Experts today said the appointment of Dr Jeremy Farrar, a top infectious diseases doctor who was knighted in 2019, was a ‘major unforced error’
Experts have called for the World Health Organization’s incoming chief scientist to be axed after more evidence showed he censored the Covid lab leak theory.
Dr Jeremy Farrar will take up his new post at the global health agency in the second quarter of this year after stepping down as director of the Wellcome Trust nonprofit in London.
But new emails uncovered by House Republicans put the British infectious diseases doctor at the center of the lab leak cover-up, fueling fresh criticism about the WHO’s appointment.
They show he made direct edits to a scientific paper written in February 2020 specifically to squash the theory that Covid may have escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).
On the day that paper, titled ‘Proximal Origin’, was first published, emails also show Dr Farrar pushed through a crucial change that poured even more doubt over the theory – despite privately expressing concerns the virus was man-made.
‘Sorry to micromanage/micro edit! But would you be willing to change one sentence?’, Dr Farrar asked in the email chain. He asked for the word ‘unlikely’ to be swapped with ‘improbable’ in a statement talking about the lab leak.
The tweaked sentence then read: ‘It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of an existing SARS-related coronavirus.’
Experts have today warned against Jeremy Farrar being appointed as chief scientist to the World Health Organization. He has dismissed the lab leak hypothesis on Covid origins as a ‘conspiracy theory’ previously. (Pictured: The Wuhan Institute of Virology where Covid may have escaped from)
The above email extract shows Dr Farrar made at least one direct edit to the paper in Nature Medicine that he was not credited for. It was revealed yesterday by House Republicans
Several experts have called for Dr Farrar’s appointment at the WHO to be axed in light of the new revelations.
Dr Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told DailyMail.com: ‘In this context, the appointment of Dr Farrar as a chief scientist at the WHO is a major unforced error.
‘The WHO would do well to review and revoke the appointment.’
Dr David Livermore, a microbiologist at the University of East Anglia in the UK, also said the agency might want to rethink the move.
He told this website: ‘There has to be concern about Dr Farrar’s appointment.
‘He first privately speculated on a lab leak origin for Covid. Yet, he then added his signature to a notorious Lancet letter seeking to debunk the lab leak theory.
‘If he is to lead the WHO, it would be wise for Dr Farrar to commission investigations of Covid’s origins entirely independent of the Organization’s hierarchy, himself included.’
Robert Moffit, an expert on Covid origins who has written on Covid’s origins for the right-wing Heritage Foundation thinktank, said that in light of the new emails, Dr Farrar should not take up the role at the WHO.
‘I don’t think he should take the job,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘He should refrain from taking any position like that until these matters are cleared up and published.
‘We don’t want someone to take over the WHO who may… refrain from taking a position until all these issues [on Covid origins] are cleared up.’
Rand Paul, a physician and Republican senator for Kentucky, told DailyMail.com that he also opposed Dr Farrar’s appointment.
He said: ‘Jeremy Farrar, the guy who then publicly disdained the lab leak theory despite privately admitting he was still 50:50 on the lab leak should not be in charge of the WHO or any investigations into the origins of Covid.’
Emails leaked last year show that Dr Farrar privately expressed concern that Covid could have leaked from a lab in February 2020.
He famously told Dr Anthony Fauci and colleagues that he was 50:50 between a lab leak and natural origin.
But in the following weeks, Dr Farrar seemed to have a dramatic change of heart and put his name to a letter in the Lancet denouncing the lab leak hypothesis as a ‘conspiracy theory’.
The statement, signed along with 26 other scientists, said: ‘We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid does not have a natural origin.
‘Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors, and prejudice that jeopardise our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.’
Dr Livermore also raised concerns about Dr Farrar’s links to Dr Peter Daszak, the zoologist who has been criticized for directing millions in US taxpayer money to the Wuhan lab to fund controversial bat coronavirus research.
Dr Daszak was then accused of leaning on colleagues to direct blame away from the facility when Covid started to spread. He also spearheaded the letter in the Lancet.
Dr Richard Ebright (left) and Dr David Livermore, both microbiologists, have raised concerns over Dr Farrar’s appointment to the World Health Organization
Farrar’s lab leak meddling and flip-flopping:
February 4, 2020: After setting up a conference call about the origin of Covid, Dr Farrar famously told colleagues that he was 50:50 between the virus having a natural origin and being released from a lab.
On the same day, while sending emails discussing the origin of Covid he also described the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) as a ‘wild west’, in an apparent reference to its lack of infection control and oversight.
February 8, 2020: Dr Kristian Andersen, a scientist on the call, sends an email saying they are working to disprove the lab leak hypothesis.
He said: ‘Our main work over the last couple of weeks has been focused on trying to disprove any type of lab theory.’
This was surprising, given that in January he told Dr Fauci in an email that some aspects of the virus made him wonder whether it had been engineered.
February 12, 2020: Scientists on the call request the publication of the Proximal Origins paper in Nature Medicine, which dismisses the lab leak theory.
An email sent by its lead author Dr Kristian Andersen, suggests it was prompted by Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Farrar.
He wrote: ‘Prompted by Jeremy Farrah [sic], Tony Fauci, and Francis Collins… [we] have been working through much of the (primarily) genetic data to provide agnostic and scientifically informed hypothesis around the origins of the virus.’
February 17, 2020: After oversight of the Proximal Origins paper, Dr Farrar requests an edit to the text.
He was not credited on the paper despite making this request.
