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  • Walter Muller

First Outbreak; 2013, Yunan.

By the time the authorities understood what had happened, it was already too late. The virus had escaped into the wild and containing it was near impossible.

Traversing an abandoned copper mine in Yunan, a team led by Doctor Shi Zhengli collected samples of bat feces, hoping to find evidence of unique bat-coronaviruses. Post collection, several of the team members fell ill and presented symptoms concurrent to a “pneumonia-like illness”, which consequently landed them in hospital ICU’s on ventilators within a few days time. And within a short period, they all died of this illness.

That led to a complete the sequencing of the novel virus. And what researchers found was they had a highly contagious, zoonotic virus – one which the WIV demanded study and further experimentation of. A complete genome of the virus was not released. However, a partial genome was published later in a related research paper. In hindsight, what was really criminal was they already knew that conventional treatments had failed. So when the virus broke out in 2019, the western world tried in vain to treat the sick with ventilators and conventional treatments. Hundreds of thousands died while those who knew these treatments would fail, watched quietly as the virus wreaked havoc on the world stage.

Now, you might think that was in 2020. But no, but the first outbreak was in 2013 – 7 years before the current pandemic. And if you might now think this is where the trail begins, welp, you’d also be wrong. Because while the trail may end up in Wuhan, the road to get there was a long and windy one, with its roots in decades of politics, international research and commerce.

For simplicities sake, I’m choosing to focus on a different piece of this puzzle in each blog post, because I have an overwhelming secure hard drive loaded down with documents on this subject matter. Even if I tried, there is simply no way I could spell out all the international connections in one major post. There are simply too many twists and turns in this story. And if I had to spell out the whole story in one post, it’d be the length of a 2 novels.

So, in this post, let’s talk briefly about two major coronavirus players: Dr. Baric & Dr. Zhengli.

One of the Grandfathers of coronavirus & mRNA research is Dr. Baric, a genius of a researcher who has worked internationally since 1990 in various facilities, researching coronaviruses and proposing hypothetical treatments. The Grandmother of coronaviruses is Dr Zhengli. The two are leading scientists who have at times worked together, and at other times, worked separately but followed each other closely throughout their careers. It’s also worth noting that they have closely replicated each other’s work in their own separately funded studies.

Dr. Baric worked for a while at the Chapel Hill, North Carolina lab. At Chapel Hill, he led a research team on gain-of-function research. (Dr Baric has been working on the subject for decades, as many researchers do, in order to find a cure prior to an actual pandemic.) To put it simply, he is a trailblazer in manipulating coronaviruses.

Dr. Baric’s work on gain of function research was funded in the US at the Chapel Hill laboratory in North Carolina and had been actively funded there since 2006. At Chapel Hill, the team experimented heavily with coronviruses and inserted a key part into the coronavirus, a spike protein, and then ran experiments to see if the hybrid virus could infect human respiratory tract cells and mice that were vulnerable to the SARS virus.

Guess what?

They succeeded. They found it infected human cells. The alarming results of their research into gain-of-function applications was suspended in 2014, just as their work yielded that discovery. The below letter references the suspension in 2014.

In 2015, Dr. Baric & Dr Zhengli were among those who published a paper based this research. And the paper summary clearly states, “A new bat SARS-like virus has been discovered that can jump directly from its bat hosts to humans without mutation.” I’d like to remind you, dear reader, that discovery was in 2014; 6 years before the present pandemic. And 1 year after the discovery of a novel coronavirus found in an abandoned copper mien shaft in Yunan, China.

Here is the link to the paper:

And rather interestingly, working at Chapel Hill with Dr. Baric was no other then Doctor Shi Zhengli – the doctor who later earned the moniker of “Batwoman”, for her groundbreaking research into Bat-sars-coronaviruses in China. You know, the same one who discovered the unique bat-sars virus in that abandoned copper mine in Yunan, in 2013.

Now, when Chapel Hill shut down gain of function research, Doctor Shi Zhengli continued the research and development – but at the Wuhan Virology Center from 2015 and onward. From Shi Zhengli’s papers and resume, it is clear that they successfully isolated the virus in the lab and were actively experimenting with species <-> specie transmission.

It’s also worth nothing that in 2017, intelligence sources picked up an outbreak at the WIV - a pre-pandemic release incident that sickened eight people and killed one. The incident started when two workers at the lab independently isolated and experimented in vitro/vivo with a coronavirus. In one of these sessions two scientists took a “previously unknown” variant of the coronavirus and moved it out from a BSL-4 high-containment facility into a low-safety research lab where the two were working. Apparently, the virus inactivation process didn’t work properly and both were infected at the lab and then proceeded to infect other people outside of the lab. Eight people were seriously sickened and one died as a result of this accidental release. Among the symptoms present in the sick were diarrhea, pulmonary damage, multiple organ failure, organ damage and neurological effects – like seizures and a total loss of smell and taste. This incident foreshadowed what was to come in 2020.

Separately, in 2017 further research into gain of function on coronaviruses picked up again at Chapel Hill. As a side note, if you can recall forward two years, in 2019, when infected passengers were removed off of cruise ships and quarantined at a military base, there were around 14 people that remained highly infectious after the bulk of people were released. Those 14 people remained at Chapel Hill for further study. Two patients were eventually released. But to this day, it is not clear what became of the remaining dozen patients that were held in that secure facility.

Going back to 2018, here is a photo of the two researchers together at a symposium in 2018. Both still actively researched coronviruses.

In the meantime, research expanded on a worldwide level into coronavirues. I could fill a volume with research citations from papers on the subject. But one I find very interesting is a 2019 paper published on experimenting with coronaviruses in live chickens, noting especially a furin cleavage site, which is coincidentally also a hallmark of the coronavirus pandemic.

The infected chickens exhibited diarrhea, trauma to lungs and other organs and other symptoms similar to prior recorded in incidents in both 2013 and 2017.

To sum this blog post up, research in coronaviruses has been active for a very long time. But we can’t place all the blame on one state or actor. Research had been going on internationally for at least the last 30 years, albeit with many of the major discoveries occurring in the last 10 years. The burning questions are of course:

1) Did it escape out of a lab?

2) Who was responsible?

And those, dear readers, are answers I will do my best to provide to you in future posts.

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