Prof. Roland Wiesendanger is a highly respected German scientist, published in hundreds of medical journals and honored repeatedly by colleagues and institutions in the scientific community. His field of specialty is nanotechnology and he is a three-time recipient of the prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant. You’d probably never ever have heard his name, but that’s about to change if the internet has anything to do with it.
Two days ago, the professor who teaches at the University of Hamburg, released a 100-page report that he personally prepared on the alleged origin of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In the report he makes the following claims, claims that he openly states are not based on scientific certainty, but rather deductive logic and circumstantial evidence.
According to Prof. Wiesendanger and the 100-page report (available here on Research Gate) he has released, he has come to the following conclusion.
“both the number and quality of the circumstantial evidence point to a laboratory accident at the virological institute in the city of Wuhan as the cause of the current pandemic.”
He bases this claim on the following statements. (the statements below are reproduced from swprs.org)
No intermediate host animal has been identified that could have facilitated the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 pathogens from bats to humans. ergo, the zoonotic theory as a possible explanation for the pandemic has no sound scientific basis.
The SARS-CoV-2 viruses possess special cell receptor binding domains combined with a special (furin) cleavage site of the coronavirus spike protein. Both properties together were previously unknown in coronaviruses and indicate a non-natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen.
Bats were not offered for sale at the suspected fish market in the center of Wuhan city. However, the Wuhan City Virological Institute has one of the world’s largest collections of bat pathogens, which originated from distant caves in southern Chinese provinces. It is extremely unlikely that bats from this distance of nearly 2,000 km would have naturally made their way to Wuhan, only to cause a global pandemic in close proximity to this virological institute.
A research group at the Wuhan City Virological Institute has been genetically manipulating coronaviruses for many years with the goal of making them more contagious, dangerous, and deadly to humans. This has been documented in the scientific literature by numerous publications.
Significant safety deficiencies existed at the Wuhan City Virological Institute even before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which have been documented.
There are numerous direct references to a laboratory origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. For example, a young female scientist at the virology institute in Wuhan is believed to have been the first to become infected. There are also numerous indications that as early as October 2019, the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen spread from the virological institute to the city of Wuhan and beyond. Furthermore, there are indications that the virological institute was investigated by the Chinese authorities in the first half of October 2019.
Taken on their own, these claims would be easy to dismiss, but bundled together they make a very convincing case for pointing to the laboratory in Wuhan as the most likely source of the outbreak. It’s a very serious allegation with far-reaching implications if it is true and it, therefore, warrants serious attention.
As to Motivation
Why would a respected nanotechnology expert with an incredibly long and illustrious career suddenly branch out into a field he openly admits to having no experience in? Why would he risk his career by publishing a controversial report that is clearly not evidence-based on a hugely controversial topic he knows nothing about? It’s the first and most obvious question and one that we cannot answer with certainty, but we can speculate.
There has been growing concern in medical and scientific circles about “Gain-of-Function (GOF)” research. Essentially, this research focuses on weaponizing viruses or exploiting the virus to make it more lethal to its human hosts. In scientific terms, the research seeks to increase the pathogenicity of a virus. There are elements within the scientific community who are almost militant in their desperation to stop this type of research and with good reason.
Arguably, being able to pin a pandemic on this type of research would stop it in its tracks, but to achieve that you would need to conclusively prove that the Wuhan laboratory was engaged in GOF research, that they had access to a coronavirus, that they were able to successfully increase its pathogenicity, and finally, that they accidentally or otherwise, released the virus into the human population.
That’s a tall order, particularly after the WHO inspectors on the ground in China released a statement just ten days ago in which they urged scientists to dismiss theories about a laboratory as the origin, stating the possibility was ‘extremely unlikely’. Our professor has however apparently been working on his report for over a year, so the timing of the WHO advisory may simply have been an unfortunate coincidence.
Let’s look now to the claims made, and examine them individually.
Fact or Fallacy
‘the zoonotic theory as a possible explanation for the pandemic has no sound scientific basis.’
We won’t waste much time on this. Suggesting that simply because an agent has not yet been located for the transmission, that one does not exist, is simply flawed logic. The theory of animal to human transmission does have precedence and that is why it must be explored to its conclusion. We are a long way from that point.
a special (furin) cleavage site of the coronavirus spike protein indicates a non-natural origin of the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen
Again, flawed logic, from someone who should know not to confuse correlation with causation. Simply because no previous instance exists doesn’t imply the virus was manufactured by humans, nor does this allow us to make any other inferences. You could argue aliens developed it, based on the same logic, so sorry, but no. Strike 2.