Asking for language to be changed, he said: ‘Sorry to micro-manage/microedit! But would you be willing to change one sentence?
‘From: It is unlikely that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of an existing SARS-related coronavirus.
‘To: It is improbable that SARS-CoV-2 emerged through laboratory manipulation of an existing SARS-related coronavirus.’
February 19, 2020: Farrar signs a letter in the Lancet with 26 other scientists that dismisses the lab leak theory as a conspiracy.
It reads: ‘We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid does not have a natural origin.
‘Conspiracy theories do nothing but create fear, rumors and prejudice that jeopardize our global collaboration in the fight against this virus.’
The letter was spearheaded by Dr Peter Daszak, who was accused of bullying colleagues into directing blame away from the WIV.
March 17, 2020: The Proximal Origins of Covid paper appears in Nature Medicine, which also aims to dismiss the lab leak theory.
Dr Farrar was not credited on the paper.
June 9, 2020: Farrar promotes an article written by Dr Daszak in the Guardian, with the title: ‘Ignore the conspiracy theories: Scientists know Covid wasn’t created in a lab – as always worth reading @peterdaszak’
June 21, 2021: The Lancet is forced to publish an addendum to its paper dismissing the lab leak hypothesis as a conspiracy theory.
It had previously stated that its authors had no conflicting interests. But, in the addendum, it admits Dr Daszak’s relationship with the WIV.
July 17, 2021: Farrar is credited on another paper in the Lancet dismissing the lab leak theory.
A passage reads: ‘We believe the strongest clue from new, credible, and peer-reviewed evidence in the scientific literature is that the virus evolved in nature, while suggestions of a laboratory-leak source of the pandemic remain without scientifically validated evidence that directly supports it in peer-reviewed scientific journals.’
July 22, 2021: Dr Farrar’s book ‘Spike’ is published.
He wrestles with the lab leak hypothesis in the book and concludes that it will never be possible to rule it out completely.
He adds, however: ‘But the simplest explanation remains the likeliest: Nature plus bad luck.’
The journal had to admit a conflict of interest on the paper in June, 2021, almost a year after it was published, disclosing Dr Daszak’s relationship with the WIV.
Beforehand, it had stated that there were ‘no competing interests’.
In June 2020, Dr Farrar also shared an article Daszak wrote for the Guardian saying: ‘Ignore the conspiracy theories: Scientists know Covid-19 wasn’t created in a lab – as always worth reading @peterdaszak.’
He also quietly assisted scientists writing the Proximal Origin commentary in Nature Medicine, published in March 2020, in which the authors stated they did ‘not believe that any type of laboratory-based scenario is plausible’.
Dr Farrar was never credited on the paper, but this week’s report by House Republicans found that he made direct edits to the paper.
In one email sent by Dr Ian Lipkin, an epidemiologist at Columbia University, he thanked Dr Farrar for his involvement.
‘Thanks for shepherding this paper,’ he wrote. ‘Rumors of bioweaponeering are now circulating in China.’
Dr Farrar replied: ‘Yes I know and in US — why so keen to get out ASAP. I will push Nature.’
At the WHO, Dr Farrar will be the chief scientist with responsibility over the entire Science Division and as a spokesman for science at the agency.
Created in 2019, the Science Division compiles evidence to improve health for people in all 194 WHO member countries.
During the Covid pandemic, it worked to bring together information on the virus, its treatment and prevention. The Science Division says online that it is also involved in ‘countering the infodemic of misinformation’.
Two major US agencies — the FBI and the US Energy Department — now say Covid escaped from a lab in Wuhan, although they do so with ‘low confidence’.
The director of the FBI also said last week that the theory was credible, saying that the ‘origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab accident in Wuhan’.
And a bombshell Senate report concluded in October that Covid ‘most likely’ leaked from a lab in Wuhan.
There is no direct evidence yet that Covid leaked from the Wuhan lab.
But the research facility – world-famous for its work on bat coronaviruses – is less than 10 miles from an animal slaughter market where the first human case series was clustered.
Some experts also claim that Covid’s unique spike protein, which it uses to infect people, shows hallmarks of human engineering.
China has deleted databases and records from the lab and repeatedly refused access to scientists investigating the origin of the Covid pandemic.
The US was funneling millions into the Wuhan lab through the EcoHealth Alliance organization, a New York-based group that funds global research into viruses. It is headed by Dr Daszak.
A report by the US Office of Inspector General in January found that the National Institutes of Health – which awarded these funds to EcoHealth – did not properly monitor how they were used.
One particular worry is that the WIV could have been performing ‘gain-of-function’ research without receiving proper approval.
The highly controversial and potentially dangerous research is heavily regulated in the US, only allowed to be performed in labs with top security protocols in place.
The WIV had previously suffered issues with following proper protocols when doing this type of research.
A US Senate report in October pointed out multiple instances of biosafety and
Nonetheless, many scientists do still back the zoonotic origin argument as being the most likely emergence of Covid.
Dr Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases expert at the University of East Anglia in the UK, said he felt the evidence still pointed much more strongly to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market.
‘Most of my career I have been involved in investigating the causes of outbreaks of infectious diseases and the nature of such investigations rarely gives absolute proof of cause,’ he said. ‘Most of the time it is the balance of probabilities.’
‘As regards the Covid outbreak the balance of probabilities is very much against this being a lab leak and in favor of this being linked to the Huanan seafood market.’
The World Health Organization and the Wellcome Trust have been contacted for comment.
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