinese-US NIH-suck-up scientist-spy with connections to the billionaire class.

S = scientific arguments
NS = non-scientific arguments
Garry says the 1st Proximal Origin draft was completed Feb 1.

SARS2 (Covid-19) genome was released Jan 11.

By Feb 1, they did not yet have access to RaTG13 (the closest genome match still) or the pangolin coronaviruses... unless we get more FOIA'ed emails to show otherwise.
Read 24 tweets
8 Jun
I'm very happy to share that I will be co-authoring a book on the #OriginsOfCovid with @mattwridley - coming this November!

When Matt asked me to collaborate on Viral: The Search for the Origin of COVID-19, I knew that we had to write this book.
I've done an insane amount of tweeting this past year (more than 10,000 tweets) and co-authored 2 articles with Matt in the @WSJ and @Telegraph

But, a friend told me that these would all be lost & scattered with time.

If you write a book (a very good one), it can become canon.
I know that there will be possibly dozens of books on the #OriginsOfCovid - many on the politics & management of the pandemic in different countries (especially the US and China), and several very focused on persuading us that this virus definitely has natural origins.
Read 6 tweets
7 Jun
The problem with being a moderate is that you get bashed by people on both sides, depending on where the momentum is at that given moment.
More than a year ago, I said we should consider the lab leak hypothesis, regardless of how likely, not just natural origins #OriginsOfCovid

The natural origins crowd called me a conspiracy theorist, misinformation-spreader, attention-seeker, outsider with no proper expertise.
This year, I still have the same position: we should consider the lab leak hypothesis, not just natural origins.

Now the lab origins crowd calls me disingenuous, a coward, an apologist, misinformation-spreader, attention-seeker, an insider with ties to gain of function research.
Read 11 tweets
6 Jun
I’m going to make a long thread later today going through natural origin arguments recently presented on TWiV and the Washington Post. But before that, I think the responsible thing to do is to explain what virology is.

What do virus researchers do? Why is this work important?
With the lab leak hypothesis #OriginsOfCovid now being considered seriously, there’s been some new concerns or fears about what virus researchers / virologists are doing in the lab and why they grow and study viruses in the first place.
I’d say that, in my experience, very few virologists are engaged in dual use research. Most of the virologists working on pathogens are sincerely just trying to understand the biology of the virus, build models of the infection, and find ways to treat patients.
Read 12 tweets

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