It is extremely unlikely that bats from this distance of nearly 2,000 km would have naturally made their way to Wuhan
In 2012 a coronavirus was discovered in bats living in a mine in Mojiang in China, some 1200 km’s (not 2000 as claimed) from Wuhan. Labeled RaTG13 by scientists, the virus was the closest know version of a coronavirus to be discovered in animals. It wasn’t, and still isn’t, the SAR-CoV2 virus. We still haven’t found the carrier, if it originated in animals, as is currently suspected by the majority of scientists.
WHO scientists have also highlighted in their recent report that contact between bats and people in the Wuhan area is uncommon.
The fact this is the currently preferred theory doesn’t preclude all others and science has been known to be wrong before, ask Galileo. So while we can agree that bats may be ruled out at a later date, it still doesn’t point conclusively to the laboratory as the source. It merely rules out bats as the likely source.
The Wuhan City Virological Institute has been genetically manipulating coronaviruses for many years with the goal of making them more contagious, dangerous, and deadly to humans
It’s interesting that the publication lists no links to the ‘numerous reports documented in the medical literature that it refers to. The Wuhan Institute of Virology did in fact have access to the coronavirus and it would have engaged in research on the virus. Given the purpose behind the Institute, it would be foolish to claim otherwise and the Institute has never denied possession of the coronavirus (not the SARS-CoV2 strain).
They have however repeatedly insisted that there were no safety lapses that could have resulted in any virus escaping from the laboratory. The institute is home to the China Center for Virus Culture Collection, the largest virus bank in Asia and which preserves more than 1,500 strains, according to its website.
Are there occasional safety issues at the laboratory? Probably, but it is unlikely they occur in the P4 wing of the institute. Safety protocols are extremely high and adhered to meticulously in areas where many of the highly lethal viruses scientists are working with, are potentially fatal if contracted. These institutes are also subject to international oversight and there is a regular presence of foreign scientists at this, and other similar institutes.
There is no substance to any of the professors claims and it is our opinion that he should retract his conjectural report.
Scientists are highly skeptical of Dr. Roland Wiesendanger’s, and he openly admitted to ZDF, a German newspaper, that the report was not based on science, but merely designed to spark public debate. While no one can, at this point, claim with complete certainty that the laboratory in Wuhan was not involved in the origins of the pandemic, the opposite is equally true, and to engage in this kind of false news is professionally disingenuous and suggest alternate motives.
We’d like to suggest to the professor, that abusing scientific publications for the purposes of “sparking public debate” is in fact highly questionable. We would further argue that accusing a foreign power and your foreign compatriots of unleashing a pandemic they “engineered” is both irresponsible and dangerous, particularly if your allegations are based on circumstantial evidence. Allegations, that are, in effect, baseless.
We were under the impression the professor dealt with science and evidence-based conclusions. Clearly, this is no longer the case. May we respectfully remind him, that if he continues to attempt to emulate Sherlock Holmes, he has not yet exhausted the impossible, and so, cannot begin to claim the improbable. His current course of action does a disservice to both science and his profession and will serve only as fuel for future conspiracy theories.
Not happy with our simplistic public-facing breakdown. Let’s see what an expert in Covid research says on the topic. A Medika Life author and SARS-CoV2 researcher, Julian Willett, MD adds his voice.
Dr. Roland Wiesendanger is a PhD physicist and lacks medical qualifications. His personal research is not medical related (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/?term=roland+wiesendanger). Expert opinions on topics tend to be from those who have extensive experience in a given discipline. His claims make being an expert even more important (especially firm scientific evidence is further required). The WHO and its health team, made up of physicians, physician-scientists, and scientists all specializing in medical topics and often virology have deemed that it is extremely unlikely that the virus came from a lab.
I personally am a physician-scientist investigating COVID-19 genetics, for my Ph.D., both the virus’s genetics and the human genetics associated with the virus. I trust the WHO’s findings and agree with the responses to Dr. Wiesendanger’s points by the author of this article. There are already increased hate crimes done against those of Asian ancestry due to it publicly arising first in Asia. Such a work by Dr. Wiesendanger utilizing baseless claims only provides fuel to such hate.