Primer: Who is Dr. Ralph Baric and what is his role in the Wuhan lab?
This page lists documents in Professor Ralph Baric’s emails, which U.S. Right to Know obtained via a public records request. Dr. Baric is a coronavirus expert at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC). He has developed genetic techniques to enhance the pandemic potential of existing bat coronaviruses in collaboration with Dr. Zhengli Shi at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and with EcoHealth Alliance.
The emails show internal discussions and an early draft of a key scientists’ letter about coronavirus origins, and shed some light on relationships between U.S. and Chinese experts in biodefense and infectious diseases, and the roles of organizations such as EcoHealth Alliance and National Academy of Sciences (NAS).
Please email anything of interest we may have missed to [email protected], so that we can include them below.
Items from Baric emails
- Tracy McNamara, Professor of Pathology at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California wrote on March 25, 2020: : “The Federal govt has spent over $1 billion dollars in support of the Global Health Security Agenda to help developing nations create the capacity to detect/report/respond to pandemic threats. An additional $200 million was spent on the PREDICT project via USAID looking for emerging viruses in bats, rats and monkeys overseas. And now the Global Virome Project wants $1.5 billion dollars to run around the world hunting down every virus on the face of the earth. They will probably get funding. But none of these programs have made taxpayers safer right here at home.” (emphasis in the original)
- Dr. Jonathan Epstein, Vice President for Science and Outreach at EcoHealth Alliance, sought guidance for a request from the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) about communicating “potentially sensitive dual-use information” (March 2018).
- EcoHealth Alliance paid Dr. Baric an undisclosed sum as honorarium (January 2018).
- Invitation to U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) and the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) U.S. China Dialogue and Workshop on the Challenges of Emerging Infections, Laboratory Safety, Global Health Security and Responsible Conduct in the Use of Gene Editing in Viral Infectious Disease Research, Harbin, China, Jan 8-10, 2019 (November 2018-January 2019). Preparatoryemails and a travel memorandum indicate the identities of the American participants.
- NAS invitation to a meeting of U.S. and Chinese experts working to counter infectious disease and improve global health (November 2017). The meeting was convened by the NAS and the Galveston National Laboratory. It took place on January 16-18, 2018, in Galveston, Texas. A travel memorandum indicates the identities of the American participants. Subsequent emails show that the WIV’s Dr. Zhengli Shi is present at the meeting.
- On February 27, 2020, Baric wrote, “at this moment the most likely origins are bats, and I note that it is a mistake to assume that an intermediate host is needed.”
- On March 5, 2020, Baric wrote, “there is absolutely no evidence that this virus is bioengineered.”
For more information
A link to Professor Ralph Baric’s emails can be found here:Baric emails (~83,416 pages)
U.S. Right to Know is posting documents from our Biohazards investigation. See:FOI documents on origins of SARS-CoV-2, hazards of gain-of-function research and biosafety labs.
For well over a year, a certain clique of researchers tarred the idea that COVID-19 initially escaped from a laboratory in Wuhan as a conspiracy theory. Now, their grip on that narrative within the scientific community is loosening, as a growing chorus of experts calls for a closer look at this lab-leak hypothesis.
In a letter published this afternoon at Science, 18 scientists call for an investigation into the pandemic’s origins that does not discount the possibility of a lab leak. “Theories of accidental release from a lab and zoonotic spillover both remain viable,” they write. “Knowing how COVID-19 emerged is critical for informing global strategies to mitigate the risk of future outbreaks.”
These researchers include Dr. Ralph Baric, a leading coronavirus expert who has done research on bat coronaviruses with Dr. Shi Zhengli of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and several other prominent virologists. They have joined the WHO director-general, top intelligence officials, and other U.S. government experts in asserting that such a leak remains a possible explanation, despite a joint WHO-China study’s findings that such a theory is “extremely unlikely.” Like the Biden administration and 13 other countries that signed onto a U.S.-led statement after the report’s release, they raise concerns about how the panel reached its findings. Their letter comes as members of Congress have started to ramp up their scrutiny of a potential lab-leak origin. Already, the scientists’ letter has caught the attention of lawmakers involved in COVID investigation efforts, with Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Brett Guthrie, and Morgan Griffith, saying in a statement, “We look forward to working with them and all who will follow the science in order to complete this investigation.”
Jamie Metzl, an adviser to the WHO and a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, explained the letter’s significance on Twitter. “The chokehold on public consideration of an accidental lab incident as a possible #pandemic origin has just been broken. Following publication of the Science letter, it will be irresponsible for any scientific journal or news outlet to not fully represent this viable hypothesis.”
The Science letter finds the joint WHO-China report lacking and evaluates the likelihood of the different origin theories that the panel assessed: “Although there were no findings in clear support of either a natural spillover or a lab accident, the team assessed a zoonotic spillover from an intermediate host as ‘likely to very likely, and a laboratory incident as ‘extremely unlikely.’”
The authors of the letters add, “Furthermore, the two theories were not given balanced consideration. Only 4 of the 313 pages of the report and its annexes addressed the possibility of a laboratory accident.”
The letter doesn’t claim that the lab-leak hypothesis is more credible than the zoonotic origin theory. It’s notable, however, that a letter in a major scientific journal is putting these two theories on equal footing.
The Lancet, another journal, rejected a letter submitted by 14 biologists and geneticists in January arguing that “a lab origin cannot be formally discarded.”
Some figures associated with The Lancet have called the lab-leak scenario a conspiracy theory, including Jeffrey Sachs, the chair of the medical journal’s COVID commission, and Peter Daszak, the chair of the commission’s sub-committee on COVID’s origins. Daszak, whose nonprofit research group received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the National Institutes of Health for studies on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, was a member of the joint WHO-China panel and has faced accusations that he failed to disclose potential conflicts of interest.
Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University chemical biology professor, told National Review last month that their efforts helped to create the false impression that there is a scientific consensus against the possibility of a lab-leak origin. “No such consensus existed then. No such consensus exists now,” he said.
This latest entry into the debate, in the pages of a preeminent scientific journal, shows that the ground is shifting away from a hollow narrative that has been all-too pervasive since the start of the pandemic.